New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Puri Jagannath temple to consider permitting every visitor irrespective of his religious faith to offer respects and make offerings to the deity subject to regulatory measures. The court will extend this to other temples also in due course.
A Bench of Justices AK Goel and Abdul Nazeer passed this order taking note of the report of the Puri District Judge who has observed that in spite of the earlier orders, Thalis (plates) and Pitchers are being exhibited for collection of money illegally. It was also brought to the court notice that a large number of foreigners and visitors of other religious faiths also visit the Puri Jagannath temple and at present they are not allowed inside main sanctum.
The Bench in its order on a petition filed by Mrinalini Padhi said the temple management may consider, subject to regulatory measures, with regard to dress code, giving of an appropriate declaration or compliance with other directions, permitting every visitor irrespective of his faith, to offer respects and to make offerings to the deity.
Amicus curiae Gopal Subramaniam and others mentioned Kamakhya Temple, Assam; Kalibari Temple at Calcutta, Pracheen Hanuman Mandir at Jamuna Bazar, Delhi, Tiruchendur Temple at Tamil Nadu and Dargah Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Ajmer, which attract large number of visitors of other faith.
Additional Solicitor General has assured that Union Ministry of Culture will take due interest in the matter as the issue involves protection of cultural heritage of the country. Amicus curiae state that there are 7,000 antique temples in the State of Tamil Nadu itself.
It said, “We have noted that Hinduism does not eliminate any other belief and is eternal faith and wisdom and inspiration of centuries, as noted in earlier judgments of this Court.”
Citing an earlier judgment which said, “Hinduism, as a religion, incorporates all forms of belief without mandating the selection of elimination of any one single belief. It is a religion that has no single founder; no single scripture and no single set of teachings.”
The Bench also quoted from Justice PB Gajendragadkar, Former Chief Justice of India, from his Book “To the Best of My Memory” that secularism merely means that no religion has the monopoly of religious wisdom. Our secularism is based on the principles laid down by a sloka in the Bhagavad Gita, according to which “even the devotees of other gods who worship with full of faith, they also worship Me, O son of Kunti, though contrary to the ancient rule”.
The Bench also took note of the difficulties faced by the visitors, deficiencies in management, maintenance of hygiene, appropriate utilisation of offerings and protections of assets with regard to various shrines, irrespective of religion across the country and said, “it is a matter for consideration not only for the State Government, Central Government but also for Courts.”
The court said the issue of difficulties faced by the visitors, exploitative practices, deficiencies in the management, maintenance of hygiene, proper utilisation of offerings and protection of assets may require consideration with regard to all Shrines throughout the India, irrespective of religion practiced in such shrines.
The Bench directed the Centre to set up a committee to look into these aspects and submit a report to the court by August 31. In the meanwhile it directed that if any devotee moves the jurisdictional District Judge throughout the India with any grievance on the above aspect in any temple, the District Judge may either himself/herself or by assigning the issue/matter to any other Court under his/her jurisdiction examine above aspects and if necessary send a report to the High Court concerned.
With regard to Puri temple, the Bench directed the management to prevent illegal collection of money from visitors by Thalis and Pitchers and to consider other suggestions given by the District judge. The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on September 5....