Orissa HC upholds stand taken by temple managing committee

Orissa HC upholds stand taken by temple managing committeeCUTTACK/BHUBANESWAR: Ending the row over Puri Shankaracharya seeking complete ban on devotees climbing chariots during Lord Jagannath Rath Jatra, Orissa High Court today upheld the stand taken by the temple managing committee to go by the seer’s opinion.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice A K Goel and Justice A K Rath held that the stand of Sri Jagannath temple managing committee to go by the opinion of Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati has to prevail as far as rituals during the car festival are concerned.

Disposing of two PILs seeking the court’s intervention to resolve the impasse over the issue, the bench held that any contrary opinion of the state government will obviously be inoperative.

The court said the state government may, however, perform the duty of maintaining law and order and providing assistance for smooth conduct of car festival in accordance with the decision of the managing committee on the issue of rituals which is based upon opinion of the Shankarachaya of Puri.

Correction of this decision is neither a subject matter for consideration of state government nor before this court, the HC maintained.

Sri Jagannath Temple’s managing committee is chaired by the Gajapati King of Puri, Divyasingha Deb and its members include the Shankaracharya of Puri, the temple administrator, the district Collector, Puri and 36 Nijogs or priests who perform the ritual services at the Jagannath temple.

The managing committee had requested the Shankaracharya to resolve the issue of devotees climbing the chariots and touching the deities during the car festival as unsavory incidents had taken place on some occasions.

“No unauthorized person, including any devotee, Hindu or non-Hindu has a right to climb the chariots and touch the deities. Only authorized persons associated with rituals to be performed on the chariots for performance thereof may be allowed,” the Shankaracharya had suggested in November last year.

However, the state government had on June 11 decided to prohibit climbing on chariots only on three days during the annual car festival instead of imposing a complete ban, triggering a major controversy and prompting an all-party meeting convened by the assembly speaker to form a committee headed by Puri MLA Maheswar Mohanty to resolve the issue.

“The High Court order is clear on the issue. We will recommend to the government to implement it,” Mohanty said after the High Court gave its verdict.

Law Minister Arun Sahu said that the government would go by the HC order.

Leader of the Opposition Narasingha Mishra said now there should be no more dispute and all must abide by the HC order.

Welcoming the High Court order, Puri King Divyasingha Deb said the state government should take appropriate steps to implement the decision of Shankaracharya in “letter and spirit during this Rath Jatra on June 29.”

Similarly, Govardhan Peeth’s spokesperson, Manoj Rath welcomed the HC verdict.

Meanwhile, President of Daitapati Nijog, Ramakrushna Dasmohapatra said a meeting would be convened to examine the matter and take a final decision vis-a-vis the High Court directive.–PTI