Allow visitors of all faiths to offer prayers, SC tells Puri temple

In a major order ahead of the annual Rath Yatra in Puri in mid-July, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Jagannath temple management to consider allowing every visitor, irrespective of his or her faith, to offer prayers to the deity.

The apex court, however, said that allowing of every visitor will be subject to regulatory measures regarding dress code and giving an appropriate declaration.

‘Address visitors’ woes’

A Bench of Justices Adarsh Goel and S. Abdul Nazeer, while referring to an earlier verdict of the court, said: “Hinduism does not eliminate any other belief. It reflects eternal faith and wisdom and inspiration of centuries.”

The court said not only the State, but even the Centre could look into the aspect of difficulties faced by the visitors, deficiencies in the management, maintenance of hygiene, appropriate utilisation of offerings and protection of assets with regard to shrines, irrespective of religion.

Paving the way for judicial intervention, the Bench said, “Every district judge throughout India may examine such matters himself or through any court under his jurisdiction and send a report to the concerned High Court so that such report can be treated as PIL on the judicial side and such direction may be issued as may be considered necessary having regard to individual fact situation.”

On entry of visitors of other faiths, it said: “The temple management may consider, subject to regulatory measures with regard to dress code, giving of an appropriate declaration or compliance of other directions, permitting every visitor irrespective of his faith, to offer respects and to make offerings to the deity.”

The court was hearing a petition filed by Mrinalini Padhi highlighting difficulties faced by devotees at the Jagannath Temple and their harassment or exploitation by the sevaks (staff) of the temple.

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