Dalits in Orissa are celebrating after a court ruled that all Hindus irrespective of caste have the right to enter any temple.
A division bench of the Orissa High Court made the observation on Tuesday after hearing a public interest litigation filed by Akhya Kumar Mallik, a Dalit rights activist, following a 'ban' on Dalit entry into an 18th century temple in Kendrapada district.
The upper caste community had barred Dalits from entering the shrine dedicated to Lord Jagannath in Keradagarh village. Dalits have made several unsuccessful attempts to gain entry to the temple.
Trouble erupted last month when a rights group, Ambedkar-Lohia Vichar Manch, announced that Dalits would forcibly enter the temple.
Mallik, an advocate, filed his petition early in November seeking protection for Dalits wanting to pray at the temple.
The court, in an interim order on November 24, said that no one except the priests be allowed to enter the temple. It also ordered that the district administration to protect the rights of Dalits.
On Wednesday, Chief Justice SB Ray and Justice MM Das ruled that under article 17 of the Indian constitution and Section 3 of the Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1955 all Hindus had the right to enter any temple, irrespective of their caste.