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Can non-Hindus enter Puri’s Jagannath Temple? SC seeks suggestions

The need for senior advocate Gopal Subramanium’s suggestion on allowing non-Hindus to visit the Jagannath Temple arose when the judges, during discussion, learnt of the prevailing practice.

india Updated: Jul 05, 2018 23:42 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Jagannath Temple,Supreme Court,Puri
Devotees gathered at the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri. (PTI photo)

The Supreme Court on Thursday sought suggestions from senior advocate Gopal Subramanium on whether a non-Hindu devotee can visit Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha, subject to an undertaking that he or she will conform to the regulatory measures of the holy place.

The need for Subramanium’s suggestion on allowing non-Hindus to visit the temple arose when the judges, during discussion, learnt of the prevailing practice.

Justices AK Goel and SA Nazeer also directed all district judges in the country to inquire into mismanagement of any religious shrine if they receive a complaint regarding the difficulties faced by visitors, exploitative practices, the shrine’s maintenance, and utilisation of the offerings made at the shrine.

The court said the district judges shall submit their inquiry report before the concerned high court so that the matter can be heard for subsequent orders.

“We also had an interaction on the issue whether the temple management can consider, subject to such regulatory measures with regard to dress code, furnishing of a declaration or such other requirements as considered necessary permitting every visitor irrespective of his faith to offer respects and make offerings to the deity,” the court 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...”

The bench, however, clarified that it was not keen to impose any direction in this regard.

“We have just given a suggestion. Let’s see what can be done,” the court said.

The court was hearing a PIL on the temple’s alleged mismanagement. It had earlier expanded the petition’s scope, asking the Centre to review the management of all holy places and propose ways to make pilgrims’ access popular religious shrines hassle-free and without the danger of getting exploited by the local touts.

The Centre now has to submit the report by August 31 after it sets up a committee. But the suggestions, the SC said, would be with regards to “all shrines throughout the country”, irrespective of the religion practised.

On its direction to the district judges, the SC said the civil procedure code permits a court to issue directions that allow proposing schemes or arrangements for any charitable or religious institution. It took on record the district judge’s report on Jagannath Temple and said his suggestions to improve the temple’s management would be considered.

First Published: Jul 05, 2018 23:41 IST