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Police can’t enter Puri’s Jagannath temple with weapons and shoes, rules Supreme Court

The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that no policeman should enter the Jagannath temple at Puri “with weapons and shoes” after the issue was brought to its notice following the October 3 violence at the famous shrine.

india Updated: Oct 10, 2018 19:49 IST
HT Correspondent
Police,Puri,Jagannath temple
The Odisha government had last week implemented the first step ordered by the Supreme Court — a queue — for pilgrims visiting Puri’s Jagannath temple as part of an action plan that has been opposed by some local organisations.(File Photo)

No policeman should enter Puri’s Jagannath temple with weapons and shoes, the Supreme Court ordered on Wednesday as it took note of the October 3 violence during a protest against the introduction of a queue system for devotees.

Nearly 20 policemen were injured as violence broke out during a 12-hour bandh called by a socio-cultural organisation on October 3. The Odisha government had last week implemented the first step ordered by the top court — a queue — for pilgrims as part of the action plan that has been opposed by some local organisations.

One of them, Jagannath Sena, had last week called for a Puri bandh when protesters vandalised a police outpost outside the temple, pelted stones at the district police chief’s house and ransacked two offices of temple.

At a meeting between the district administration and priests later, it was decided that local devotees of Puri town won’t have to queue up and will be allowed entry to the temple through the other three gates after producing identity cards. However, people from rest of the country have to queue up, officials said.

On Wednesday, a lawyer, representing an organisation that has filed an application for intervention in the matter, alleged in the Supreme Court that during the violence, policemen had entered the temple with guns and boots on.

“Last time, in the Golden Temple, the Army had entered. We know that,” the counsel said.

The bench then asked the counsel appearing for the Odisha government, “Tell us, is it a fact that police has gone there with guns and all?”.

The Odisha government’s counsel termed the allegations as “absolutely false” and said no policeman had entered the temple as the incident had taken place at the office of the Shree Jagannath temple administration, which is situated around 500 metres from the main temple.

He told the bench that the administration’s office was attacked and ransacked during the violence and 47 persons have been arrested so far. The lawyer representing the temple administration also told the bench that no policemen had entered the temple and a mob had attacked their office and destroyed several files lying there.

The bench asked the counsel appearing for the parties to file their responses to the plea filed by the organisation seeking to intervene in the matter. “You file your reply. Please tell the police not to enter there with guns and boots,” the bench told the state’s counsel.

“We make it clear that no policemen should entre the temple with weapons and shoes,” the bench noted in its order and posted the matter for hearing on October 31.

Earlier, the top court had floated 12 proposals for reforms in the temple, saying that servitors will have no claim on offerings made by devotees and all collections must go the temple ‘hundi’ following a petition in the apex court by Cuttack-based lawyer Mrinalini Padhi.

This included a barricaded queue system for devotees from the entrance itself, end to donation to priests and transparency in temple management. While there is consensus on nine proposals out of the 12 suggested by the Supreme Court, there was disagreement on the rest, government officials had said.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Oct 10, 2018 19:49 IST