Don’t interfere in rituals if you don’t understand them: SC to Odisha government

The court directed the state government to refrain from continuing the demolition drive without consulting spiritual leaders such as the Puri Shankaracharya and other stakeholders.

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The state also claimed that it had secured the “consent” of all the math managements and would rehabilitate them at alternative sites. However, the court was not satisfied with its explanation.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court lashed out at the Odisha government on Thursday for demolishing several old mutts around the Jagannath temple that activists said were essential to worship in the temple but the state claimed were “old” and “dilapidated”.

The court directed the state government to refrain from continuing the demolition drive without consulting spiritual leaders such as the Puri Shankaracharya and other stakeholders. It also said the state government will not proceed with the proposed demolition of two historic mutts associated with the Sikh faith. Guru Nanak is believed to have stayed in one of the mutts, signifying the centuries old ties between the temple and the Sikhs.

A three-judge bench led by Justice Arun Mishra was hearing a public interest litigation which had sought the court’s intervention to ensure that pilgrims are not harassed and the temple is better administered.


Asking the state government to desist from “interfering in rituals of the religion if it doesn’t understand them”, the court said, “Something is very wrong here. How can you destroy mutts like this?”

Justice Mishra further said: “The aura of the temple may be destroyed, the very soul of the temple necessary to maintain the main deity.”

The court’s attention had been drawn to the controversial demolition drive in and around the temple in Puri. The state government, through advocate general Ashok Pujari, claimed that most of the buildings in question were old and dilapidated. They were not more than 60-70 years old, said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
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The state also claimed that it had secured the “consent” of all the math managements and would rehabilitate them at alternative sites. However, the court was not satisfied with its explanation.

“The state has behaved in a crude way in this instance,” said Justice Mishra. “Some of these mutts are essential for worshipping the main deity in the temple. The state must ensure that these are not destroyed.”

Justice Ravindra Bhat, who was part of the bench, sought to know the antiquity of these structures. “Are these of archaeological importance?” “Preserve, not destroy,” said Justice Mishra, while Justice Vineet Saran asked the state to “consult” all stakeholders and make them offers they can’t refuse. Observing that “even the Shankaracharya has opposed this”, Justice Mishra said: “The sentiments of the people must be respected. What is required must be maintained. You cannot just go in and say we will develop.

Improve it the proper way.’”
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