The issue before the court highlighted in the petition relates to the difficulties faced by the visitors to Shri Jagannath Temple at Puri in Orissa. This includes harassment or exploitation by the Sevaks of the temple, unhygienic environment and encroachments. Moreover, there are deficiencies in the management of the Shrine and the rituals are commercialized.
“…proper management of pilgrimage centres of great importance is a matter of public interest. These centres are of undoubted religious, social historical and architectural importance, representing cultural heritage of our country. Millions of people visit these centres not only for tourism but also for seeking inspiration for the righteous values and for their well being…”
The Court ordered the Puri District Judge, who may take the assistance of the Collector and Administrator, to submit an interim report to the Court by 30th June 2018. The report should include factual aspects of difficulties faced by visitors, exploitative practices, deficiencies in the management and suggestions. The Collector/Administrator is to provide necessary funds, facilities and information.
The administrator is to give a report every month to the District Judge, Puri regarding arrangement of CCTV cameras already installed and the District Judge is empowered to issue appropriate directions in this regard for better management.
No direct collection of the offerings is to be made by any Sevaks and all the offerings are to be either in hundi or be deposited and accounted for and properly utilized. They should not go in the individual pockets of the Sevaks/attendants who may be given their due remuneration as per rules.
The Court directed the State of Orissa to constitute a Committee to study the management schemes in other important shrines such as Vaishno Devi, Somnath Temple, Golden Temple etc so that the management practices therein can be reviewed for the benefit of visitors at the Shri Jagannath Temple.
The Court observed:
“It is of prime importance that all the visitors have hassle free visits and the offerings made are utilized for righteous objects and not misappropriated in any manner…Exploitative practices have to be timely stopped.”
The matter is listed for hearing before the Supreme Court on 5th July 2018.