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SC dismisses petitions challenging construction work at Puri Jagannath temple

2022-06-04 00:00:00

National

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The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the ongoing construction at Puri s Jagannath Mandir and dismissed two petitions challenging the work with a cost of 1 lakh to be paid to the Odisha government.A bench of justices BR Gavai and Hima Kohli said, The activities undertaken by the state are completely in tune with the orders passed by the Supreme Court in Mrinalini Padhi matter where court is monitoring preservation and protection of Puri temple and the petitions are without merit. The petitioners objected to the excavation and construction work being undertaken by the state government as part of the Sri Mandir Parikrama Project SMPP meant to be a heritage corridor project undertaken by the state government at a cost of over 800 crore for developing the temple city as a world heritage site.The petitioners who were devotees claimed that since the centuries old temple enjoys protection under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 AMASR , the work being undertaken by the state government fell within the prohibited 100 metre area. The petitioners represented by senior advocates Mahalakshmi Pavani and Vinay Navare argued that the permission of Archaeological Survey of India ASI was not taken for undertaking the work and some of the proposed constructions would overshadow the temple entry that will harm the heritage structure.The court found no strength in these submissions as it noted that when the matter was heard before the Orissa high court, ASI filed an affidavit where no objection was cited to the work being undertaken.

Instead, ASI indicated that the work of toilets, drains, electrical works within prohibited area do not fall within the definition of construction and can be undertaken in the prohibited area.The Supreme Court deprecated the conduct of the petitioners saying, Urgent hearing on this matter is sought as if heavens are going to fall. We find there is a mushrooming growth of such public interest litigations PIL where other than being in public interest, it is detrimental to public interest. We highly deprecated filing of such frivolous petitions. Dismissing the petition with costs to be deposited within four weeks, the court said, It is high time such petitions are nipped in the bud as they encroach upon valuable judicial time. The state was represented by advocate general Ashok Kumar Parija who took the court through the work being undertaken indicating that the construction being undertaken was for additional toilets for men, women and shebaits, electricity room, cloak room considering the lakhs of devotees expected to arrive at the temple town ahead of the rath yatra in July. He said that no new construction is being undertaken in the prohibited area and the reception centre and pavilion presented in that area is being taken out.Moreover, the state indicated that these facilities were permitted to be constructed by the Supreme Court in the Mrinalini Padhi matter.

Prior to undertaking this work, he said that the no objection certificate was taken from the National Monuments Authority in September 2021 and the competent authority to consider grant of permission is the director, culture department of the state of Odisha. Parija said that only 1 of the Parikrama area is being utilised for the above construction work.

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