Supreme Court directs Centre to set up a committee to ensure devotees are not fleeced by priests at popular temples

New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday directed the Centre to set up a committee to study how the temples of cultural and architectural importance across the country are managed, particularly with respect to facilities for pilgrims and utilisation of donations and offerings.

File photo of Shri Jagannath temple, Puri. News18

File photo of Shri Jagannath temple, Puri. News18

A vacation bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Ashok Bhushan said that the best practices that will be identified, will be used to facilitate hassle-free access of pilgrims to these places of worship, and curb fleecing by priests and others associated with these shrines.

"We only want that the innumerable devotees who visit these places of popular worship are not exploited; that there is no encroachment or malpractices, and that funds coming to the temple are not misused," said Goel.

The court said its endeavour is to "protect the welfare of the pilgrims visiting these shrines for thousands of years".

The court order came on a petition that sought curbing of malpractices in the management of Shri Jagannath temple in Puri in Odisha, and a report on the missing key of the Ratna Bhandar where precious jewellery and other valuables are stored.

The SC asked the government to constitute a committee to study the management practices at the Vaishno Devi shrine, Tirupati temple, Sai Baba temple at Shirdi, Somnath temple, and the Golden Temple in Amritsar and suggest changes in the management of Shri Jagannath temple.

The apex court also issued a slew of directions to address alleged exploitation of devotees at Shri Jagannath temple and the management of its finances, including donations and offerings by pilgrims.

The court said that the donations to the temple deity will go directly to the temple management and not be pocketed by priests attending to the deity.

It is the temple management that will make payments to the shrine's 'sevaks' (staff), including priests.

Describing Shri Jagannath temple as a place of national importance, the SC directed the Puri district judge to submit a factual report on the difficulties faced by pilgrims, including their alleged exploitation, by 30 June. The report will point to deficiencies in temple management and make suggestions to improve the same. The Supreme Court directed the temple committee and the district administration, including the District Collector (DC), to extend the necessary help to the District Judge.

The court ordered the district administration to submit a report on the number of closed-circuit televisions installed in the temple complex, and who all were viewing the footage.

The court said that the administration has to ensure that there is no direct collection of donations from devotees, and all offerings are accounted for.

 


Updated Date: Jun 08, 2018 15:27 PM

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