In what seems to be a transcending effect of the ongoing hearing on PILs on entry, assets and hygiene standards in the Jagannath Puri Temple, the Supreme Court has ordered judicial audit of all religious places and charitable institutions across India, asking district courts to examine complaints with regard to hygiene, management, utilisation of offerings and protection of assets of these institutes.
The order, applicable on all mosques, temples, churches, gurudwaras and other religious and charitable institutions in the country, requires the respective district courts to audit the religious places and charitable institutions, and submit the reports to respective high courts, a report in Times of India said.
The apex court has asked the high courts to treat these reports as public interest litigations (PILs) while stating that they could serve as the basis for the respective high courts to pass suitable judicial orders, the report said.
"The issue of difficulties faced by the visitors, exploitative practices, deficiencies in the management, maintenance of hygiene, proper utilisation of offerings and protection of assets may require consideration with regard to all shrines throughout India, irrespective of religion practiced in such shrines," a judicial bench headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice S Abdul Nazeer had said last month while hearing a PIL that highlighted difficulties faced by devotees at the Jagannath Temple at Puri.
According to the report, India has 20 lakh major temples and three lakh major mosques, and carrying out the task on a national scale is likely to strain the resources of the district courts, which are already struggling with lack of manpower. "The informal nature of many shrines, particularly smaller ones, and the absence of specific rules their functioning in many instances will add to the challenge," it added.
The judicial bench said the problem faced by devotees is a matter for consideration not only for the state and Centre but courts as well.
"If any devotee moves the jurisdictional district judge throughout India with any grievance on the above aspect, the district judge may either himself/herself or by assigning the issue/matter to any other court under his/her jurisdiction examine above aspects and if necessary send a report to the high court. We have no doubt that the High Court will consider these aspects in public interest in accordance with law and issue such judicial directions as becomes necessary having regard to individual fact situation," the Supreme Court bench said, in its judicial order.
The matter is currently scheduled for next hearing on 5 September, and the state, Central and the judicial committee auditing the Jagannath Temple have been asked to submit a report by 31 August.
Updated Date: Aug 23, 2018 15:24 PM