New Delhi, 3/6:The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a plea alleging illegal construction and excavation at Shree Jagannath temple in Puri by the Odisha government. The top court also deprecated the practice of filing PILs for publicity or personal interests and criticised the petitioners for wasting the court’s precious time.
A bench of Justices B R Gavai and Hima Kohli pointed out that the Archaeological Survey of India has categorically told the High Court that no damage is being caused to the heritage site by the works, including those related to creating amenities for pilgrims. Despite this, a hue and cry was made for urgent hearing before the top court by mentioning the matter repeatedly, the bench added.
Referring to mushrooming growth of PILs, the bench said, “We deprecate the practice of filing such PILs. It’s a waste of judicial time and it needs to be nipped in the bud so that development work is not stalled.”
Justice Gavai pronounced the order on behalf of the bench on the petition filed by Ardhendu Kumar Das and others, who claimed themselves to be devotees of Lord Jagannath.
The Rs 800 crore Jagannath temple corridor project is scheduled to be completed by May 2023.
The petitioners had challenged the validity of the High Court’s order of May 9 declining to intervene in their plea against “unauthorised and illegal” constructions in the prohibited area of the temple, resulting in “desecration” and “downright destruction” of the archaeological remains of the heritage site in violation of Article 49 of the Constitution and the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958 and rules of 1959 and AMASR (Amendment) Act, 2010. The bench, in its judgment, said the Odisha Advocate General’s statement and the affidavit filed by the ASI had falsified the claims of the petitioners.
During the hearing on Thursday, the court was told that 60,000 people visited the temple daily and there is a need to have toilets and other facilities. During the annual Rath Yatra, around 15-20 lakh devotees visit the temple.