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Orissa High Court denies anticipatory bail to YouTuber booked for taking pictures of Lord Jagannath Temple

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The Orissa High Court has dismissed the anticipatory bail application of a YouTuber, who was booked for clicking pictures and making videos of Lord Jagannath Temple at Puri with the help of a drone.

The Single Judge-Bench of Justice Chittaranjan Dash observed that a law-abiding citizen was expected to at least take permission from the temple authority before capturing the overview of the Temple or its surroundings.  

It said this was the minimum caution expected to be exercised by the petitioner, especially when he claimed to have clicked photographs and videographs of the monuments and heritage of importance, irrespective of being a tourist or freelancer, adding that absence of such conduct raised the question of bonafideness.

YouTuber Animesh Chakraborty, who claimed to be a registered drone-operator, had visited Puri in September last year. 

He said the mobile app of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) did not show the Lord Jagannath Temple of Puri as a ‘no flying zone’ and hence, he navigated his drone over the Temple premises for around five minutes, clicking some photographs and videos of the same.

Chakraborty claimed that he had uploaded a video on his YouTube channel regarding his visit to the Temple, but removed it later, after realising that the same might hurt the religious sentiments of the devotees of Lord Jagannath. 

The YouTuber, after receiving complaints, released a video on his channel apologising for his mistake.

A Sub-Inspector of Singhadwara Police Station in Puri had alleged that the petitioner uploaded the photographs and video clips of the temple on his YouTube channel, leading to their circulation for commercial purposes. 

The policeman said the temple premises came under the Red Zone of the Drone Rules, 2021, adding that the accused committed offence under Section 10(2) of the Aircraft Act, 1934 and Section 30(A)(4)(c) of the Jagannath Temple Act, 1955.

As per Section 30A(4)(c) of the Jagannath Temple Act, “Whoever takes inside the premises of the Temple any article knowing that the taking of such article is prohibited under any law or custom or by any declaration made and published in the prescribed manner by the Committee with due regard to the prevailing custom, public health, morality or the religious sentiments of the public; shall on conviction be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to two months or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both.”

The provision for penalty was also envisaged under Section 10(2) of the Aircraft Act.

(Case Title: Animesh Chakraborty v. State of Odisha)

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