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Former solicitor general Ranjit Kumar who is assisting the Supreme Court as an amicus curiae in the matter related to administration of the Jagannath temple in Puri on Wednesday told the Court that he had visited the shrine to understand the ground realities and would file a report soon.

Kumar had been asked by the court to visit the temple to assess the ground realities and he did so last week. He informed Justices S A Nazeer and M R Shah that he had held meetings with the temple management committee, ‘sewaks’ of the shrine and the local MP and MLA and that he would complete his report and then submit. “The report will take some time,” Kumar told the court. The bench, while taking note of Kumar’s submission, posted the matter for further hearing on March 5.

The top court is dealing with a plea which has highlighted the difficulties faced by the devotees at the Jagannath temple and their alleged harassment or exploitation by the ‘sevaks’. Kumar had earlier told the court that one of the major issues at the temple was lack of proper crowd management and absence of queue system for the devotees. To this, the state counsel had said it was not easy to have a “typical queue system” for the devotees at the shrine, as its architecture was different. Earlier, Puri’s District Judge had given a report to the apex court which had raised the issue of alleged harassment of devotees by the ‘sevaks’ (staffs) of the temple. Nine policemen were injured in the violence at Puri in October last year during a 12-hour bandh called by a
socio-cultural organisation protesting the introduction of a queue system for devotees visiting the temple, police had said.

The court had earlier said that no policeman should enter Jagannath temple “with weapons and shoes” after it was alleged before it that during the October 3 last year violence at the shrine, cops had entered there with boots and guns.

—India Legal Bureau

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