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Amit Anand Choudhury | TNN | New Delhi | April 8, 2019:: The Supreme Court on Monday questioned government authorities taking over administration of religious places, saying the task should be entrusted to devotees as it expressed concern over the failure of various state governments in managing temple affairs.
Referring to the apex court’s 2014 order by which administration of 1,500-year-old Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram was taken out of control of Tamil Nadu government, a bench of Justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer said it will consider that verdict while deciding on the issue of administration of Jagannath temple in Puri.
“We had occasion to examine the issue in case of Chidambaram temple. I do not know why government officers should run the temple. In Tamil Nadu, there are many cases of theft of idols. What are government officers doing. These idols, apart from the religious sentiments, are priceless,” said Justice Bobde, who was part of the bench which passed the order on Chidambaram temple.
The court was hearing a PIL on mismanagement and exploitation of devotees in Jagannath temple in Odisha. The petitioners alleged that the temple administration failed to maintain clean and hygienic environment.
At the outset, advocate Suchit Mohanty, appearing for Jagadguru Shankaracharya Sri Nischalananda Saraswati of Gobardhan Math, told the bench the spiritual guru had filed application in the case to assist the court in deciding the issue.
Mohanty brought to the court’s notice instances where the management interfered with the religious affairs of the temple, resulting in serious disturbances including stampede during ‘Darshan’ of the deities.
The bench, thereafter, asked him whether the Shankaracharya would be willing to take over the management as he had “immense” power and influence over the devotees and his intervention could ensure smooth administration of the temple.
Attorney general K K Venugopal also agreed with the view of the court that there should be no state interference in management of temples and said the issue has to be examined by the court on how can a government take over the control of temples in a secular country.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, told the bench that there are two legislations pertaining to Jagannath temple administration and the court had to examine the laws before passing order. He said mismanagement was because of non-implementation of laws.