Pradeep Pattanayak

In a major development in the Srimandir Ratna Bhandar repair case, the Orissa High Court on Friday directed the government to constitute a high-level committee, if it is recommended by the Shri Jagannath Temple Managing Committee (SJTMC), for supervising the process of inventorisation of the valuables kept in the Ratna Bhandar, the treasure trove of the temple. 

The state’s apex court also directed the government to form the committee within a period of 60 days from the date when the SJTMC will approach them. 

“We direct the State Government to constitute a High-Level Committee, if they are approached by the SJTMC for supervising the process of inventorisation of the valuables including jewelleries stored in the Ratna Bhandar. Such a Committee be constituted by the State Government within a period of sixty days from the date when the SJTMC will approach them. The said Committee shall assist the SJTMC in carrying out inventorisation as aforenoted,” read the order. 

Hearing the PIL filed by former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state President, Samir Mohanty, who sought a direction from the apex court to the state government regarding the formation of a committee under the chairmanship of the Governor for the inventory of the ornaments kept in the Ratna Bhandar; the court said it will not interfere with the plan of work regarding inventorisation and repair works of the interior walls of the Ratna Bhandar. 

Terming the court’s judgment as a victory for the 4.5 crore people of Odisha, the Jagannath philosophy, and the Sanatan Dharma, senior advocate Pitambar Acharya, the advocate of the petitioner, said, “The order has put paid to all the efforts of the state government to defer the issue till October 2024 by when they would have won in the general elections.”

“We have doubts regarding the condition of ornaments kept in the Ratna Bhandar. With the order of the High Court, these doubts have been removed. I hope the government will constitute a committee for the inventory of the ornaments in the Ratna Bhandar and end the anxiety of crores of Lord Jagannath lovers,” said Samir Mohanty, the petitioner. 

Jagannath devotees and intellectuals welcomed the apex court’s order. 

“At times, questions regarding the safety of ornaments kept in the Ratna Bhandar come to our mind.  We welcome the High Court’s order. But the committee should have competent people,” said a Lord Jagannath devotee. 

When asked, senior Daitapati servitor Binayak Dasmohapatra said, “The government should constitute the committee after taking several aspects like how the committee should be and who will be its members and impartiality factor into consideration.”

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