Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: The Supreme Court of India today appointed former Solicitor General of India Ranjit Kumar as the new Amicus Curiae to oversee reform measures at Puri Srimandir.

Hearing on the PIL filed by Cuttack-based lawyer Mrinalini Padhi on the temple reforms, a three-member new bench comprising Justice AK Shikri, Justice MA Shah and Justice Abdul Nazir of the apex court appointed the senior advocate to assist the temple management in implementing reform measures. Senior advocate Priya Hingorani has also been appointed to assist Kumar in the case.

Even as the the exact date when the amicus curiae will take charge of the post is yet to be ascertained, the next hearing in the case is scheduled to be held on February 5.

The senior advocate is likely to visit Puri to hold discussions with the temple management and other stakeholders before filing report in the case.

Kumar, who is a senior advocate in the Supreme Court had served as the Central government's second highest legal advisor from 2014 to 2017. He had also served as a counsel for Gujarat government.

The Court's appointment comes after former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanium who was appointed as the Amicus Curiae in the case stepped down from his post on November 30 last year citing personal reasons.

Taking serious note of allegations of exploitation of devotees by servitors, and mismanagement at the 12th century shrine, the Supreme Court, while hearing a petition filed by Padhi on June 8 and July 5, had directed the temple administration to implement 12 proposals as a part of disciplinary reforms.

SJTA Advocate Swetaketu Mishra said "We will try to fulfill the demands for reforms put up by the new Amicus Curiae after going through the papers."

Senior servitor Binayak Das Mohapatra said "The new Amicus Curiae should review the 12 proposals put up before the Supreme Court as they were against the servitors."

"The previous Amicus Curiae was ignorant about Srimandir reforms and the new one might be too. We hope that our people get justice in the coming days," said Advocate Priyadarshan Patnaik.