Servitors at Puri Srimandir cannot receive donations from devotees: SC

Bhubaneswar: Taking strong notice of mismanagement and exploitation of devotees by servitors in the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri, the Supreme Court has hereby barred the servitors to accept donations from devotees.

Hearing on a petition filed in this regard, the apex court has opined that servitors will not receive direct collection of offerings.

“Offerings can be collected in Hundis and will vest in the Temple fund and will not be individual earning of Sevaks,” read the Supreme Court order.

The court has further ordered the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) to install more CCTV cameras at appropriate locations in the temple premises to check the exploitation and attack on devotees.

The SJTA should form a committee to carry out inspection of the CCTV footage on regular intervals and submit its report to the District Judge, Puri, once in every month, the order further read.

District Judge, Puri has also been directed by the apex court to form a committee to probe the allegations of exploitation of devotees and tourists and submit its report by June 30.

“Our primary prayer was that there is mismanagement in temple, devotees are being harassed and they being commercially exploited. The devotees who are coming for darshan of Lord Jagannath should not be harassed and their offerings should reach the temple, keeping it in view a host of orders has been passed by the court,” said Supreme Court advocate Shubhranshu Padhi.

Similarly, the apex court has instructed the Odisha government to constitute a committee which will study the management schemes in other important shrines such as Vaishno Devi in Jammu and Kashmir, Somnath temple in Gujarat, Golden Temple in Punjab, Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh and Dharamsthala temple in Karnataka and suggest changes. The Committee may also submit its interim report by June 30, read the court’s order.

Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium has been appointed as amicus curiae by the court to assist in the matter and give his suggestions after collecting  reports of the committees. In case of the disappearance of Ratna Bhandar key, the Supreme Court said that it will be decided by the Orissa High Court.

“Gopal Subramanium is not only  bound by the reports of the State government and the temple administration, he will also give his personal suggestions. Apart from this, on the issue of Ratna Bhandar key missing the Supreme Court said the Orissa High Court is free to deal with it as the Ratna Bhandar inspection was carried out on basis of its order,” said Padhi.