Cuttack, Aug 28
The Odisha High Court on Tuesday admitted a PIL seeking removal of temples, photographs, idols of deities from the premises of government offices and police stations and issued notices to the state government asking it to file counters within four weeks.
Notices issued to the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Director General of Police by a division bench of the Court comprising Justices Indrajit Mohanty and Biswanath Mohapatra asked for filing counter affidavits to the PIL filed by one Abhiram Mallick of Bhubaneswar.
The PIL seeking removal of these structures from the premises of government establishments assumes importance at a time when places of worship that had come up on government land were considered illegal and demolished by the local administration following intervention of the courts.
Petitioner’s lawyer Khirod Kumar Rout argued that ‘secularism’ is one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution and that means the state shall have no religion of its own and its agencies and instrumentalities shall not preach any religion. The state shall also not allow any particular religion to flourish or propagate it directly or indirectly through its agencies, he argued.
Annexing documents showing existence of temples in several government office premises, including that of the State Secretariat in Bhubaneswar, the petitioner claimed that out of the 18 police stations located in Cuttack city, as many as ten have temples in their premises.
The petitioner also sought indulgence of the High Court to remove all photos and idols of deities dotting the walls, corridors, lifts and entrance gates of government offices.
Terming these as public nuisance, the petitioner maintained that such places of worship in government offices have also turned into commercial establishments as funds are collected from general public for performing rituals and other celebrations during important festivals.