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Chariot climbing issue : PIL filed in Odisha High Court

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack, June 19:

While the whole of Odisha is engaged in a serious debate over the desirability of devotees climbing atop chariots and touching the deities during the Rath Yatra, the matter has landed in the High Court with the filing of a PIL challenging the legitimacy of the Odisha government’s intervention in the matter.

Touching the idols Rath Yatra A PIL filed in the High Court on Wednesday by advocate Nishikant Mishra and two others have challenged the legitimacy of the Odisha government’s intervention in the Rath Yatra issue which is an affair related to religion and religious practice.

The state chief secretary, chief administrator of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration, state Law minister, secretary of the Mukti Mandap Pandit Mahasabha and secretary of the Daitapati Nijog have been made parties in the PIL.

The petitioners have stated that for the Hindus the decision of Jagadguru Shankaracharya is considered the final word in religious matters. The Shankaracharya’s opinion was sought when dispute arose over devotees having darshan climbing atop chariots and touching the deities and the seer after consulting several institutions and studying religious scriptures opined against devotees climbing chariots and touching the deities, the petitioners said.

The petitioners also cited the decision of the Mukti Mandap Pandit Mahasabha which strongly backed the opinion of the Shankaracharya on the issue.

The state government instead of following the Shankaracharya’s advice decided that the devotees will not be allowed to climb chariots only on the three days but would be permitted  to do so on other days as per earlier practice. The government, however,  has issued no notification in the matter, the petitioners said. They maintained that Law minister Arun Kumar Sahoo’s statements in the media has led to the controversy and also misunderstanding among the people.

Expressing their apprehensions over the smooth conduct of the world famous Rath Yatra in such situation, the petitioners while contending that the stand taken by the state was  legally untenable, have sought the intervention of the High Court and prayed for directions to the government to stick to the Shankaracharya’s opinion in the matter.