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Devotees climbing chariots: HC issues notice to Odisha govt

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack, June 19:

The Odisha High Court today served notices to the Odisha government and the chief administrator of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) to appear before the court tomorrow in the matter pertaining to devotees climbing the chariots and touching the deities during the Rath Yatra.

Touching the idols Rath Yatra

The High Court issued the directions keeping in mind the urgency of the matter while conducting the hearing on a PIL filed in the matter.

The PIL filed in the High Court on Wednesday had 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 were made parties in the PIL.

The petitioners had stated that the decision of Jagadguru Shankaracharya is considered the final word in religious matters of Hindus. The Shankaracharya’s opinion was sought when dispute arose over devotees climbing atop chariots and touching the deities. After consulting several institutions and studying religious scriptures, the Puri seer had opined against devotees climbing chariots and touching the deities, the petitioners pointed out.

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

Istead of following the Shankaracharya’s advice, the state government decided that the devotees will not be allowed to climb the chariots only on the three days but would be permitted to do so on other days of the 9-day festival as per earlier practice.

The government, however, has issued no notification in the matter, the petitioners had said. They had maintained that Law minister Arun Kumar Sahoo’s statements in the media has led to the controversy and also misunderstanding among the people.

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