Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack, Apr 16:
The Odisha High Court today directed the state government, the Centre and five others to reply within two weeks on a PIL seeking judicial intervention to declare the air space over Jagannath temple in Puri as a ‘no flying zone’.
The court gave the directions while conducting a hearing on the PIL filed by senior lawyer Nishikant Mishra urging the court to direct the DGCA to initiate steps to declare the airspace above Jagannath temple a ‘no flying zone’ immediately and around Grand Road temporarily during the Rath Yatra (Car festival) on security grounds.
The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had in July last year turned down the state government’s request to declare the air space over the 12th century shrine as a ‘no flying zone’. In a letter to the SJTA, the DGCA had said it had no plans to declare any fresh no flying zones in principle as it would violate laws and rules governing civil aviation and affect the safety and efficiency of civil aviation operations.
Mishra had pointed out in his petition that the Tirumala Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, Taj Mahal in Agra and Tower of Silence in Mumbai were ‘no flying zones’. During US President Barack Obama’s visit to India as the chief guest on last Republic Day, the security establishment had ordered a ‘no flying zone’ in a radius of 400 kms of the venue of the Rajpath. Deviating from the usual practice, no helicopter flew over the airspace during that time,.
Similarly, temporary flying restrictions were imposed over Shivaji Park in Mumbai for six hours during the Republic Day celebrations, the petition said.
Mishra had sought the intervention of the court in the matter stating that around 2 lakh tourists visit the famous temple in the pilgrim town of Puri daily on an average and nearly 20 lakh people converge during the annual Rath Yatra every year.
For the upcoming Nabakalebara festival in July this year, the Ministry of Civil Aviation should declare a ‘no flying zone’ around the Jagannath temple and impose temporary flying restrictions over the Grand Road (Bada Danda) during the annual Rath Yatras considering intelligence inputs on terror threat to the temple, Mishra has contended in his petition.
Union Civil Aviation minister, Director General of Civil Aviation department, state Chief Secretary, state Home Secretary, Sri Jagannath Temple Administrator, Puri District Collector and District Superintendent of Police have been made respondents to the PIL.