Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack, Apr 11:
Months after the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) turned down Odisha government’s request to declare the air space over Jagannath temple in Puri as a ‘no flying zone’, a PIL was filed in the High Court on Friday seeking judicial intervention to clamp flying restrictions over and around the 12th century shrine.
Senior lawyer Nishikant Mishra filed a petition urging the court to direct the DGCA to initiate steps to declare ‘no flying zone’ above Jagannath temple immediately and around Grand Road temporarily during the Rath Yatra (Car festival) on security grounds.
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 the radius of 400 kms of the venue of the Rajpath. Deviating from the usual practice, no helicopter flew over the airspace during that time, Mishra pointed out in his petition.
Similarly, temporary flying restrictions were imposed over Shivaji Park in Mumbai for six hours during the Republic Day celebrations, the petition read.
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 urged 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.
Notably in July last year, the DGCA had rejected the plea of the SJTA and the Puri district administration for declaration of the air space above Jagannath temple premises as a ‘no flying zone’ on the grounds that it will violate laws and rules governing civil aviation in the country.
In a letter to the SJTA, the DGCA had said it had no plans to declare the air space above the Jagannath temple premises in Puri as a no fly zone. Besides, it 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.