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High court rap for temple rule flout

The high court on Friday asserted that it would put an end to the “panda raj” at the Kalighat temple and the shrine management would have to abide by all its guidelines framed for the benefit of devotees.

The division bench of Chief Justice J.N. Patel and Justice Joymalya Bagchi made the assertion following a submission that the management had failed to implement any of the directives issued on April 20.

“With deep concern, this court is noticing that the pilgrims are still victims of the panda raj and the temple committee has failed to carry out the order this court had passed,” the bench observed before asserting its resolve to end malpractices at the temple.

The April 20 order, aimed at ending extortion by pandas, had banned the entry of devotees into the sanctum sanctorum. “Only two pujaris will be allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum. They will conduct the puja on behalf of devotees and visitors,” the bench had said.

The Supreme Court had in May stayed the curb, saying pilgrims had the right to touch the deity, but kept the rest of the high court order intact.

The high court bench, which had been hearing for a year two petitions highlighting extortion by pandas and lack of cleanliness at the temple, had also ordered that two persons, apart from the pujaris, would be allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum to remove leaves and flowers.

The order stated that a police officer not below the rank of assistant commissioner would be responsible for the law and order at the shrine.

Offerings — cash or valuables — would have to be deposited in sealed boxes. “No devotee will be allowed to give offerings openly,” the bench had said.

The court also asked the temple committee to instal closed-circuit cameras at key points to keep a watch on activities across the premises.

One of the two petitioners submitted before the bench on Friday that none of the directives had been carried out.

“The apex court has imposed a stay on the curb on the entry of pilgrims into the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum). The temple committee will have to obey the other directives. This court will keep a watch to find out whether the orders are being carried out,” the bench said.

The case will be heard again on October 6.