The Odisha High Court passed an Order on 22nd June 2022. In the case of Dillip Kumar Baral v. State of Odisha & Ors.(W.P.(C) No. 6257 of 2022 ) The Orissa High Court has disposed of the pending writ petition challenging Puri Shree Jagannath Temple Corridor Project, in view of the recent decision of the Apex Court in Ardhendu Kumar Das v. State of Odisha. Notably, in that case, the Supreme Court dismissed two petitions filed against some construction works undertaken by the Odisha Government in the adjacent area of the centuries-old holy shrine. Not only those petitions were dismissed, but heavy costs of one lakh each were imposed on both the petitioners. While disposing of the case, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Radha Krishna Pattanaik.
The Government of Odisha had convened a project to re-develop the adjacent areas of Shree Jagannath Temple so as to establish a heritage corridor. The petitioners challenged the said project through a writ petition in the High Court. They had alleged that the Government of Odisha was doing unauthorized construction works, which were posing serious threats to the structure of the ancient Temple of Lord Mahaprabhu Shree Jagannath. According to them, the State Government was trying to make some constructions by excavating through heavy excavators more than 30 feet depth from the ground level, exactly adjacent to the western side of Meghanad Pacheri (the boundary wall of the temple), which is an integral part of the Temple. Further, it was alleged that cracks were found in the temple and its wall due to such excavations. On 9 May 2022, during hearing of the case before the High Court, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had submitted that it had not granted any valid permission to the Government for the construction works near the Temple, Then, the Advocate General of Odisha had assured that the State Government will work in cooperation with the ASI for all works undertaken at the Parikrama site Accordingly, the Court had directed that the State Government will keep in view the observations of the ASI when it undertakes any further works at the site. It required the State Government to file affidavit in response to the affidavit of the ASI before 20th June, 2022 and listed the matter to 22nd June for further hearing. However, in the meantime, a Special Leave Petition (SLP) was filed before the Supreme Court against the above order of the High Court refusing to stay the construction works at the site.
In the Apex Court, the petitioners had submitted that Shree Jagannath Temple, Purl has been declared a monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (AMASR Act), through a Gazette Notification dated 3rd February 1975 and under Section 19(1) of the AMASR Act, no person including the owner-occupier can construct any building within the protected area. It was argued that Section 20A of AMASR Act is clear about the fact that there cannot be any construction within the 100 meters distance of the prohibited area. However, terming the petitions as frivolous and contrary to public interest, the Supreme Court dismissed them with cost of Rupees one lakh each. It also made strong remarks against the petitioners.
JUDGMENT REVIEWED BY KUNMUN DAS.