New Delhi [India]: The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order for Friday on a plea challenging the order of the Orissa High Court refusing to restrain the state government from carrying out excavation work around Shree Jagannath temple at Puri, Odisha.
A bench of Justices BR Gavai and Hima Kohli said it would pronounce the order tomorrow on the two pleas against the construction and excavation around the temple.
Senior advocate Mahalaxmi Pavani, appearing for one of the petitioners, argued that as per the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act 1958, the state government has to mandatorily obtain a NOC from the competent authority for carrying out any works in a protected site.
The State took a NOC from the National Monuments Authority for the construction works, however, the competent authority under the Act to grant the NOC is the Director or Commissioner of Archeology Survey of India, she added.
The senior advocate said there is a clear embargo that there cannot be any construction in the prohibited area. She further contended that permission was not taken to construct a regulated area.
The Director and the Superintendent Archaeologists have given two reports as per which no heritage assessment work was done and that there is irreparable damage to the temple.
Advocate Vinay Navare, appearing for another petitioner, argued that the temple is centuries old and the report of the officer of the Archeology department records that construction carried out is within the prohibited area.
“The state government is trying to make some construction by excavating through heavy excavators more than 30 feet depth from the ground level, exactly adjacent to the western side of Meghanad Pacheri, which is an integral part of the Temple,” the advocates of the petitioners told the bench.
Cracks have been found in the temple and its wall and the state government is doing unauthorized construction work which is posing a serious threat to the structure of the ancient temple, the petitioners contended.
Ashok Kumar Parija, Advocate General of Odisha, however, opposed the pleas and said that under the AMASR Act, the authority is the NMA, and competent authority has been notified to be Director Culture, State of Orissa.
The state government is undertaking the activities to provide amenities to the pilgrims and the same has permission from the NMA, he said.
The pleas challenged the order of the division bench of Orissa High Court and alleged illegal excavation and construction work by the Odisha government at Shree Jagannath temple.
The appeals filed in the apex court alleged that the excavation of the area close to the temple wall poses a serious threat to the temple’s structural safety. It sought a stay of the operation of the construction work near the temple.
While hearing a PIL, the High Court had asked the Archeological Survey of India and the State government agencies to conduct a joint inspection of the area and submit a report.
One of the appeals, filed through advocate Gautam Das said that as per Section 19 of the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act, no person can construct any building within a 100 meters radius protected area and the temple was declared a protected area in 1975, hence such construction is happening at a structure called Meghanad Pacheri which is an integral part of the temple.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Pattanaik in 2021 had laid down the foundation stone for the Jagannath Temple corridor project wherein the 75-metre perimeter of the temple was sought to be transformed into a heritage corridor to attract devotees. (ANI)