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Rs. 800 cr Jagannatha Tmple Corridor project gets SC nod

PILs Against Project Frivolous, Against Public Interest
The Supreme Court on Friday greenlighted the Odisha government's prestigious, yet mired in litigation, Rs 800 crore Jagannatha Temple Corridor Project by dismissing two petitions seeking stay of ongoing excavation work around the temple to construct basic and essential amenities to pilgrims and devotees.
A bench of Justices B R Gavai and Hima Kohli examined the documented stands of Odisha government, the Archaeological Survey of India as well as the temple administrator and said, "The construcion is being carried out for the purpose of providing basic and essential amenities like toilets for men and women, cloak rooms, electricity rooms etc. These are the basic facilities which are necessary for the convenience of the devotees at large."
Writing the 40-page judgement, Justice Gavai decried the unnecessary "hue and cry" over the project and said "the note of the Director General of ASI dated February 21, 2022 as well as the affidavit filed by the ASI before the High Court would falsify this position (that the construction work is being carried out in contravention of the laws protecting ancient monuments)."
Terming the two special leave petitions filed by Ardhendu Kumar Das and Sumanta Kumar Ghadei as frivolous, the bench imposed cost of Rs 1 lakh each and ordered them to deposit the money within a week.
In what would be more damaging to the PIL against the project pending before the Orissa HC, the bench said, "We are of the considered view that the PIL filed before the HC rather than being in public interest, is detrimental to the public interest at large." This would leave little room for the HC not to dismiss the PIL.
Justice Gavai, known to be severe against frivolous PILs and seldom shirks from calling a spade a spade, said, "There is mushroom growth of PILs. In many of such petitions, there is no public interest involved at all. The petition are either publicity interest litigations or personal interest litigation. We highly deprecate the practice of filing such frivolous petitions. They are nothing but abuse of the process of law. They encroach upon a valuable judicial time which could be otherwise utilised for considering genuine issues. It is high time that such so-called PILs are nipped in the bud so that the developmental activities in the larger pulic interest are not stalled."
After negating the arguments of senior advocates Mahalaxmi Pavani and Vinay Navare, who appeared for the petitioners, the SC said the HC has already recorded the statement of state advocate general Ashok Parija that both the ASI and the state government would work together to ensure that no archaeological remains are missed out or damaged.
ASI through senior advocate A D N Rao told the SC that the ASI has no objection to the construction being carried out strictly in conformity with the provisions of law.
The bench said, "We have no hesitation in holding that the activities undertaken by the State are completely in tune with the directions is sued by the 3-Judge bench of this Court in Mrinalini Padhi case. They (construction work undertaken) are necessary in the larger public interest and there is no prohibition in the statute for doing so, as sought to be argued by the appellants."
Senior advocate Pinaki Mishra, also a BJD MP, said as many as 60,000 devotees visit Jagannatha temple every day and during the Rath yatra period, their number goes to many lakhs. He said to provide them with adequate public conveniences and cloak rooms, it was found necessary that the area within the radius of 75 metres surrounding the temple be cleared for passage to the devotees for organising proper queues and maintaining discipline.
Taking larger public interest into consideration, the state government had acquired the buildings in the vicinity which were constructed as lodges decades ago, by spending an amount of Rs. 700 crore, he said.

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