Plea in Orissa High Court on license to Sun Temple lensmen

High Court issues notice to the superintending archaeologist of ASI (Bhubaneswar circle) to file reply.
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

CUTTACK:  A petition has been filed in the Orissa High Court by Baidyanath Gochhayat and 28 others challenging the minimum eligibility criteria of matriculation adopted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for issuing licences to photographers to operate inside Sun Temple at Konark. 

The petition, filed by those engaged in photography at the 13th-century monument for over a decade but had not been issued a licence as they had not completed their matriculation, was taken up for hearing on Tuesday. 

Appearing on behalf of the petitioners, advocate Shivsankar Mohanty submitted that adoption of the eligibility criteria by ASI had resulted in loss of livelihood of a large number of photographers. The ASI has issued licences to only 68 photographers so far, Mohanty stated.

In response to it, the division bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Gourishankar Satapathy issued notice to the superintending archaeologist of ASI (Bhubaneswar Circle) to file a reply. The bench posted the matter to May 17 for being taken up for hearing along with a writ appeal which concerns a related issue.

Several photographers had filed a writ appeal against the order issued by a single judge on January 5, 2021 as the ASI had adopted the minimum matriculation qualification eligibility criteria in pursuance to it. The order said, “It follows that apart from tourists, only those who have a valid licence for purpose of conducting photography in precincts of the protected monuments are to be allowed to enter.”

The judge had issued the order on a petition filed by photographers who were provided licence by the ASI. They had sought intervention against the unchecked photography business at the Sun Temple as it was adversely affecting their livelihood. 

The single judge had apparently issued the order to prevent the unruly state of affairs that reportedly prevailed at the world heritage site with over a hundred photographers gaining access to the precincts of the protected monument.

Replying to the writ appeal, the ASI had stated that the minimum matriculation qualification eligibility criteria were part of a uniform policy framed for the purpose of regulating photographers operating in monuments across the country. 

However, the HC had directed the ASI to take into consideration the loss of livelihood of those engaged in the photography business for more than one to two decades and examine whether there can be a one-time exception provided to those who may not have a matriculation qualification.

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The New Indian Express