Shree Jagannath temple administration fined Rs 10,000 for non-compliance issued two years back

The order was issued on a PIL on the legal validity of amendment of section 16 (2) of the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954.
Shree Jagannath Temple
Shree Jagannath TemplePhoto | Express

CUTTACK: The Orissa High Court on Wednesday imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) for non-compliance of an order issued more than two years back.

The order was issued on a PIL on the legal validity of amendment of section 16 (2) of the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954. One Dilip Kumar Baral of Puri had filed the petition.

The temple managing committee was given more power by amendment of section 16 (2) of the Act at the cost of undermining the power of the state government. The amendment involved delegation of power under the section which is mandatory in nature. Hence, the amendment defeats the legislative intention behind the provision, the petitioner contended.

Acting on the PIL, the high court had on March 15, 2022 issued notice to the state government and directed it to file counter affidavit indicating specifically the details of the transactions entered pursuant to the amended section. In an interim order, the high court had also said, “All actions taken pursuant to the amendment of section 16 (2) of the Act would be subject to the outcome of the writ petition.”

While the High court was hearing the matter on Wednesday. petitioner counsel Anup Mohapatra pointed out that though SJTA had filed a counter affidavit, the specific direction was not complied with. Non-compliance of the specific order was also pointed out in a rejoinder to the counter affidavit filed on April 18, 2023, he stated.

SJTA counsel Subrat Satapathy admitted the non-compliance and pleaded for grant of time to file an affidavit indicating the details of the transactions entered pursuant to the amendment section.

Taking serious note of it, the division bench of Chief Justice Chakradhari Sharan Singh and Justice Savitri Ratho imposed the fine on SJTA, directed for listing of the matter after three weeks and granted the SJTA counsel time till then to comply with the court’s March 15, 2022 direction.

The section 16 (2) of the Act, prior to amendment, stipulated that no immovable property taken possession of by the temple committee may be leased out, mortgaged, sold or otherwise alienated without the state government’s consent. As a result, those in occupation or possession of temple land had to get approval of the state government (Law department) to sell, lease or mortgage it under the uniform policy, which the government claimed was a time-consuming process.

After the amendment of the Act in January 2022, those in possession of the temple land can now get patta (land record) in their names and further sell, transfer or mortgage the land as the process has been decentralised. Accordingly, powers have been delegated to the temple managing committee, chief administrator of SJTA, Puri collector, and other authorities at the district level.

The state government on its part took the stand that the delegation of powers to officials at different levels will facilitate speedy disposal of all the cases related to alienation of land or immovable properties.

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