The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the management of the Jagannath temple in Odisha’s Puri if it can allow non-Hindus to enter as long as they follow a dress code and the shrine’s traditions. The court was hearing a petition that highlighted difficulties faced by visitors to the shrine and alleged problems in the administration.
The bench of Justices AK Goel and S Abdul Nazeer said they were not ordering non-Hindus to be allowed in. “We have just given a suggestion. Let’s see what can be done,” they said, according to The Indian Express.
“We have noted that Hinduism does not eliminate any other belief and is eternal faith and wisdom and inspiration of centuries, as noted in earlier judgments,” the court observed, according to the Hindustan Times.
The bench added that any devotee aggrieved by the conduct of affairs at any shrine in the country can complain to the district judge, who may examine the matter and report it to the High Court.
On June 8, the top court had asked the district judge of Puri for a report on the matter. The Supreme Court also asked the Odisha government to constitute a committee to study the management of other important shrines, and suggest changes in the administration of the Jagannath temple.
The court’s observations come days after a controversy regarding President Ram Nath Kovind and his wife Savita Kovind’s visit to the shrine in March. Media reports had said that the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration received a letter from the Rashtrapati Bhavan that accused priests of blocking Kovind and his wife near the sanctum sanctorum.
The temple management denied receiving such a complaint from Rashtrapati Bhavan, but the administration did not deny the reports of misconduct. “We have not received any communication from the president’s office. They have not even made any oral complaint to us about misconduct by anyone,” Shree Jagannath Temple Chief Administrator PK Mohapatra had told PTI. “However, we are concerned over alleged misbehaviour towards devotees visiting the temple.” Mohapatra said the matter was being investigated.