Puri Heritage Corridor Project: Orissa HC dismisses all PILs

Cuttack: The Orissa High Court has dismissed all Public Interest Litigations (PILs) in relation to Srimandir Heritage Corridor project in Puri.

Reportedly, the High Court has quoted the judgment of the Supreme Court and dismissed the PILs.

The Supreme Court had rejected a public interest litigation petition against construction activities around the iconic Shree Jagannath Temple premises. The Apex Court strongly deprecated the practice of filing publicity interest litigations. A bench of Justices BR Gavai and Hima Kohli stated that such petitions need to be compressed in the bud since they waste the time of the courts.

The Supreme Court was hearing the challenge to Orissa High Court order that had allowed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a study evaluating the damage, if any, caused by construction activity around the temple.

During the hearing senior advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani, representing the petitioner, submitted before a vacation bench that no construction can be carried out in the prohibited area at the temple and the state government got NOC from the National Monuments Authority (NMA) and carried out the construction. She argued that only director archaeology either at central or state level could grant a valid certificate, and not the NMA.

Advocate General (AG) for Odisha Ashok Kumar Parija contended before the bench that NMA is the authority under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. He added that the state government’s director culture is the competent authority, which gave the permission, and the government plans to provide amenities and beautification of the temple. Parija pointed out that renovation of an existing structure or building, or maintenance and cleansing of drains and similar conveniences, and maintenance of works meant for providing supply of water for the public do not fall under the ambit of construction.

After hearing the detailed arguments in the matter, the top court on Thursday said it will pronounce the order on Friday. Petitioner Ardhendu Kumar Das and others have moved the top court alleging illegal excavation and construction work carried out by the state government at the temple. The plea alleged that the state government is carrying out unauthorised construction work, which is a threat to the structure of the temple.

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