The Supreme Court on Friday said the construction activity being carried out by the Odisha government at the famed Shree Jagannath temple in Puri is necessary for the larger public interest as it dismissed pleas opposing the work.
A vacation bench of Justices B R Gavai and Hima Kohli rejected the PIL with costs, and said the state cannot be prevented from making necessary arrangements to provide basic facilities to lakhs of devotees visiting the temple.
The top court said there is no merit in the contention raised by the appellants.
The bench also took exception to the filing of frivolous PILs, and said most of such petitions are eithscer publicity interest litigation or personal interest litigation.
"We are of the considered view that Public Interest Litigation other than being in public interest is detrimental to public interest. In the recent past, it has been noticed that there has been mushrooming growth in PILs. Many such petitions are either publicity interest litigation or personal interest litigation.
"We highly deprecate the practice of filing such frivolous PIL as it is nothing but abuse of the process of the law. They encroach upon valuable judicial time which could otherwise be utilised for considering genuine concerns. It is high time that such petitions are nipped in the bud so that development work is not stalled," the bench said.
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The top court said that a hue and cry was made that the construction carried out is contrary to the inspection report carried out by ASI. However, the note of the Director-General of ASI clears the position.
"It can thus be seen that even if the appellant had genuine concern the same is already taken care by the high court in the impugned order. Inspite of that matter was mentioned for obtaining urgent orders before the vacation bench on Monday. Till the matter was not listed again a hue and cry was made as if heavens are going to fall if the matter is not heard. Activity undertaken is in sync with our earlier orders," the bench said.
Earlier, senior advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani, appearing for the petitioner, had said there's a clear embargo and there can be no construction in the prohibited area.
"They (state government) did not even take permission to construct in the regulated area," she had submitted.
The state, she had said, got a no objection certificate from the National Monuments Authority (NMA) and went ahead. She said the NMA could not have granted a valid certificate and this is something only the director of archaeology in the Central or the state government can do.
Advocate General for Odisha Ashok Kumar Parija had submitted that under The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, the authority is the NMA, and the competent authority has been notified to be the Odisha government's director culture.
"Construction does not mean repair or remake existing structures or clean the sewage, drains etc. This is how it is understood and DG ASI also understands the same way.
"Grant of the permission was by director culture... the director culture of the government of Odisha is the competent authority. What was prohibited within 100 metres was construction. The concept plan of the state aims to provide amenities and beautify the temple," he had said.
He added that 60,000 people visit the temple everyday and there is a need for more toilets.
"The amicus curiae in the case pointed out there was a necessity of more toilets and court had issued directions in that regard," he had added.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by Ardhendu Kumar Das and others alleging illegal excavation and construction work by the Odisha government at the temple.
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According to the petition, state agencies have been working in gross violation of Section 20A of The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
The plea alleged that the Odisha government is carrying out unauthorised construction work. This poses a serious threat to the structure of the ancient temple, it said.