A recent Supreme Court order to take an inventory of all the lands owned by the Jagannath temple in Puri is likely to establish the shrine as one of the biggest landlords in the country.
An amicus curiae appointed by the top court informed that the shrine owns a mind-boggling 60,418 acres (244 sq. km) of land both within and outside Odisha. This is 15 times the size of Puri town, whose area is just 16.33 sq. km.
The amicus curiae also told a bench of Justices Arun Mishra, MR Shah and S Ravindra Bhat that the Puri temple also owned several quarries and mines.
“There are vast immovable properties within and outside the state belonging to the Shri Jagannath temple. It is stated by amicus curiae (senior advocate Ranjit Kumar) in his report that 60,418 acres of land belongs to the temple and record o of rights have been prepared for 34,201 acres so far,” a report in Times of India quoted the bench as saying.
“Let the record of rights for remaining land be prepared, as far as possible, within six months and the same placed before the court. With respect to other immovable properties within and outside the state, let inventory be prepared and details be submitted on how they are being utilised as also the income generated from them,” the bench added.
The matter will again come up for hearing on January 8, 2020.
The amicus curiae also informed the court that licensees of the mines and quarries owned by the temple were not paying their dues to the shrine.
Following this, bench ordered the preparation of a list of quarries and mines as to how they are being managed, who is operating them, on what basis and what is the income of the temple from them and the outstanding dues.
Giving primacy to carrying out of rituals at the temple as insisted by the Puri Shankaracharya, the SC bench said, “What are the rituals to be performed is not for the court to decide, but when the temple exists due to the deities, the deities cannot be permitted to be disregarded by non-performance of ‘nitis’, puja and rituals in the traditional form as observed by the Shankaracharya, who suggested that these to be performed as per the guidelines laid in Brahma Purana, Vamdev Samhita, Panchatantra-Ishwar Samhita and Vimarsha.”