Ratna Bhandar: HC Declines To Interfere, Keeps Faith In SJTMC
Cuttack: The Orissa High Court on Friday directed the Odisha government to form a high-level panel over Ratna Bhandar issue if approached by Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee (SJTMC) to assist it in carrying out inventory of valuables stored in its inner chamber.
The division bench of Chief Justice Subhasis Talapatra and Justice Savitri Ratho has given the government two months’ time to form the panel from that day. “We are not persuaded to interfere with the plan of work regarding inventorisation & repair works of interior walls… as prepared in the meeting held on August 4 on the advice of Superintending Archaeologist of ASI.”
It further said that the temple managing committee has observed that the repair works should be taken up at such a time that will not obstruct both the rituals of Lords and public darshan. “The Superintending Archaeologist guided the said meeting and observed that the status of the inner portion of Ratna Bhandar could also be assessed through the laser scanning and repair could be taken up by opening of the inner Bhandar during Rath Yatra next year after making assessment of the status. Therefore, the contention of petitioner that despite repeated approach by the Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, to allow them to enter and survey the inner part for purpose of repair, cannot be accepted.”
“As the apex court has observed, we are to keep our faith in the temple managing committee in the management of Ratna Bhandara & its structure,” it added.
The bench had on September 27 reserved its judgment after hearing submissions of senior advocate Buddhadev Routray on behalf of the temple managing committee and senior advocate Pitambar Acharya for the petitioner, BJP leader Samir Mohanty, who had sought a direction to the state government for opening the treasury located inside the temple for repair works, and making a fresh inventory of the valuables kept in the inner chamber.
Acharya submitted that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), in an affidavit, had stated that inspection of the interior of Ratna Bhandar has not been possible for over five years for want of permission from Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA). Though the ASI had sought permission for it in a letter dated August 8, 2022, to the chief administrator of SJTA, it is still not given, he added.
Routray, on the other hand, pointed out that a resolution for opening the inner chamber of the Ratna Bhandar for inspection and repair work and inventory of ornaments, jewellery, and other valuables during Rath Yatra next year, was passed by the managing committee in a meeting held on August 4, 2023.
Besides requesting the Odisha government to allow the ASI to reopen and repair the Ratna Bhandar during Rath Yatra 2024, the temple managing committee had also sought a high-level committee with a retired Supreme Court justice to supervise the entire operation of reopening and repair of the inner treasury.
In an affidavit, the temple administration, however, had told the court last month that there was gold jewellery weighing about 149.47 kg and silver jewellery weighing 198.79 kg and utensils in Ratna Bhandar and stressed that it was not necessary to do a further inventory as the properties/valuables were intact.