SC Cites ‘Technical Difficulty’ On Hearing ‘Protect Heritage Of Lord Jagannath’ Plea

New Delhi: The Supreme Court had agreed to hear a petition, challenging the Odisha government’s decision to carry out excavation work around Jagannath Temple in Puri. The matter, however, was not listed for Tuesday due to a technical difficulty.

The bench of Justices B R Gavai and Hima Kohli said that they cannot hear it unless the matter is allotted to it by the Chief Justice of India, the LiveLaw reported.

The petitioner has challenged Orissa High Court’s order refusing to restrain the state from carrying out any excavation in and around Lord Jagannath Temple, Puri. The counsels appearing for the petitioner urged the court to take up the matter at 2 pm and submitted that “blatant desecration” of the property is going on. The bench, however, informed that the matter hasn’t been listed due to some technical difficulty, and unless the competent authority allots it to a particular bench, it’s not in the hands of the judges to hear the matter.

Justice Gavai said that judges hearing matters during vacation have no administrative powers of the Chief Justice of India to list and allot cases. “We never faced this difficulty in High Courts. In High Courts, a vacation judge has to be judge for all purposes even for administrative purposes, Here, we are controlled by Registry. If it’s allotted to us, we’re willing to hear it even at 2 pm. Unless it is allotted to us, our hands are tied”, Justice Gavai said while responding to a request for an urgent hearing of the matter.

Justice Gavai further said that it is the prerogative of the Chief Justice of India to allot cases as the Master of the Roster and that the vacation bench cannot assume the administrative powers of the CJI. “We allowed circulation but there’s a technical difficulty, unless Chief allots it to a particular bench, it can’t be,” he added.

The present special leave petition filed through advocate Gautam Das argued that the state agencies have been working in gross violation of Section 20A of The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958. The petitioner alleged that the unauthorised construction work is posing a serious threat to the structure of the 12th-century shrine and sought a ban on all construction or excavation work on temple land.

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