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Calcutta HC: Cannot dictate whether devotees visiting Jalpesh temple should form queues, says it is Devotee Self Discipline

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Published on: 22 August 2023 at 12:20 IST

The Calcutta High Court recently expressed that it cannot dictate whether devotees visiting the historic Jalpesh temple in Jalpaiguri should form queues to offer water on the Shiva Linga or pour it through a channel [Surojit Dasgupta vs State of West Bengal].

A division bench led by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya clarified that it’s the responsibility of the devotees themselves to maintain decorum.

The Court underscored that without self-discipline, no amount of regulations imposed by authorities would be effective.

Chief Justice Sivagnanam also referenced the discipline upheld by temple devotees in Kerala as an example, emphasizing that maintaining order depends on the mindset of the devotees.

“When you visit temples in Kerala, you observe discipline. Even the former Chief Minister was seen waiting in line. This is where discipline lies,” the bench highlighted.

A public interest litigation (PIL) petition had sought guidelines for devotees at the Jalpaiguri temple, which experiences a footfall of approximately 4 lakh people daily.

However, Chief Justice Sivagnanam pointed out that crowd presence cannot justify devotees acting without discipline.

He illustrated the instance of the Tarakeshwar temple, where large crowds visit without incidents.

The Chief Justice mentioned discussions with local authorities who shared that even during festivals, no untoward occurrences take place.

In contrast to Kashi Viswanathan, where water is channeled onto the Shiv Linga, in Tarakeshwar, people queue up and pour water directly.

The Court questioned its jurisdiction in deciding such matters within a PIL.

The bench stressed that the devotees’ mindset plays a critical role in maintaining order, asserting that regulations won’t succeed if devotees lack discipline.

The judges emphasized that it’s the temple committees that must have an “open-minded” approach and consider devotees’ suggestions.

“At times, committee members think themselves higher than the deity, higher than the lord itself. This should not happen,” the bench commented.

During the hearing, the petitioner’s advocate highlighted that committees often struggle to manage law and order.

“We want to visit the temple. It’s our religious sentiment,” the advocate stated.

In response, Chief Justice Sivagnanam responded, “No, it’s indiscipline. If they ask you to queue and you don’t, then chaos ensues. Committees then introduce VIP passes, but it’s essential to fall in line.”