Dismissing a plea that had challenged the ‘Sugam Darshan’ system in the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Banaras, Uttar Pradesh, Allahabad High Court has held that levying a fee for availing certain facilities under this system does not exclude the common class from exercising their right of worship or perform Puja.
The bench of Justice Manoj Misra and Justice Sameer Jain further stated, "We are of the view that once the Board of Trustees are vested with the power to fix fees for the performance of any worship, service, rituals, ceremony or religious observance in the temple and in exercise of such power, they take a decision to provide a facility of 'Sugam Darshan’......they do not exclude the common class from exercising their right of worship or perform Puja as per religious practices."
Court added that this system is for those who, on account of their disability, be it physical or otherwise, cannot wait in a queue.
Therefore, the court further held, "In our view, the decision of the Board of Trustees does not fall within the ambit of judicial review."
Opposing petitioner's arguments against the 'system', State Counsel had submitted that section 15 of the U.P. Sri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Act, 1983 Act provides that t Board shall exercise all such powers, as are necessary for or incidental to the performance of its duties and functions under the Act and in particular shall have power to fix fees for the performance of any worship, service, ritual, ceremony or religious observance in the Temple.
Accordingly, he had contended that the power to fix fees for the performance of any worship, service, rituals, ceremony or religious observance in the Temple inheres in the Board of Trustees.
He had also averred that the facility of 'Sugam Darshan' has been provided not with a view to exclude common worshippers or to prevent them from performing essential religious practices but with a view to enable a certain class of persons who by virtue of their physical disabilities or for other reasons are not in a position to stand in a queue to have Darshan.
When the petitioner had put some photographs on record to demonstrate that certain persons are being offered special treatment, the state counsel had averred that if there is infraction of the discipline at an individual level, that may call for a specific action against any such infraction but that cannot be taken as a ground to question the policy as a whole.
Therefore, having considered the rival submissions and having noticed the statutory provisions, the court decided to dismiss the plea.
A plea was moved before the High court challenging the ‘Sugam Darshan’ system launched in 2018, which allows any person to become a 'VIP' (Very Important Person) on payment of some amount for the purposes of 'darshan' in the Shri Kashivishwanath Temple in Banaras, Uttar Pradesh. The plea read, "this ‘queue-less’, ‘hassle-free’ Darshan system is infact nothing but a way of collecting money."
The petitioner, namely Gajendra Singh Yadav, a D.Phil (Law) student at Allahabad University had alleged that this ‘Sugam Darshan’ system is not for Divyangs or for disabled persons. He had also contends that if the Sri Kashi Vishwanath Temple trust/board was willing to provide convenience for physically disabled persons, then there would have been no requirement of payment for availing the service.
Case Title: Gajendra Singh Yadav v. State of UP and Ors.
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