“Peaceful darsan is of paramount importance”
Kerala High Court: A Division Bench comprising of P.R. Ramachandra Menon and N. Anil Kumar, JJ. took up a suo motu matter pertaining to police excess in Sabarimala which was causing hardship to the pilgrims.
The present Sabarimala Special Commissioner Report was taken up along with a batch of other writ petitions wherein allegations of atrocities by police in Sabarimala were alleged. It was noted that police was stopping and interrogating pilgrims as if they were criminals; time to complete the trekking and darshan had been reduced; chanting of prayers was restricted; entire area at Sannidhanam was cordoned off by the police thereby restricting free movement of pilgrims; movement of KSRTC buses had been restricted; a circular had been issued by the police to get a pass for vehicles used for reaching the holy shrine. The grievance of the petitioners was that all these actions were forcefully prohibiting their right to worship. On the other hand, the authorities submitted that tight security was required to deal with threat from fundamentalist elements, terrorists and anti-socialists.
In view of the above, the Court gave the following detailed directions in respect of Sabarimala pilgrimage:
- All unilateral restrictions imposed by the police except to the minimum required extent to meet the law and order situation shall stand deleted, particularly with regard to the right of the pilgrims to chant mantras.
- The identified/filtered pilgrims shall be permitted to take rest, place ‘viri’ and to have a night halt to the said extent, in the Nadapanthal.
- The Annadanam at Sannidhanam, Pampa and Nilakkal shall continue round the clock, catering to the needs of the pilgrims.
- Supply of food, drinking water, and toilet facility be monitored by Devaswom Board, Food Safety Department and the Kerala Water Authority.
- There shall not be any interruption in the KSRTC bus service during day or night, except for reasonable regulation to be imposed by the police as part of proper crowd management.
- Lastly, the Court appointed a three-member ‘team of observers’ till the conclusion of the present season of Sabarimala worship, to ensure that there is no unlawful activity from persons disguised as pilgrims. The said team would be empowered to take on the spot decisions to ensure that smooth pilgrimage is facilitated and there occurs no excess from any corner.
[Travancore Devaswom Board SM Report 36 of 2018, In Re,2018 SCC OnLine Ker 4951, decided on 27-11-2018]