DB admits PIL on commericialization of Worship at Mata Vaishno Devi

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In a Public Interest Litigation filed by practicing Advocate Summit Nayyar seeking quashment of the Order No. SMVDSB/CEO/ST/152-159 dated 31-5-2008 and also the Order No. 569/SB of 2008 dated 11-3-2008 and also seeking directions to the respondents to take immediate steps for modifying of the aforesaid orders whereby Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has fixed the price for the devotees to attend and perform Aarti.
A Division Bench of State High Court Comprising First Puisne Judge Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and Justice B.S. Walia after hearing petitioner in person, admit the PIL and issued post Admission Notice to Chief Executive Officer SMVDSB and Ors.
During the course of hearing petitioner submitted that the religious sentiments, spiritual emotions and conviction of crore of devotees has been shaken by the respondents because of their impugned act of commercialize the worship at the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine by fixing the price for attending the Aarti for the
devotees who desire to become part of two Aartis being performed outside and inside the Holy Cave of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. It needs mention that Aarti at two intervals in 24 hours is performed at the holy cave and only those devotees who can pay the exorbitant price fixed by the respondents can participate and those who do not have such huge amount at their credit are not even allowed to enter the entrance gate to even see the said Aarti and neither the Constitution of India nor any law empowers the respondents to fix the price for the devotees to attend and perform Aarti. It is a settled position of law that the authorities can prescribe regulations for any public cause provided there is an enabling provision under the relevant Statute. A perusal of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Act nowhere specifies that the authorities administering the provisions of the said Act and rules framed thereunder can commercialize the worship or prescribe any fee or charges for Aarti.
He further submitted that the respondents without showing any sanctity for religious sentiments for the devotees and by acting like typical businessmen by throwing all canons of law to wind and by acting like dictators have fixed price and charges for the devotees who wish to attend the Aartis. Even those devotees who can pay more charges and price fixed by the respondents are allowed to attend such aarti in the first row whereas those who pay less are put in the secondary and subsequent rows and likewise. The devotees who do not money or who cannot afford to pay the price or charges to attend the Aarti, are not even allowed to go beyond a particular entrance gate.
During the course of hearing Sr. Adv Sunil Sethi further submitted that there is no provision of Constitution of India, Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir and laws framed thereunder empowers the respondents to commercialize the worship or even prescribe any fee/price/charges for attending Aarti at the holy shrines and places. The impugned act of the respondents have brutally hurt the religious sentiments and feelings of Crores of devotees and it is a settled position of law that the authorities can prescribe such regulations for which there is enabling provision under the relevant statute. Under the SMVD Shrine Board Act there is no provision which even remotely suggests that the respondents can prescribe any charges/fee for devotees to attend Aarti. The impugned decision is based upon no provision, therefore, the same is not sustainable. JNF

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