Centre Sought A Clarification From The State Government Over The Ordinance
The Center places its sharp response to Odisha govt. that its competence over enacting an ordinance to bring 11th Century Lingraj Temple in Bhubaneswar and its associated temples under a special law is beyond their reach which contradicts with the rules laid down under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (AMASR Act), which prohibits new construction within 100 metres of a protected monument. The State govt. was sought for clarification third time in a row over the ordinance. The Centre objects it to the governor seeking clarification.
The Odisha govt. unveiled Ekamra Kshetra Development project in 2019 aims at beautifying the shrine and its adjacent areas. Consequently, the Cabinet passed the ordinance in December, 2020 to bring the Lingaraj temple and its eight associated shrines in Bhubaneswar under a separate law. Currently, the Lingaraj temple is governed by the Odisha Hindu Religious Endowment Act, 1951, which is a common legislation for most shrines. The ordinance has provisions of forming a 15-member committee with a senior Hindu IAS officer to be appointed as its chief administrator on the lines of Jagannath Temple in Puri, which is governed by the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1955. According to the 1958 Act, new constructions are not allowed in the prohibited area (100 meters from a protected monument).
Lingaraj, the largest temple in Bhubaneswar and the most prominent landmark of the city, was commissioned by King Jajati Keshari in the 10th century and completed by King Lalatendu Keshari in the 11th century. It is built of sandstone and laterite in the Kalinga style of architecture. The temple has four components: a vimana (structure containing the sanctum),a jagamohana (assembly hall), anata mandira (festival hall), andabhogamandapa (hall of offerings), all of which are aligned axially and in descending order of height.
Specifying certain points of contention, the ministry pointed out that clause 15(2) of the Odisha ordinance has a provision for retail shops for sale of commodities inside or outside of the temples. But as per AMASR Act a monument should not be used for any other purposes not consistent with its character. Similarly, as per clause 17(3) of the Odisha ordinance, the managing committee will oversee the lease or sale of movable or immovable property attached with the Lingaraj temple. But the ministry contended that movable property may include archaeological or artistic object (meaning antiques) and in that case, it will be in conflict with the AMASR Act, 1958.
Under clause 22(2d) of the ordinance which provides for certain powers to the temple committee to undertake repairs, for which the Archaeological Survey of India is responsible. Therefore, this clause is also in contradiction with the provision of the AMASR Act, 1958, the ministry said. Another clause which facilitates special darshan on payment of a fee was also found in violation of the existing agreement between ASI and temple management; which clearly stipulates the public would have free access to the monument. The ordinance also provides for repair and construction of new buildings while the centre contended that constructions can only be allowed by the National Monuments Authority.
“Certain clauses of the ordinance also relate to the conservation and repair of the temples and tanks. Such conflict is not in the interests of maintaining these centrally protected monuments in their original form for posterity. As such, the dual administrative authorities will result in continuous conflict…” the Centre said. In response to the letter of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Law Department, Government of Odisha, shot off a letter to the Ministry on April 4, mentioning about the earlier letter sent on March 8 and its delivery on March 14. On the other hand, the servitors are of the opinion that the ordinance will be beneficial to them. The State government should discuss with the Central government and find a way out to implement the ordinance. The matter should not be politicised. If there is any objection regarding any specific clause, it should be amended to get permission from the Central government