Sabarimala: HC expresses displeasure over police action

Kochi:In a strong reprimand, the Kerala High Court expressed its displeasure Monday over the manner in which Ayyappa devotees were dealt with by the police at the “Sannidhanam” of the Sabarimala temple.

More than 30 protesters were taken into preventive custody Sunday night after fresh protests broke out at the “Nadapanthal” area of the Sannidhanam (temple complex), where hundreds of devotees agitated against police restrictions.

A division bench, comprising justices P R Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar, questioned the alleged police excesses and asked under what authority did the police prevent the devotees from entering the Sabarimala Sannidhanam.

The court warned that stringent action would be taken against police officials if such incidents were repeated.

The bench also directed the Home Ministry to implead itself in the case as a respondent.

Even though the advocate general (AG) informed the court that the police had initiated action against those who had violated section 144, CrPC that prohibited the assembly of more than four persons at a spot, the court expressed its displeasure over the manner in which the devotees were dealt with.

Considering a batch of pleas related to various issues concerning Sabarimala, the court orally directed that the devotees who had taken tickets for the “Neyyabhishekam” (ghee offering) rituals should be allowed to stay back at the Sannidhanam and perform the ritual the next morning.

The genuine devotees should be allowed to offer prayers, the court said.

The court sought to know who allowed the police to disturb the devotees resting at the Sannidhanam by pouring water on the floor.

It sought the details of the police officials deployed at the Sannidhanam and their experience in Sabarimala pilgrim management.

It directed the director general of police (DGP) to inform it about the restrictions imposed at the hill shrine.

The bench observed that no restrictions could be imposed on children, women, elderly people and the physically challenged at the Nadapanthal (the enclosure leading to the 18 holy steps to the temple).

Even though the AG said security measures were taken according to the directive of the Centre, the court said the state was also responsible in the matter.

The AG claimed that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Hindu Aikyavedi activists were behind the “issues” created at the Nadapanthal Sunday night.

The court deferred the matter to Friday, while directing the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the hill shrine, to inform it about the number of pilgrims who could be accommodated at the Nadapanthal.

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