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Sabarimala: HC unhappy at police action

Sabarimala: HC unhappy at police action

Kochi: In a strong reprimand, the Kerala High Court expressed its displeasure on Monday at 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 on Sunday after fresh protests broke out at the "Nadapanthal" area of the Sannidhanam (temple complex), against police restrictions.

A division bench, comprising justices P R Ramachandra Menon and N Anil Kumar, questioned the alleged police excesses and its authority to prevent the devotees from entering the Sannidhanam.

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

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 acted 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 at the manner in which the devotees were dealt with.

Considering a batch of pleas, the court orally directed that the devotees who had bought tickets for the "Neyyabhishekam" (ghee offering) rituals should be allowed to stay back at the Sannidhanam and perform the ritual the next morning.

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).

State responsible

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 till 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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