Kalkaji Temple stage collapse: HC urges police action

Kalkaji Temple stage collapse: HC urges police action

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has asked the city police to conclude the investigation into the stage collapse incident at the Kalkaji temple here in January during a religious congregation that left a woman dead and take action against all those responsible for it.

Justice Prathiba M Singh noted that the Delhi Police have filed a charge sheet in the case against six people, including the organisers, and the permission to hold the event was given by the temple's Mahant (chief priest) even when the control and management of the Kalkaji temple premises was with the court-appointed administrator.

The court's order came on a batch of pleas on the issue of civic amenities and cleanliness in and around the temple complex.

A 45-year-old woman died and 17 people were injured during the "jagran" (religious function), which was organised at the Mahant Parisar of the temple. Around 1,600 people attended the event. An FIR was registered at Kalkaji Police Station following the incident.

The court was told during an earlier hearing that the event was organised by Shri Kalkaji Sajja Sewadar Mitr Mandal, and as per the police report, the permission for it was given by Surender Nath Avdhoot, who claimed he was the Mahant of the temple.

"The abovementioned persons who have been charge-sheeted were in fact permitted by the Mahant to hold the event in his Parisar and No Objection Certificates (NOCs) were also obtained through the Mahant’s representative from various authorities for conducting the event," said the court in its latest order passed on May 27.

"The Court directs the Delhi police to conclude the investigation with respect to the said incident and take necessary steps against all the persons culpable. The orders passed by this Court be also be taken into consideration by the concerned authorities," the court ordered.

In the order, the court recorded that the Mahant has taken a stand that the Supreme Court has purportedly stayed the appointment of the administrator and has therefore not made payments towards his remuneration, salaries of office staff, security guards, house-keeping staff etc, rendering the administrator's office "dysfunctional".

In 2021, Justice Singh had appointed retired high court judge J R Midha as the administrator of the temple for performing its various functions.

The bench observed that the top court has only ordered maintaining "status quo" and the stand being taken the Mahant was "clearly in the teeth of his own statement" as well as in prima facie violation and disregard of various judicial orders.

"Currently the ld. (learned) Administrator has been ousted by non-payment and the day-to-day administration of the Mandir is now no longer being conducted by the ld. Administrator. All services have been suspended by the Ld. Administrator," it observed.

"In fact, in the opinion of this Court, the status quo order dated 18th March 2024, of the Hon’ble Supreme Court is also being misinterpreted to mean that the appointment of the ld. Administrator has been stayed or that the Mahant and the Baridaars can oust the Administrator in this indirect manner," added the court.

Stating that the Mahant was taking "contradictory stands", the court asked a lawyer, who was appointed as the local commissioner to make a surprise visit to the temple to ascertain the current situation, to file a report on cleanliness and functioning of the temple, crowd management, availability of basic amenities such as drinking water, clean toilets, unauthorised hawking and encroachments, collection of tehbazari (hawking fee) etc.

The court also asked the "baaridars" (priests) to file a reply to the report of the administrator.

The high court had earlier ordered that no "jagran" or similar events shall be held at the temple without its permission.

The matter would be heard next in August.

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