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Uttarakhand HC: Upper caste priests can’t refuse to perform rituals for lower caste members

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: July 12, 2018 3:47:45 pm

The temple was built by Kanji Mal and Ujagar Mal Ram Rachpal in 1897 to serve the people in nearby areas. (Representational) The court also said there was no bar on members from other castes serving as priests inside temples.  (Representational)

In a landmark order, the Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday said that upper caste priests cannot refuse to perform rituals on behalf of members belonging to SC/ST communities.

“The High caste priests throughout the State of Uttarakhand shall not refuse to perform religious ceremonies, puja, or rituals on behalf of the members belonging to lower castes in all the religious places and temples,” the Division Bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh said.

The Bench added that “all the persons, irrespective of their caste, are permitted to enter any temple throughout the State of Uttarakhand without any discrimination…”.

The court also said there was no bar on members from other castes serving as priests inside temples. “It is made clear that any properly trained and qualified person can be appointed as Poojari irrespective of his caste in the temples,” the court further stated in its order.

The High Court was hearing a PIL filed in 2016 by those belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe category. The petitioners, who are patrons of a dharamshala (hospice) at Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar, wanted a staircase leading to a nearby Sant Ravidas temple to be shifted to another location. Their demand was, however, rejected by upper caste members on the grounds that it could affect the flow of pilgrims.

The High Court ordered that the stakeholders to resolve the issue amongst themselves. While the judgment on this issue was pronounced on June 15, the order related to priests was delivered on Thursday.

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