In a landmark judgment, the Uttarakhand High Court, on Thursday, ordered that no upper caste priest can refuse to perform religious ceremonies for the lower caste.
“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 order of Division Bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Lok Pal Singh, stated, adding that “all the persons, irrespective of their caste, are permitted to enter any temple throughout the State of Uttarakhand without any discrimination…”.
“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 the year 2016 by Rajasthan-based petitioners belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities, who are visitors of a ‘dharamshala’, or hospice, at Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar, which encompasses a temple of Sant Ravidas. While the Haridwar administration wants the staircase along the Ravidas temple to be shifted to another location, in the PIL the petitioners objected to the administration’s decision stating that demolishing the staircase could damage the temple too.
The High Court ordered that the issue around shifting the staircase be discussed among the stakeholders. While, the judgment was pronounced on June 15, but the order to the effect was delivered on Thursday.