Dehradun: The Uttarakhand High Court has ruled that upper caste priests cannot refuse to perform religious rituals on behalf of people belonging to lower castes.
"The high caste priests in Uttarakhand shall not refuse to perform religious rituals on behalf of the members belonging to lower castes in all the religious places. All the persons irrespective of their caste are permitted to enter any temple in state in the spirit of articles 14, 15(2), 17, 19, 21, 25, 29(2), 38, 46 and 51-A of the constitution," ordered division bench of justice Rajiv Sharma and justice Lok Pal Singh on June 15 this year. The order was made available on Wednesday.
While disposing off a petition related to a temple in Haridwar, the division bench of the court also underlined that exclusion of persons from temples open to worship to the Hindu public at large, only on the pretext that they belong to the excluded community is violative of article 17 of the constitution.
The division bench said that any properly trained and qualified person can be appointed as priest irrespective of his caste in the temples as laid down by the Supreme Court. In its 17- page order, the court quoted various articles of the constitution, court orders and one of the poems of sant Ravi Das.
The court made these observations while disposing off a petition filed in 2016 challenging state government's decision to sanction Rs 42 lakh to construct a new staircase at a small distance of a Dharamshala in Haridwar where sant Ravi Das statue is erected.
The petition mentioned the statue belongs to schedule caste community as the higher caste priests refuse to entertain them. The high caste priests were not accepting the alms offered by the pilgrims belonging to the lower caste, said the petition adding "the priest used to refuse to perform the ceremonies on their behalf".
The division bench ordered Haridwar's district administration to hold talks with the stakeholders and members of the SC/ST community before shifting the staircase from present place. The court also added that since there is only one temple of lord Ravi Das near the Har-ki-Pauri, the government is directed to take all necessary steps to beautify the temple and its surroundings within three weeks.