'No valid permission given for Jagannath temple heritage corridor project'

While hearing a PIL, a division bench of the high court headed by Chief Justice S. Muralidhar had directed the ASI to conduct a joint inspection of the site with the state government and submit a report before the court. Accordingly, the ASI had undertaken a joint inspection on May 1 and held an onsite discussion with the Odisha Bridge & Construction Corporation (OBCC) and Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA).

No valid permission has been given for the heritage corridor project being constructed around the Jagannath temple in Puri, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) informed the Orissa High Court on Monday.

While hearing a PIL, a division bench of the high court headed by Chief Justice S. Muralidhar had directed the ASI to conduct a joint inspection of the site with the state government and submit a report before the court.

Accordingly, the ASI had undertaken a joint inspection on May 1 and held an onsite discussion with the Odisha Bridge & Construction Corporation (OBCC) and Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA).

In its report, the ASI pointed out that "no valid permission has been given for the Shree Mandira Parikrama Project".

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It also said that the drawing and structural designs included in the revised detailed project report (DPR) are different from the one presented to the National Monument Authority (NMA).

Besides, there is every possibility that the construction agency OBCC during the excavation and removal of the earth might have destroyed the archaeological remains of the heritage site, the ASI affidavit said.

However, the court, in its order, said that the above observation of ASI is vague and fails to be specific as to whether any actual damage has in fact been caused to any archaeological remains at the heritage site.

"Even for works in the regulated area which fall within the definition of 'construction', appropriate permissions as prescribed under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act) would be required and that for such works 'no prior permission has been obtained from the NMA'," it said.

The court has asked the state government to file an affidavit in response to the affidavit of the ASI on or before June 20. The next hearing has been scheduled for June 22.

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