Revise the number of devotees permitted at Sabarimala: Kerala HC

Revise the number of devotees permitted at Sabarimala: Kerala HC
A devotee prays at Lord Ayyappa Sannidhanam in Sabarimala. File photo

Kochi: The Kerala High Court has said that the number of devotees permitted at the Sabarimala temple should be revised after taking suggestions from the Travancore Devaswom Board.

The COVID-19 protocol should not hamper a safe pilgrimage. The court said that the inconveniences should not be created but avoided. The HC further said that the restrictions should not affect the rituals.

Vehicles with up to 15 seats must be allowed to drop off devotees at Pamba and then return to Nilakkal for parking.

The court made a slew of directives based on the report submitted by Sabarimala special commissioner M Manoj. The court also considered the decisions of the chief minister's meet and chief secretary-led committee, and the explanation filed by the Devaswom Board.

Key directives

• As per the committee's decision, 1,000 people will be permitted on a normal day, 2,000 during the weekends and 5,000 for Mandala puja and Makaravilakku days. It should be considered as to how many people can be allowed in front of the Sree Kovil at a time. Also, was the number of devotees fixed after considering the hours for darshan during forenoon and evening?

• The CM's meeting had decided that Annadanam (meal offerings) should be given in 'limited quantities'. But devotees, who arrive from far-off regions and have trekked to the hilltop shrine, must be given sufficient food. The Devaswom Board should ensure this.

• The Devaswom Board had informed that Nilakkal would be made the base camp. But the CM's meet had decided that devotees will not be allowed to set up temporary shelter (known as viri vekkal) at Nilakkal, Sabarimala and Pamba. Those devotees who want to set up temporary shelter before or after trekking the hill should be allowed to do so.

• Review the decision that private vehicles would not be allowed beyond Nilakkal.

• Take a suitable decision on permitting the entry for the guests of the government and Devaswom, as per the COVID-19 protocol.

'Devaswom Board should also be part of decision-making'

The High Court also said that the Travancore Devaswom Board should not stay away from decisions on Sabarimala pilgrimage. The HC reprimanded the government for not seeking suggestions from the Devaswom Board.

Most of the decisions were taken by the meet called by the chief minister and the committee led by the chief secretary. The Devaswom Board president attended the CM's meet, but no board representative was part of the chief secretary-led committee. The chief secretary has not visited the Sabarimala temple either, the court observed.

The Devaswom Board should have its own stance and decisions on matters other than COVID-19 protocol and security issues, it added.

The High Court division bench, comprising Justice C T Ravikumar and Justice K Haripal, directed that the Devaswom Board should give its inputs for reviewing certain decisions of the government and the Chief Secretary-led committee.

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