Delhi HC Orders Prompt Investigation into Kalkaji Mandir Stage Collapse

Kalkaji Mandir

The Delhi High Court has directed the police to promptly conclude their investigation into the incident where a 45-year-old woman died in January following the collapse of a stage set up for a religious function at the Kalkaji temple. The court also directed the Delhi Police to take action against those deemed responsible.

The court observed that although the temple is under the full management and control of an administrator appointed by the high court, no permission was granted by the administrator for the event. Justice Prathiba M Singh noted that the police’s status report leaves no doubt that permission for the religious function was granted by the temple.

“Moreover, vide order dated February 20, 2024, the court had observed that the mahant himself had filed an affidavit stating that he has handed over the control and management of the Kalkaji Mandir premises to the administrator after the order dated September 27, 2021,” the high court stated.

In February, the court had taken into account the “recent unfortunate jagran incident” and sought a status report regarding the investigation, which must be conducted expeditiously. During the ‘jagran’, which took place on the intervening night of January 27 and 28, a 45-year-old woman died, and 17 people were injured. Approximately 1,600 people had attended the event, organized at the ‘Mahant Parishar’ of the temple. An FIR was registered at Kalkaji police station following the incident.

In its March 12 order, the high court noted from the police status report that the ‘jagran’ was organized by Shri Kalkaji Sajja Sewadar Mitr Mandal, and its president/ office bearers, Anuj Mittal and Satish Kumar, were the organizers. The report indicated that they were given permission by Surender Nath Avdhoot, who identifies himself as the temple’s mahant.

The police stated that the investigation is still ongoing regarding the incident. “Thus, it is directed that the police shall continue its investigation and conclude the same expeditiously and take action against all persons who are culpable,” the court instructed.

The court also acknowledged the assurance given by the SHO of Kalkaji police station that the investigation would be completed within four weeks, and the charge sheet would be filed.

The police reported that the ‘jagran’ had been held continuously since 2009, and this year, permission was not granted as the organizers failed to produce a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the fire department and a structure stability certificate from the municipal corporation. Although permission was sought to use loudspeakers beyond 10 pm, sufficient police staff were deployed to maintain the law and order situation inside Kalkaji Mandir.

The police mentioned that an elevated platform was installed near the main stage at a height of around 12 feet for seating of 20-25 persons from the families of the organizers/ VIPs and cameramen. However, when the program of singer B Praak began, some spectators rushed and climbed onto the elevated platform, and the organizers were negligent in regulating the movement of people on the platform, leading to its collapse.

“During the program, an uncontrolled crowd climbed onto the platform, which collapsed, resulting in the unfortunate incident. Moreover, the function was being held without any permission,” the police stated.

The high court had previously ordered that no ‘jagran’ or similar event could be held in the Kalkaji temple without its permission. The court had also instructed the administrator to take steps for the revival of the Shri Kalkaji Mandir Prabandhak Sudhar Committee, which could recruit volunteers for crowd management.

This order came concerning a batch of pleas regarding civic amenities and cleanliness in and around the Kalkaji temple complex.

In 2021, Justice Singh appointed retired high court judge J R Midha as the administrator of the temple to perform various functions related to the religious place. The court had also directed the removal of encroachments and unauthorized occupants and shopkeepers without any valid legal right to occupy the shops. Goonmeet Singh Chauhan, a renowned architect, was appointed to submit a redevelopment plan for the temple and the surrounding complex.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte