Sabarimala Temple: Kerala HC Issues Directions For Crowd Management

Sabrimala Temple

Kerala High Court has issued directions for crowd management in Sabarimala Temple and directed the Pathanamthitta District Administration to ensure that all pilgrims have comfortable darshan. Foreseeing a heavy crowd for the upcoming days amid the Mandala festival, the Kerala HC issues directions for crowd management in the Sabarimala temple. Spot booking will be permitted without any restrictions, whereas a Senior Government Pleader informed the Court, that the state has also decided to limit the number of online virtual queue bookings to 90,000 per day, This is while the Devaswom Bench of Justice Anil K Narendran and Justice PG Ajith Kumar was considering several issues regarding rush in the temple.

The directions issued by the High Court are the present pace at which the pilgrim’s ascent of the holy steps per minute is 65-70. This will have to be increased to 75-80. Special instructions have been given in this regard to personnel on duty at holy steps. The 100 Indian Reserve Battalion personnel have been exclusively deputed for duty at holy steps. The court further issued directions that the existing to and from movement to Sannidhanam should be strictly followed. Infiltration to Chandra Nandan Road must be strictly avoided by foot patrol teams. Additionally, 422 policemen are deployed at Sannidhanam in this phase. If the flow to Sabarimala is beyond expectation, efforts will be taken to slow down traffic/block at places like Erumely, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, etc., and nearby places with prior information to District Collector and Special Commissioner. An announcement has to be done at Sannidhanam and Pamba requesting devotees who had darshan should return to Pamba at the earliest so that heavy crowds on temple premises can be avoided. Earlier on December 11, Kerala High Court proposed an extension of the time of worship for devotees at the Sabarimala temple by an hour on busy days. The Devaswom Bench of the high court mooted the proposal after convening a special sitting on Sunday. The court had asked the Board to consider extending the time of worship after taking Suo moto cognizance of a recent rush of devotees at the Sabarimala temple, which left quite a few of them injured.

The Bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and PG Ajith Kumar also directed the Pathanamthitta district collector and the police to control the crowd at the Sabarimala shrine. The lawyer for the Devaswom board submitted in court that a decision on extending the time of worship can only be made after holding consultations with the temple’s chief priest, owing to certain ritualistic considerations. The Devaswom Board said bookings are increasing despite attempts made to control the congestion at the temple through virtual queues and the police and the Devaswom Board made it clear that there is an urgent need for crowd control, including the capping of the number of bookings per day to 85,000. However, the court held that anyone who treks to the Sabarimala temple should not return without a darshan (visit). It proposed that the authorities concerned make all necessary arrangements to ensure the same. With reports of all available parking spaces filling up, the court also put forward the proposal of imposing restrictions on the number of vehicles and full-time police patrol.

The pilgrimage of Sabarimala was closed for almost two years due to Covid-19 restrictions, which have been resumed this year.

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About the Author: Aksha Mishra