CHENNAI: Pilgrims to the famous Kerala shrine of Sabarimala who discard clothes and other belongings in the Pamba river as part of a misconceived religious tenet would face penal consequences that could lead to a jail term up to 18 months, the special commissioner of the hill shrine has warned.
Quoting an October 16 Kerala high court order, special commissioner and district judge K Babu said discarding used clothes and personal belongings in the river was never a practice at the temple. Besides the offender, those accompanying him and encouraging him could be treated as abettors and tried for the same offence, Babu said.
Affairs of the Sree Dharma Sastha temple at Sabarimala are directly controlled by the Kerala high court, and a serving district judge holds charge as special commissioner.
Irked by pilgrims dumping in the river various items, including used clothes, the high court had on October 16 declared that resorting to such acts would amount to an offence under provisions of the Water Act. It said: “Discarding of clothes or any other material, including personal belongings, whether biodegradable or not, into the waters of Pamba by any person is in violation of the provisions of the Water Act, and would therefore generate sufficient basis to consider initiating prosecution for violation of the provisions of the Water Act. When such prosecution results in conviction, the accused would never have any go but to suffer the minimum mandatory sentence of imprisonment for one and half years.”
Abettors too are liable to be punished to the same extent as the principal offender, it said.
The high court said: “We do not see any ebb of custom or usage or part of religious practice, ritual or otherwise, in connection with Sabarimala pilgrimage which requires or obliges or permits any person who is a pilgrim to discard used clothes and other personal belongings of whatever nature into the Pamba river. There is absolutely no practice or usage or religious tenet whatsoever which advise that a person after having darshan of Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha should discard the clothes and other belongings which that person wore or carried to Sabarimala while proceeding to that pristine destination amidst the forest, as a pilgrim.”
Babu, citing the order, requested pilgrims and guruswamis not to discard anything in the river during the coming season which commences on November 17.
Times of India
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