GS Paper - 1 (Art and Culture)

The Supreme Court on 3 May 2022 dismissed a batch of petitions against excavation and construction work by the Odisha government along the Puri Jagannath temple as part of the Puri Heritage Corridor Project, calling the pleas “frivolous”. The petitioners alleged that the construction work would damage the heritage site.

What is the Puri Heritage Corridor case about?

  1. The case in the Supreme Court comes at a time when the Orissa High Court is already hearing a plea against construction by the state government along the 800-year-old Puri Jagannath temple.
  2. Puri residents had moved the High Court alleging that the structural safety of the temple could be in jeopardy if land around the temple were dug up. The District Court in Puri is also hearing cases seeking to stop the construction.
  3. Last week, a High Court Bench comprising Chief Justice S Muralidhar and R K Pattnaik had asked the state government to file an affidavit before 20 June 2022 and had listed the case for hearing on 22 June 2022.
  4. The court had earlier also asked the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) to file an affidavit before the court and even conduct a joint inspection along with the state government.
  5. The ASI then told the court that the state government had no requisite permission for the project.

What is the construction in question?

  1. Conceived in 2016, the ambitious Puri Heritage Corridor Project has become the centre of a political slugfest between Center and state government.
  2. It involves redevelopment of Puri into a heritage site at a cost of Rs 3,200 crore. The construction has been taken up by the Odisha Bridge and Construction Corporation (OBCC) under the state’s Works Department, while Tata Projects is running it on the ground.
  3. The 12th-century temple is a centrally protected monument, with the ASI as its custodian.
  4. As per the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, the National Monuments Authority (NMA) grants approval for construction and mandates that a heritage impact assessment study must be carried out before developmental work.
  5. The NMA, which functions under the Union Ministry of Culture, was set up for the protection and preservation of monuments and sites through management of the prohibited and regulated area around the centrally protected monuments.