1. The petitioners four in number are the marfatdars of Sri Kasi Baijunath Mahadev Temple at Majhika in Angul and have been convicted under section 6 of the Orissa Temple Entry Act of 1946 and sentenced each to a fine of Rs. 50/-. The case against them is that on 8-9-48 they obstructed certain worshippers belonging to the 'Excluded Classes' from entering into the temple. Previous to the date of the occurrence there had been some meetings to consider whether 'Excluded Classes' would be permitted to enter into the temple. But it does not appear from the evidence if any definite decision was arrived at. On the day of occurrence certain members of the 'Excluded Classes' tried to get admission into the temple and being frustrated in their attempt complained to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate who deputed P. W. 1 to see that no breach of the peace occurred and that the members of the 'Excluded Classes' gained entrance into the temple. P. W. 1 on arrival at the spot asked Budhia Mahapatra, one of the Petitioners to hand over the key as the temple had been locked up at the time P. W. 1 arrived. Persuasions having failed, a formal complaint was lodged to the police at about 1 p.m. against the Petitioners and the complaint is that the Petitioners refused to open the temple to the 'Harijans'.
2. A number of points were raised in the trial court as well as here. But those questions such as the public or private character of the temple, whether the Petitioners were observing pollution and for the time being were not acting as 'worshippers, whether the members who wanted admission into the temple do satisfy the definition of the 'Excluded Classes' were not pressed. The substantial point on which argument has been addressed to me is whether on the facts deposed to by the P. W.s any offence under section 6 had been committed at all. The case does not relate to the incident prior to the arrival of P. W. 1 at the spot. The offence charged against the petitioners is that they refused to open the doors of the temple after P. W. 1 arrived. It must be admitted that the Marfatdars or the She baits who are in actual management of the temple and its rituals are the persons entitled to prescribe the hours for the purpose of the rituals. If therefore on the day of occurrence the Pujari, for the time being, performed the bhog at an hour earlier than usual it was perfectly within his power to do so. It may be and I have no doubt that it probably was so done with the intention of averting an unpleasant incident. But whatever may be the motive of the Pujaris their rights to regulate the hours of Puja cannot be questioned. If therefore by 10 a.m. the Puja had been performed, the bhog had been offered and the deity had been sent to sleep, it would not be open to any member of the general public whether belonging to the 'Excluded Classes' or the 'Highest Classes' to insist upon the doors being opened and the 'pahar' of the God being disturbed. Section 3 (i) of the Act lays down that persons belonging to the 'Excluded Classes' shall be entitled to enter any temple and to offer worship therein 'in the same manner and to the same extent as Hindus in general.' The right to have the door opened and offer bhog at an odd hour is not one of the general rights of worship belonging to the Hindu Community nor ,can a member of the 'Excluded Classes' acquire any such right under the Act. I am, therefore, of the opinion that the prosecution was misconceived and that no offence has been committed under section 6 of the Orissa Temple Entry Act. The Rule is made absolute. The convictions are set aside and the fines, if paid, shall be refunded.