A separate queue for devotees who avail the pilgrim tourism package of KSRTC for 'Nalambala Darshanam' is "arbitrary and illegal" and cannot be permitted to continue, the Kerala High Court has said.

Instead, a separate queue has to be provided for senior citizens, differently-abled, mentally challenged and other categories of persons who need special attention and care, a Bench of Justice Anil K Narendran and Justice P G Ajithkumar said.

The directions by the bench came on a plea by one Sreeraj G. Nair claiming that allowing devotees who are going for 'Nalambala Darshanam' to the temples of Thriprayar Sree Ramaswami, Sree Koodalmanikyam, Thirumoozhikkulam Sree Lakshmana and Payammal Sree Shathrughnan by availing the tour package offered by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) without following the queue was arbitrary and discriminatory.

The 'darshanam' commenced on July 17 and will get over on August 16.

The petitioner had witnessed the special privileges given to those who had availed the tour package, when he and his family went for the darshanam on July 31 and had to remain in the queue from 6 AM to noon to avail the darshan.

They could reach back home in Kottayam, after having darshan in all the four temples, only by around 2 AM on August 1, the plea has said. The petitioner claimed that according to boards put up outside the four temples, there is a separate line for those availing the KSRTC pilgrim tour package.

The KSRTC, in its defence, told the court that according to the meeting of a Co-ordination Committee convened on June 4 in Koodalmanikyam Devaswom Hall, Irinjalakuda to coordinate the activities in connection with Nalambala Darshanam it was instructed to make necessary arrangements for providing services under the tour package.

The minutes of the meeting do not show that a decision was taken for providing a special queue to those devotees who avail the package of KSRTC for 'Nalambala Darshanam', the public transportation body told the Bench.

The Court, however, said that the brochure issued from the Mavelikkara depot of KSRTC states that the devotees who opt for Nalambala Darshanam through the pilgrim tourism package of KSRTC can have darshan and vazhipadu without following the queue system.

Taking into consideration the materials on record, the minutes of the meeting of the Co-ordination Committee on June 4 and the submissions from both sides, the bench said, "... we find that provision of separate queue for the devotees who avail pilgrim tourism package of KSRTC for Nalambala Darshanam, which is per se arbitrary and illegal, cannot be permitted to continue."

"All the devotees have to follow the queue system in the aforesaid temples for Nalambala Darshanam. However, a separate queue has to be provided for senior citizens, differently-abled and mentally challenged persons and such other special categories of persons, who require special attention and care," the High Court further said and listed the matter for further hearing on August 17.

Cause Title: Sreeraj G. Nair v. Travancore Devaswom Board & Ors.

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With PTI inputs