PIL seeks HC order to govt to protect women at Shani Shingnapur temple

A criminal public interest litigation filed in the Bombay High Court on Monday sought a direction to Maharashtra government and Director General of Police to protect women who enter the Shani temple at Shingnapur in Ahmednagar district to worship the deity.

The petition also urged the court to direct the Shaneshwar Devasthan Trust, which manages the temple at Shingnapur village, to stop obstruction of women who want to enter the sanctum sanctorum to offer prayers to God Shani.

The PIL, filed by Pune-based activist Hemant Patil, also sought a direction to respondents, including the state government and DGP, to state in writing as to why they did not give protection to women devotees who had recently attempted to worship at the Shani Shingnapur temple.

The PIL referred to the high court order of April 1 in which a division bench had asked the state government to take steps for ensuring compliance of law to prevent discrimination against women on entry to places of worship.

The state had also assured the HC that it would strictly implement Maharashtra Hindu Place of Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act. Yet, the age old practice of prohibiting women from offering prayers at the Shani Shingnapur temple continues, said the petition.

The petitioner said that he had planned to organise a programme of worship of God Shani at the Shingnapur temple on April 23 along with women devotees. But, the Shani Devasthan Trust informed that it would be unable to give any protection to the women devotees who participate in this prayer activity.

Besides Maharashtra government and DGP, the other respondents to the PIL are Home Department Secretary, Superintendent of Police, Ahmednagar, Senior Inspector of Police, Supa Police Station, and Shaneshwar Devasthan Trust.

The PIL will come up for hearing in due course, said the petitioner's lawyer, R N Kachave.

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