The Madras High Court Bench in Madurai on Tuesday summoned the Rameswaram Municipal Commissioner to reply to a public interest litigation petition filed by a woman-lawyer alleging that visitors to Ramanathaswamy Temple had to suffer from contagious diseases owing to “nauseating, annoying and utmost unhygienic” conditions around the temple.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Chitra Venkataraman and Justice S. Vimala directed the Commissioner to be present in the court on March 19.

The order was passed after the advocates representing the petitioner and the temple made contrary claims over the maintenance of the shrine.

Both of them produced photographs to substantiate their respective claims.

In her affidavit, the petitioner, M. Vennila (43), said that she visited the temple on May 5, 2012 along with her family and was shocked to see the temple’s Agni Theertham polluted with human excreta discharged from public toilets constructed close to it.

Her family had to be hospitalised after taking a dip in the Theertham, believed to purify human soul and body as per Hindu sanathana dharma.

She claimed that hundreds of other pilgrims also faced a similar plight with the only exception being VIPs who were accorded special treatment. She also complained of the menace of “brokers” who demanded exorbitant amount, apart from government fixed charges, from the devotees for performing religious customary practices such as getting the holy water sprinkled on them.

“Exorbitant amount of money is demanded and procured by undue influence and force. Left with no other option, the poor devotees part away with whatever cash they have to heartless brokers who share the collection with the authorities and their henchmen,” the petitioner added.

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