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As pressure mounts, Odisha Govt orders judicial probe into 'missing' Ratna Bhandar key

Bhubaneswar, June 4, 2018: Amid mounting opposition pressure and strikes by different outfits over missing key of the Ratna Bhandar (Treasury) of Lord Jagannath, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday ordered a judicial probe into the matter.

A retried High Court justice will probe the issue and submit report within three months.

“The Chief Minister has ordered a judicial inquiry into the circumstances leading to the non-availability of the keys of Ratnabhandar of Shree Mandir, Puri. The inquiry will be conducted by a retired High court judge and to be completed within three months,” said a CMO communiqué.

Earlier in the day, Law Minister Pratap Jena met the Chief Minister at the State Secretariat here and briefed him on the missing keys. The Law Minister’s meeting with the CM came at a time when pressure is mounting on the former to make a statement on the issue.

The 12th century shrine falls under the administrative control of the Law Department.

On Sunday the BJP demanded a clarification from Jena on the issue while different outfits, including Jagannath Sena held demonstration in front of the Singhdwara (Lion's gate) of the Jagannath Temple in Puri.

The outfits alleged that the loss of the key of the inner chamber (Bhitar Bhandar) of the temple and the attempt to suppress the facts had hurt the sentiments of the crores of devotees of Lord Jagannath across the world.

According to the direction of the high court, an expert team had entered Ratna Bhandar on April 4 but were not able to enter the inner chamber, as they could not find the key at the last moment.

They had inspected the inner chamber from outside. Later, the administration had maintained that as the expert team could see the condition of the inner chamber from outside and there was no need to enter it.

However, the matter had come to light after Puri king Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb had expressed his surprise over the issue.

As per provisions in the Shree Jagannath Temple Act, the keys of the Bhitar Ratna Bhandar with Puri district treasury.

Out of the seven chambers, the temple management uses only two — the Bahar Bhandar (outer treasury) and the Bheetar Bhandar (inner treasury). The remaining five are yet to be opened and no one knows the exact amount of gold and other ornaments stashed away in the treasury.

The keys to the outer treasury are with three persons, including the Puri King who is the chairman of the temple management committee. However, the keys of the inner treasury are kept with the Puri district treasury.

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