The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has strongly objected to J&K Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha attending a ‘puja’ at the Martand Sun Temple which is under the custody of the former. According to media reports, ASI officials have raised the issue with the J&K administration. A report by The Indian Express has quoted an anonymous ASI official as saying, “We have raised our concerns with the district administration. They have been sent a message that it is a violation of our rules. No permission was sought from us for the prayers. The LG did not hold the prayers inside the temple, but outside it. However, even that is a violation.”
As per ASI officials cited by news agency PTI, a site can be used for religious purposes even after the ASI takes over its custody if the site was a functional religious site during the transition into an ASI-protected monument. The officials further told PTI that such is not the case with the Martand Sun Temple.
Rule 7(1) of the Ancient Monuments And Archeological Sites and Remains Rules, 1959 says that no meetings, receptions, parties, conferences or entertainment events can be held on the premises of protected monuments without prior permission from the Central government. The rule states, “No protected monument shall be used for the purpose of holding any meeting, reception, party, conference or entertainment except under and in accordance with a permission in writing granted by the Central Government.”
However, Rule 7(2) makes exempts such events with “a recognized religious usage or custom.” The sub-rule reads, “Nothing in sub-rule (1) shall apply to any meeting, reception, party, conference or entertainment, which is held in pursuance of a recognized religious usage or custom.”