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Probe missing Srirangam temple cows issue, High Court tells police

By Our Staff Reporter

CHENNAI, FEB. 20. The issue of reported sale of scores of cows donated by devotees, including the Chief Minister, to the Srirangam temple has taken a curious turn with the Madras High Court directing the Tiruchi police to hold a proper investigation into the matter.

A Division Bench comprising Justice R. Jayasimha Babu and Justice M. Karpagavinayagam gave the direction after the Tiruchi City Commissioner of Police appeared before the Bench in connection with contempt proceedings initiated by the Chennai-based Jaigopal Garodia Foundation.

The contempt plea was filed in April 2002 following reports of sale/auction of the donated cows in violation of an earlier Division Bench order stipulating that if temples did not want to maintain cows which stopped yielding milk they should donate them to Goshalas with prior intimation to the actual donors. "In any case, such cows should not be sold to third parties either for further sale or to butchery."

In the course of the hearing, it came to light that a Srirangam temple official had falsely represented that he would take the cows to the Goshala. Despite registration of a case against him, the police did not take "effective steps to properly investigate the case and file charge sheet."

On February 10, 2004, the Bench took serious exception to the manner in which the investigation was conducted and directed the Commissioner to be present in court on February 17 to personally explain the steps taken. It also asked him to hand over the investigation to a competent officer. "He shall investigate internally as to who conducted the investigation (hitherto) and why the lapses were allowed to occur."

The judges pointed out that one of the donors was the Chief Minister and observed, "We are sorry to note the manner in which the so-called investigation has been done by the investigating officer. He has merely noted that some of the cows were recovered. Why several other cows were missing and what happened to those cows. There are some observations that some were sold and some have died. No investigation into the alleged sale, person to whom they were sold, their whereabouts, whether those cows were sold for the purpose of slaughter or what has happened to those cows, and other relevant facts have not been ascertained."

The judges also described as "strange" a prosecution statement that the charge sheet was withdrawn from a magistrate court since "the opinion of the public prosecutor had not been enclosed with the charge sheet." "We find this explanation rather strange. There is no such requirement for the magistrate to take the charge sheet on file."

On February 17, the Tiruchi City Police Commissioner appeared before the judges and assured them that within two weeks he would comply with all the directions issued on February 10.

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