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Takeover of temple stayed

J. Venkatesan

Supreme Court allows inventory of articles

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the judgment of the Kerala High Court directing the State government to immediately take over the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, its assets and management.

A Bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik, while staying the impugned judgment on a special leave petition filed by Marthanda Varma, gave a series of directions including permitting inventory of articles in the presence of two observers appointed by the court.

The Bench gave the directions after hearing senior counsel K.K. Venugopal for the petitioner and counsel Vipin Nair for the respondent, T.P. Sundara Rajan. It was on the petition of Mr. Sundara Rajan, advocate, alleging that he was aggrieved by failure to protect the temple's assets and treasures, that the High Court gave certain directions, which are under challenge now.

The Bench while staying the first direction of the High Court on takeover, stayed directions 2 to 4, viz., injunction on opening of the kallaras or removing any of the temple articles; direction to open all kallaras and make inventory and direction to hand over security of the temple to a police team under certain conditions.

The Bench said that there should be a detailed inventory of articles/valuables/ornaments in kallara (as described in the second schedule in a suit) in the presence of two observers appointed by the Supreme Court, Justice M.N. Krishnan and Justice C.S. Rajan, both retired High Court Judges; first petitioner and second petitioner, viz., Mr. Marthanda Varma and Executive officer of the temple; senior officer of the State government not below the rank of Secretary, Dewaswom department or his authorised representative, another officer of the Department of Archaeology, Government of India, stationed in Kerala and first respondent, Mr. Sundara Rajan.

The Bench made it clear that the observers would decide on the procedure and inventory including videographing and photography of articles. As for the articles in kallaras c and d used for regular rituals and ornaments in kallaras e and f said to be in the custody of Peria Nambi and Thekkedom Nambi, the existing procedure and rituals should be followed in regard to opening and closing of kallaras and using the articles therein.

With regard to kallaras a and b reportedly not being opened for more than a century, they should be opened only for the purpose of inventory and then closed and sealed again. Inventory should be filed in the Supreme Court and copies given to participating parties and observers. Existing temple security should be further strengthened by additional security from local police. The first petitioner, [Marthanda Varma], would be entitled to participate in all functions, the Bench said and directed the matter to be listed for further hearing in August.

Varma's contention

According to Mr. Marthanda Varma, the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act 1950 (TC Act) was enacted by incorporating a covenant that vested the management of the temple with the ruler of Travancore. This was done as the Travancore King wanted to retain control of the temple after the agreement of accession was signed. Contending that uninterrupted management of the temple had been interfered with, he sought stay of the High Court judgment dated January 31.

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