Gold plating of world's richest temple shelved, SC told
New Delhi: Tirumala Tirupati Devesthanam
(TTD) on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it has shelved the
controversial decision on gold plating of the sanctum
sanctorum of the shrine of Lord Venkateswara at Tirupati, the
world's richest temple.
The decision to reconsider the move was taken in
deference to the sentiments expressed by thousands of devotees
and the Andhra Pradesh High Court's judgement quashing the
earlier resolution passed by the TTD for the gold plating
exercise, the board told the apex court.
The TTD said it had no powers to carry out the exercise
of drilling thousands of holes in the inner recess adorning
the deities in view of the restrictions imposed by Section
2(a) of the Ancient Monuments and Archeolgoical Sites and
Remains Act, 1958.
By a resolution dated September 20,2008, the TTD decided
to carry out gold plating of the temple's sanctum sanctorum,
which was fiercely opposed by several devotees on the ground
that it was not only against scriptural tenets but posed a
grave threat to the 11th century shrine.
A bench of justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly, which
recorded the undertaking made by counsel Sridhar Potaraju,
directed the Board not to take any decision on gold plating
without prior permission of the apex court.
The bench passed the order after former Union Minister
and Janata Party leader Dr Subramaniam Swamy moved an
application for restraining the TTD from carrying out the
exercise during the ongoing summer season.
Swamy expressed apprehension that the TTD was
embarking upon the exercise of gold plating by taking
advantage of the stay imposed on February 28 by the apex court
on the high court judgement.
However, the TTD counsel submitted that on January 20,
the board decided against proceeding with the gold plating
move in view of adverse reaction from devotees and the high
court's decision to quash the September 20, 2008.
In an affidavit filed before the apex court, TTD's
Executive Officer I Y R Krishna Rao submitted "the
inscriptions delineated on the walls of the sanctum sanctorum
and the Vimana Prakara are undisputedly fit in the definition
of 'Ancient Monuments defined in Sect 2(a) of the Ancient
Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and
that the inscriptions on the walls of the temple are
inseparable with the sanctum sanctorum and hence gold plating
a religious activity does not come within the purview of the
powers of the Board described in Section 97 of the Endowments
"And that gold plating if any done for ornamental
purpose will certainly deface the inscriptions and cause
serious threat to the ancient monuments apart from causing
damage to the structures and stones because of the drilling of
thousands of holes for driving nails to fix up the copper
sheet on the surface of the walls," the affidavit stated.
The TTD also told the court that it has decided to
refund Rs 12 crore cash and over 94 kg of gold received from
devotees for the gold plating exercise. But an option was also
given to the devotees that if they so desire the donations
made would be utilised for other activities pertaining to the