SC verdict on Padmanabha Temple vault today
New Delhi: The Supreme Court, Wednesday, will pass orders on security arrangements and preservation of assets of the ancient Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala.
The court, which perused the report of the expert committee appointed by it and the affidavit of the Kerala government on the issue, will also take a call on the possibility of the opening of the vaults (Kalaras) in the temple.
During the last hearing on Sept 16, the bench comprising Justice RV Raveendran and Justice AK Patnaik court said tradition and customs would be protected as far as possible in providing overall security to the temple.
"We will ensure that the tradition is respected. We will maintain the tradition and the customs as far as possible. But where security measures will have to prevail, some concessions have to be made," the bench said.
The bench, which vowed to maintain the traditions, however, clarified superstitions and popular belief would not come in its way in taking the decision.
"We will go by the tradition and the customs. That doesn't mean that superstitions and popular belief would come in the way. Don't think, we would compromise," the bench said.
The bench was told that the expert committee has suggested several measures for security and preservation of the temple wealth for which there was a need of its direction.
Senior advocate Dhruv Mehta said a proposal for electronic security has been received by KELTRON (Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation Ltd).
He said the committee has recommended maintenance of security around the walls of the temple by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) which has been opposed by Kerala government which wants that state police force to be deployed.
Further, there has been a proposal for limiting the entry points to the temple and for regulating the traffic on the periphery of the temple; the committee said adding there was also a need to arrange the power back-up.
Mehta, who was appearing for one of the petitioners who had filed the petition in the Kerala High Court, said the state government was high on promise and low on performance and has proposed Rs 2.80 crore per year for the upkeep of the security and other measures.
The apex court in its July 21 order had maintained that the funds have to be shared by the temple administration and the state government.
Kerala government counsel told the bench that it would accept an order by it for fixing a reasonable share of fund.
The bench agreed with the view that inventorisation and security measures must start at the earliest.
The apex court had on July 21 appointed a five-member expert committee to supervise the unearthing and preservation of assets of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
The committee is headed by Director General of National Museum C V Ananda Bose and consists of representatives of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and and Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
The court had also appointed a three-member committee to oversee the work of unearthing of the temple's assets.
The overseeing committee consists of retired judge of Kerala High Court, Justice MN Krishnan, the erstwhile Prince of Travancore Marthanda Varma and a government representative of the rank of secretary.
The court had also directed that no unauthorized person will be allowed to be present at the site of unearthing of assets and directed the entire process be videographed and photographed.
The bench had directed the state government to provide adequate security in the temple premises to protect the assets which according to media reports are estimated to be over Rs1.50 lakh crore.
The apex court passed the order on an application filed by Marthanda Varma and his family members challenging a Kerala High Court ruling of January 31 this year, ordering a takeover of the assets and management of the shrine by the state.
The bench had earlier expressed apprehension that the massive wealth was perhaps at a "risk" in view of the widespread publicity given about it in the media.
During the arguments, senior counsel KK Venogopal, appearing for the erstwhile prince, clarified the temple was a public property and no member of the royal family claims any ownership or right over the huge property.
The royal family, which is the trustee of the temple, has challenged Kerala government's decision to take over the administration of the temple which was earlier upheld by the Kerala High Court.
The apex court had earlier passed an interim order on a plea filed by Marthanda Varma staying the high court's order for takeover of the management and assets of the temple.
While hearing the petition, the court had directed that "there shall be a detailed inventory of the articles, valuables and ornaments found from the temple's treasure trove."