The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the Travancore royal family will have the rights to administration of the Thiruvananthapuram’s historic Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, considered one of the richest temples in the country. A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit set aside the 2011 verdict of the Kerala High Court. The HC had directed the state government to set up a trust to take control of management and assets of the temple.
As an interim measure, the SC said, the District Judge of Thiruvananthapuram will head an administrative committee to manage the affairs of the temple.
The SC’s verdict came on a batch of petitions contesting the January 2011 verdict of the High Court. The petitions included one filed by the legal representatives of the Travancore royal family.
The sprawling temple, an architectural splendour in granite, was rebuilt in its present form in the 18th century by the Travancore Royal House which had ruled southern Kerala and some adjoining parts of Tamil Nadu before integration of the princely state with the Indian Union in 1947.
While pronouncing the judgement, the SC held that the death of earlier ruler of Travancore royal family does not affect the right of ‘Shebaitship’ (the right to manage the deity and the temple as a priest) of Marthanda Varma, the brother of last ruler of the royal family, and his legal heirs.
The court said that death of the last ruler of royal family does not entitle the state government to take over the management of committee as law of escheat does not apply in this case and the management of the temple continues to vest in trust of the ruler of Travancore.
The court’s order said an interim arrangement to manage the affairs of the temple will remain in force till a fresh committee is set up and all the members of the committee must be Hindus.