Settling a long-standing dispute, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld the rights of the erstwhile Travancore Royal family in running the administration of Kerala’s sixth-century Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, situated in Thiruvananthapuram.
A Bench led by Justice UU Lalit set aside the January 31, 2011 judgment of the Kerala High Court that directed the state government to take over the control of the temple management and its rich assets from a trust headed by the former royal family. The erstwhile royal family — trustee of the temple — had filed an appeal against the HC’s order.
The temple had shot into national headlines, after a team assigned by the apex court, had unveiled a collection of antiques , approximately valued in the range of Rs 90,000 crore to Rs 1 lakh crore, in 2011. From five of the temple vaults, it had made an inventory of the treasure in the form of gold and precious gem-studded jewellery, antique idols, weapons, utensils and coins, leaving one vault (named B vault) unopened.
Siding with the erstwhile royal family, the top court has now said the death of the Travancore ruler, who signed the relevant Covenant, didn’t affect Shebayatship of the Travancore royal family. It also said that the District Judge of Thiruvananthapuram will head the existing administrative committee to manage the temple till a final committee is set up.
“The existing committee appointed by the Supreme Court in 2011 will continue as an interim arrangement till administrative committee and advisory committee are constituted. Royal family will constitute the final committee. Opening of the “Kallara” (secret vault) will be decided by the final committee of royal family as per traditions,” the Bench stated, while upholding the Shebait rights of the royal family in the administration of the temple.
It also ordered audit for the last 25 years by a firm of a reputed chartered accountant.
“We thank all who stood by us”, says Gowri Lakshmibai, a senior member of the ex-royal family of Travancore, in a video message. “We are in touch with legal experts to unravel the nitty gritty and will respond more specifically, after going through the verdict,” she told FE.
Kerala Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran said that “we are bound to go by the verdict. We have always followed the apex court order in letter and spirit.”