On Monday Supreme Court of India, sided with the former royal family of Travancore for the administration and control of the Padmanabha Swamy temple in Kerala. Resolving the long-standing dispute, the High Court quashed the January 2011 decision of the Kerala High Court, which had ruled that the state government should take control of the temple from a trust led by the old family royal.
- The temple became the center of attention after the high court of justice in May 2011 ordered a detailed inventory of the objects in the vaults of the temple, which have long been said to be of immense wealth. When five of its six vaults, known as “Kallara” in Malayalam, were opened in accordance with the court order, a vast treasure trove of gold and other priceless objects were discovered.
- The intrinsic value of the treasure has been estimated at more than Rs 90,000 crore. One of the vaults, Kallara B, could not be opened and the opening of the vaults was suspended by the Supreme Court.
- In August 2012, Supreme Lawyer Gopal Subramanium was appointed Amicus Curiae (friend of the court) by the Supreme Court, he filed a voluminous report in court in April 2014 alleging serious mismanagement of the temple by the trust and accusing the royal family for various reasons.
- The temple was under the control of a trust led by the family of former royalty members until April 2014, when the superior court, by a crucial interim order, handed over its management to a four-member administrative committee headed by a district judge.
- The legal origin of the dispute lies in the Accession Agreement (Agreement) signed between the Kings of Travancore with the Government of India in 1949, by which the Princely State of Travancore became part of the Indian Union.
- Article VII of the agreement states that the administration of the Padmanabha Swamy Temple will be carried out, under the control and supervision of the sovereign of Travancore, by an executive officer appointed by the sovereign.
- The main legal question was whether Utradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the younger brother of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the last Travancore sovereign, could claim to be the “Travancore sovereign” after the leader’s death in 1991.
- The court examined this claim in the limited sense of this term, in accordance with the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act of 1950, to claim ownership, control and administration of the ancient Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple.
- All temples that were under the control and management of the former princely states of Travancore and Cochin were under the control of the Councils of Travancore and Cochin Devaswom before 1947.
- However, in accordance with the instrument of accession signed between the states Princely and the government of In India, since 1949, the administration of the Padmanabhaswamy temple was “entrusted” to the sovereign of Travancore.
- The state of Kerala was carved in 1956, but the temple continued to be administered by royalty in the past.
- In 1971, the private scholarships of former members of the royal family were abolished by a constitutional amendment that removed their rights and privileges.
- This decision was confirmed in court in 1993 and the last Travancore leader to die during the course of this case has continued to handle the affairs of the temple until then.
- In 1991, when the last brother of the sovereign took over the temple, he caused a fury among the faithful who transferred the courts to a long legal battle.
- The government has joined; supporting the petitioner’s claims that Marthanda Varma had no legal right to claim control or administration of the temple.
- The character of the temple has always been recognized as a public institution governed by law. The argument of the royal family is that the administration of the temple would belong to them in perpetuity, according to custom.
- Although the last sovereign Balarama Varma executed a detailed will that bequeathed his personal property, he did not include the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple as his personal property or dealt with it in his will.
- One consequence of who has administrative rights to the temple is whether the temple vaults will be open. In 2007 Marthanda Varma claimed that the temple treasures were owned by the royal family.
- Several lawsuits have been filed to oppose this claim, and a court of first instance in Kerala has issued a court order against the opening of vaults.
- In its 2011 decision, the Kerala High Court issued an order for the establishment of a board of directors to administer the affairs of the temple against the royal family.
- The appeal against this verdict was immediately filed by the royal family and the SC suspended the HC’s verdict.
- In appointing two amicus curiae: Chief Counsel Gopal Subramaniam and former Indian Controller and Auditor General Vinod Rai to prepare an inventory of items in the vaults.
- While five of the six boxes were opened, box B did not open. The royal family had claimed that a mythical curse was associated with the opening of Vault B.
- Since 2011, the process of opening the vaults has led to the discovery of treasures within the Padmanabhaswamy temple, sparking debate over who owns the temple’s assets and how to regulate them.
- Although it is a secular country that separates religion from state affairs, Hindu temples, its assets are governed by statutory laws and councils tightly controlled by state governments.
- This system was created mainly through the development of a legal framework to prohibit untouchability by treating temples as public lands; Many legal battles have resulted.
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