A 25-year-long legal battle on Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala has ended on Monday with the Supreme Court’s judgment restoring the rights of the erstwhile royal family in the management of the iconic temple’s affairs, scrapping the earlier High Court order paving way for the control of the state government in the temple. As per the judgment delivered by Justices U U Lalit and Indu Malhotra, within four weeks, two committees – Administrative and Advisory – must be formed with people from the Hindu religion to manage the affairs of the temple.
The District Judge of Thiruvananthapuram will be the head of the Administrative Committee. If the Judge is not a Hindu, another senior-most Judge from Hindu religion will be the head of the Committee. Other members are:
- A person nominated by the temple trust (royal family’s nominee)
- Chief priest,
- One member nominated by the State Government,
- One member nominated by the Central Government’s culture department.
The Administrative Committee will appoint an executive officer.
The Advisory Committee will be headed by a retired High Court Judge nominated by the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court. Other members are:
- A nominee of the trust (nominated by the royal family) and
- A reputed chartered accountant.
The Supreme Court Judgment said that the Chief Priest will be the final word on the conduct of rituals and the Committees have to ensure by consulting with the Chief Priest. The apex court also ordered that the long demands of opening the vaults of the temple and all will be decided by the new Committees and they will ensure the maintenance of assets and retrieval of lost assets. The temple will pay back the State Government of around Rs.12 crores, the expenses that were borne by the State Government for maintaining the temple from 2012 after the takeover as per the High Court’s Order. The Court also ordered an audit of the temple’s accounts and assets for the past 25 years and on a regular basis in the future, considering the public interest on the temple.
The centuries-old Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple was a prime concern of the erstwhile Travancore Kingdom. When the Kingdom joined the Government of India after Independence the then King Sree Chitira Thirunal Balarama Varma demanded only the administration of the Temple with the royal family, leaving the rest to Government of India. This was accepted in the joining treaty. But after the King’s death in 1991, his brother Marthanda Varma got control of the affairs and there were demands raised from many quarters on continuing the rights to other family members. Meanwhile, allegations and widespread reports on the management of the huge wealth of the temple also became a hot topic. By the mid-90s, legal battles started from trial courts and in 2011, the High Court ordered the takeover by the State Government, rejecting the rights of the royal family in the temple’s affairs.
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s verdict, the State Government said they full accept the verdict and not going for review against the Judgment. The detailed 218-page Supreme Court Judgment is published below: