Padmanabha Swamy temple to face audit for last 25 years: Supreme Court

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September 23, 2021 2:45 AM

Settling the long-running dispute, the Supreme Court had last year in July upheld the rights of the erstwhile Travancore royal family in running the administration of the Kerala’s sixth-century temple.

The audit must include finances of both the temple and the trust and the process should be completed as early as possible, preferably within three months, it said.The audit must include finances of both the temple and the trust and the process should be completed as early as possible, preferably within three months, it said.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the Shree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram will face an audit of income and expenses for the last 25 years.

While rejecting the trust’s plea seeking exemption of its audit of 25 years as ordered by the apex court last year, a bench led by Justice UU Lalit said that the special audit, directed in its 2020 judgement, was not confined to just the temple only, but also included the trust.

The audit must include finances of both the temple and the trust and the process should be completed as early as possible, preferably within three months, it said.

The administrative committee of the temple headed by a district judge had last month told the bench that the temple was facing a financial crisis, as monthly expenses were not being met with donations and offerings had dried up due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It further said Rs 1.25 crore was the monthly expense of the temple but it could hardly get Rs 60-70 lakh and the trust trust had evaded its duty to meet daily expenses. The administrative committee also claimed the trust had Rs 2.8 crore in cash and assets worth nearly Rs 1.9 crore.

However, the Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust, created by the former Travancore royal family, contended that since it had been constituted (on earlier orders by the court) only “to oversee the pujas and rituals of the temple involving the family, with no role in the administration”, it is a distinct entity from the temple and could not be included in the call for an audit.

It submitted that the trust is a public trust started by the ruler and its objects are present inside the temple. “Even the initial petitions never mentioned trust. The affairs were never the matter of litigation. We are an independent trust, and have our own trustees subject to our income tax regulations. We don’t want the administrative committee to have a supervisory role over our trust. We will perform our job as a trust and if we don’t perform we will lose our benefits under law. We were never part of the temple,” its lawyers stated.

Settling the long-running dispute, the Supreme Court had last year in July upheld the rights of the erstwhile Travancore royal family in running the administration of the Kerala’s sixth-century temple.

The top court in April 2014 by way of an interim order had handed over the management of the temple to a four-member administrative committee headed by a district judge. A detailed inventory of the articles in the temple’s five out of six vaults, as ordered by the Supreme Court, had indicated that the temple could perhaps be the richest in the world, holding massive riches to the tune of Rs 90,000 crore.

Siding with the erstwhile royal family for the administration and control of the historic temple, the apex court had 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 assets from a trust headed by the former royal family.

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