NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today said it would examine the claims that one of the vaults of Thiruvananthapuram's historic Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple contained extraordinary treasure with "mystical" energy.
The issue of whether to open vault 'B' of the temple was raised before the apex court, which passed a slew of directions including on the security of the treasures, auditing of accounts and repair of the deity.
A bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and D Y Chandrachud was told by senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, who is assisting as an amicus curiae in the matter, that 'Kallara' (vault) B of the temple should be opened as it was closed "on the apprehension that there is some mystical energy". "The experts says Kallara B should be opened because it has been opened earlier also.
Kallara B may have more than one chamber .... nothing but useless suspicion is generated about what is there in Kallara B," he told the bench.
The apex court, which observed that it cannot continue to monitor the administration of the temple, said it would deal with the issue of whether to open the vault later.
Meanwhile, the bench passed several directions regarding the functioning of temple on the issues raised by the amicus curiae in his report. Regarding security of the temple's treasures, Subramanium said these should be confined to the temple and proper security arrangement should be made there.
He suggested that IPS officer H Venkatesh may be considered for the duty of securing the treasures as he was the commissioner of police of Thiruvananthapuram and had served in the CBI as well.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the bench that an officer of the rank of superintendent of police was already holding the charge of security of the temple and its complex and was being assisted by about 200 police personnel. "We are presently of the view that security arrangements presently in place should be allowed to be continued but with a rider that the entire responsibility of security of the temple will be with the in-charge holding the responsibility of security," the bench noted in its order.
Subramanium also told the court that there should be an audit of the manner in which the expenses were incurred for the temple's upkeep and other functions and suggested the appointment of a financial controller.
Datar, however, said there was an internal auditor and part audit has already been done. "You see, in the Supreme Court we have a full audit section ... I feel that the treasure of the temple is far, far more than the treasure of this court," the bench said, adding, "there should be a government-appointed person to see how the expenses are incurred". "...We request the state of Kerala to nominate a panel of three officials from the Indian Audit and Accounts Service to overlook the audited accounts of temple and to submit quarterly reports to the administraive committee for implementation of such suggestions as given in the report," the court said.
On the issue of repair of the deity, the bench said the repair work should be carried out by the experts.
"Since the request to carry repair of deity was made by this court, we would expect the experts to carry out the responsibility vested in them...," it said.
The bench also appointed former apex court judge Justice K S Radhakrishnan as chairman of the selection committee which was constituted for works, including in the Sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum). The committee was permitted to choose the most suitable persons at the best competitive prices for the work, subject to ratification by the administrative committee.
Subramanium also told the bench that working relationship between the administrative committee of the temple and its executive officer should be clearly defined.
The bench noted that all the parties have agreed that the apex court should direct that administrative committee shall be the incharge of taking all policy decisions and the way in which it should function.
The controversy over the administration and management of the historic temple has been pending in the apex court for last few years in the wake of charges of financial irregularities.
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.
Even after India's independence, the temple continued to be governed by a trust controlled by the erstwhile royal family for whom Lord Padmanabha (Vishnu) is their family deity.