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Ex-CAG to audit Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple properties and assets

Friday, 25 April 2014 - 6:30am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Restraining royal family, SC entrusts temple management to to five-member panel
  • Vinod Rai

Vinod Rai, former comptroller and auditor general (CAG) will audit the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple properties, assets and accounts with the Supreme Court on Thursday entrusting the work to him in a matter relating to poor management of temple wealth.

Restraining the royal family of Travancore, which looks after the administration of the temple, the apex court appointed a five member committee headed the district judge of Thiruvananthapuram for its day-to-day administration. The court also directed the royal family not to dispose of or alienate any temple property till the court's further order.

A bench of justice R M Lodha and A K Patnaik said, "A special audit of temple properties, assets and accounts will be done by Vinod Rai, former CAG."

Also, the bench said, the five-member committee will comprise the district judge, a tantri and chief nambi of the temple and two more members, of which one will be appointed in consultation with the state government.

The court also appointed Satish Kumar, a senior Indian Administrative Service officer and former administrator of the Guruvayur temple, as the executive officer of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple.

In its interim order, the bench said that "the committee will immediately address the issues, including the donations given by the devotees. The donations will be counted every Saturday in the presence of the chairperson. It will also address the issues about the living conditions of the police personnel who are guarding the temple.

In addition, the committee will also take steps to clean the passages and also the tanks inside the premises in a time-bound manner.

On Wednesday, the bench had expressed concern over the grim picture, projected by the amicus curiae Gopal Subramaniam who was appointed by the court to assist it in the matter.

The senor advocate had earlier referred to his report, running over 500 pages, and said that in his 35-day stay in Thiruvanathapuram, he had found that huge amount of gold and silver donated by the devotees in Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple have not been reported or accounted by the temple management.

Terming the condition of the temple premises as "disturbing", Subramaniam said for the past several years, the gold and silver items have not accounted.

"What kind of management is it and what kind of administration is it. Public has given money and jewellery. There should be complete transparency. Special audit is required," he said.

In July 2011, a treasure trove of gold, diamonds and precious stones worth thousands of crores of rupees and hidden for centuries was discovered in the underground vaults of the temple, which is dedicated to Lord Padmanabhaswamy and dates back to the 16th century.

Alleging huge lapses in the management of the vast wealth of the temple, Subramaniam has suggested that the Supreme Court order a formal audit by Vinod Rai, who has served as the national auditor.

"Offerings by devotees are not accounted for...the public temple has been treated for all effects and purposes as a private fiefdom," he said in his report.

The temple was built and managed by the former rulers of Travancore. The head of the former royal family still controls the temple, unlike other temples in Kerala which are managed by the government.

The vast underground vaults were searched in 2011 after a local lawyer petitioned a court to order the government to take over the temple as it did not have adequate security to protect its wealth. The Supreme Court then had set up a committee to open the long-sealed vaults and take stock of the treasure.

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