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Sree Padmanabaswamy Temple case: The death of the King who signed the Covenant will not affect the S

Cause Title: Sri Marthanda Varma (D) & Anr. Vs. State Of Kerala and Ors.CIVIL APPEAL NO.2732 OF 2020 [Arising Out of Special Leave Petition (C) No.11295 of 2011]

A bench comprising of Justice U U Lalith and Justice Indhu Malhotra passed the Judgment. The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right of management by the Royal family of Travancore in the administration of Padmanabaswamy temple in Kerala.

The verdict was on the dispute if the State Government or the Travancore Royal family will have control over the administration of the Padmanabaswamy temple in Kerala. The Supreme Court reversed the finding of Kerala High Court that the rights of the family ceased to exist upon the death of the last ruler of the year 1991 and as such held that the death will not result in the escheat of the rights in favor the State of Kerala. The court ruled,

“In the circumstances, we hold that the death of Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma who had signed the Covenant, would not in any way affect the Shebaitship of the Temple held by the royal family of Travancore; that after such death, the Shebaitship must devolve in accordance with the applicable law and custom upon his successor; that the expression “Ruler of Travancore” as appearing in Chapter III of Part I of the TC Act must include his natural successors according to law and custom; and that the Shebaitship did not lapse in favour of the State by principle of escheat.”

The court in its judgment talked about an administrative committee and an advisory committee. The court made a change in the chair of the administrative committee, instead of having an IAS Officer in the rank of Secretary the court suggested to have the district judge of Thiruvananthapuram as the chair of the committee.

The Supreme Court also maintained that the interim committee headed by the District Judge of Thiruvananthapuram would continue to manage the affairs of the temple until the constitution of the committees as mentioned in the Judgement. Regarding the functions of the committees the court held,

“The Administrative Committee and the Advisory Committee shall do well to discharge all their functions including performance of the worship of the deity, maintenance of its properties, diligently and in the best interest of the Temple, and provide adequate and requisite facilities to the worshipers;”

The court also left it to the discretion of the committees on the question of opening the Vault ‘B’ and such other functions.

The appeals before the Supreme Court were filed against a 2011 Kerala High Court judgment directing the state government to take over control of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, its assets and management. The Kerala High Court Bench of Justices CN Ramachandran Nair and K Surendra Mohan ruled that the state government should take over the control of the temple from the trust headed by the royal family. The Kerala High court ruled,

“Ruler is not a status that is acquired through succession”.

The Supreme Court-appointed Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanian as amicus curiae in the matter. Former CAG Vinod Rai was also appointed to audit the records, including expenditures incurred for the Temple’s maintenance. The court accepted some of the recommendations made by the amicus curiae.

– Sankarshanan V

Drawing: Nithika



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