The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it clear that executive officer of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple will report to the administrative committee set up by the court for managing its affairs. The ruling came from a bench of CJI J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud after senior counsel Krishnan Venugopal, appearing for the Travancore royal family — former custodians of the temple — mentioned conflicts between former executive officer K N Satheesh, an IAS officer, and the committee.
Venugopal cited a report from former head of the committee, the then principal district and sessions judge V Shircy, to Supreme Court in 2016. It said, “…executive officer of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is not informing any matter relating to the affairs of the temple to the administrative committee… the executive officer is under the erroneous impression that he is a law unto himself…”
Satheesh has since vacated office and V Ratheesan was appointed in his place on June 18. The court accepted Amicus Curiae Gopal Subramaniam’s recommendation to appoint an auditor for the temple and the Trust and asked the Kerala government to nominate three names. Acting on Subramaniam’s recommendations, it also ordered immediate commencement of work to repair idol of the principal deity.
On the contentious issue of opening B vault, the court initially remarked that it was in the interest of transparency that it be opened. But when informed of views that opening the vault was not in the interest of the shrine as it held mystic energies, it requested Subramaniam to assist it further. The court declined to interfere in the probe into eight diamonds “reported missing” from the idol’s namam (tilak), pointed out by Subramaniam.
At one point, CJI Khehar indicated that the SC should not be drawn into micromanaging affairs of temples. “It’s not our job. There are hundreds of beautiful temples. If we start administering them all, it will not look good,” he said, adding, “We want to close this case”. But when pointed out that contentions about whether the royal family was still in charge and on the B vault remained to be decided, the court said it will hear these matters.