Supreme Court bars opening of Kerala temple’s sixth vault

July 8th, 2011 - 9:57 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday said the sixth vault of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala will not be opened till the treasures recovered so far are properly documented.

An apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik said the sixth vault, ‘kallara’ B, will not be opened till the treasure recovered from kallara A is videographed, photographed and its inventory prepared.

“We will like all this to be completed before another kallara is opened”, said Justice Raveendran.

The court directed that the kallara A which has been resealed, will not be reopened till arrangements are made for its videography and photography and a curator is appointed to assess the antiquity and valuation of its treasure.

The court favoured appointment of a curator to assess the antiquity of the treasure found so far. The court said that the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) was competent to decide on the historicity and heritage of old buildings and not the treasure.

The court asked senior counsel K.K. Venugopal appearing for the temple trust to give suggestion in writing about what should be done for the upkeep, safe custody and usage of the treasure.

The court also asked the state government to make its suggestions. The court said that it should only be suggestions and not in the nature of a decision.

The court also asked Venugopal to tell who would bear the expenses of the experts that would be involved in the handling of the treasure.

Saying that it was not aware of the traditions of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple and whether videography equipment could enter the temple complex, the court asked Venugopal to find out from the trustees of the temple how to go about videographing and photographing the treasure.

The court also took note of a statement by former prince of the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore, Sree Marthanda Varma, who is the chief trustee of the temple, that the former royal family has no claim over any part of the treasure found in the temple.

The temple belongs to the public and the treasure belongs to the temple deity, added Venugopal, who is also representing the Travancore royal family.

The senior counsel said that massive amount of treasure that has been found from kallara A should be used judiciously for the benefit of the temple and the deity.

Venugopal said that in the first instant it should be used for religious purposes involving the temple, secondly for the social upliftment of people by opening hospital and educational institutions and finally setting up of a museum.

However, he said that all the activities should be dedicated to Sri Padmanabhaswamy.

The suggestion that treasure found from kallara A should be kept in the temple itself did not find favour with the court.

“In that case (if treasure is kept in temple) devotees will look more at the treasure than the sanctum santorum. We don’t want that the focus from the god be shifted (to treasure)”, Justice Raveendran said.

Justice Patnaik observed that the “human mind is what it is, we want the sanctity of Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple be maintained. If human beings come to know about it then there will be problems.”

The court also noted the statement of Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that the government has no claim over the treasure.

The Supreme Court had appointed a seven-member committee in May, to open the vaults of the temple, which led to the discovery of huge treasure estimated to be around Rs.1 lakh crore.

There are six vaults in the temple, five of which have been opened. The matter will come up for further hearing July 14.

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