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1. Here are the updates for todays hearing in the #Padmanabhaswamytemple case. Mr. @jsaideepak commenced arguments by placing on record an additional compilation of documents on history of the temple and legislative history of the TCHRI act of 1950.
2. Mr. Jaideep Gupta, counsel for the state govt of Kerala, opposed the submission of additional documents on the ground that new material is being placed on record in intervention applications which are yet to be allowed
3. Justice Indu Malhotra observed that given the nature of the proceedings and the manifest public interest involved, the court would hear all parties before taking a call on the relevance of the information.
4. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that each of the documents which he intended to rely upon are directly relevant to the findings of the Kerala High Court in the impugned judgment.
5. Before proceeding to walk the court through the documents, Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the following questions are at the heart of the case.
6. What is the relationship between the Travancore family and the padmanabhaswamy temple? Is it merely that of a royal patron to the temple or does it go deeper?
7. If the relationship goes deeper and the family is integral to the identity and history of the temple what are the limitations on the power of the state and courts to intervene in the running of the temple?
8. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that none of the above questions were considered by the Kerala High Court as a part of its analysis. Since its focus was limited to a narrow analysis of articles 363a, 366(22) and section 18 of the TCHRI act of 1950.
9. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the impugned judgment failed to appreciate the distinction between the treatment of #Padmanabhaswamytemple and other temples administered by the TDB.
10. Mr. @jsaideepak further submitted that in proposing an alternative administrative mechanism for the #Padmanabhaswamytemple, the high court had failed to consider the limits of intervention by any arm of the state even with respect to a public temple
11. Critically, Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the high court had erred in assuming that the state is a stakeholder in the temple since such a position would be at conflict with articles 25 and 26
12. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that given the unique nature of #Padmanabhaswamytemple and its relationship with Travancore family, the limits on statist intervention are even more compared to other temple which fall under the TDB
13. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that with the ostensible object of protecting the rights of devotees, the High court had infact done grave injustice to their rights by denying the unique history of the temple
14. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that High Court's suggestion of displaying the treasures of the temple in a museum is in violation of the rights of the temple and the devotees since these treasures must be treated at par with the jewels of the deity & are not meant for exhibition
15. After the above preliminary submissions, Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that he agrees with and adopts submissions of Mr. Krishnan Venugopal and Mr. Arvind Datar to which he intended to add a few more points.
16. Mr. @jsaideepak pointed out that in the impugned judgment, there is no reference to the definition of ruler under article 363 (2) (b) which was not repealed by the 26th amendment
17. At this point, Justice Lalit enquired about the constitution and founding of @People4Dharma to understand its locus.
18. Mr. @jsaideepak pointed out that @People4Dharma was founded with the specific object of protecting temple traditions and the rights of devotees especially in the state of Kerala.
19. Mr. @jsaideepak further informed the court that #Readytowait movement is the brainchild of the members of @People4Dharma
20. . Mr. @jsaideepak also pointed out that he represents Mr. MV Soundararajan, the convenor of temple protection movement as well as a prominent member of the vaishnavite community.
21. Mr. @jsaideepak then proceeded to submit that the High Court had failed to appreciate that the 26th amendment did not repeal article 363 since its sole object was to abolish the concept of Privy Purses.
22. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the 26th amendment was directed only at abolition of the concept of rulership and was never meant to affect social privileges and functions which are unconnected to the concept of rulership.
23. To support the said submission, Mr. @jsaideepak drew attention to the statement of objects and reasons of the 26th amendment which expressly states that functions and social privileges which are unrelated to rulership are excluded from the scope of the amendment
24. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that this was further evident from Mr. Datar's submissions who had drawn attention to the continued availablity of exemptions to the erstwhile rulers under the wealth tax act and the income tax act.
25. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the position enjoyed by the Travancore family with respect to the #Padmanabhaswamytemple is a consequence of their centrality to the very founding of the temple as borne out from Kerala Mahatmyam.
26. Therefore Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the Travancore family cannot be treated as mere royal patrons of the temple but must be seen as hereditary trustees of the temple as a consequence of the covenant entered into between Parashurama and their ancestor
27. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that this effectively established the pecularity and uniqueness of the temple and its relationship with the Travancore family.
28. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that it is evident from the objective of the amendment that it was never meant to affect this special relationship between the #Padmanabhaswamytemple and the royal family.
29. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that there is no reference whatsoever to the rights of devotees under article 25 in the impugned judgment
30. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that devotees have the right to object to the alteration of the history of temple through a judicial pronouncement.
31. Mr. @jsaideepak then walked d Court through (a)The History of Travancore authored by P.Shungoony Menon and published in1878, & (b) The Travancore Manual published in 1906 to establish d authenticity of Kerala Mahatmyam as a reliable text to understand d history of the Temple.
32. Mr. @jsaideepak then proceeded to read out Shlokas and their translations from Kerala Mahatmyam which showed that the Padmanabhaswamy Temple was consecrated by Lord Parashurama and Aditya Varma, the ancestor of the Travancore Family was given the duty of managing the Temple.
33. Mr. @jsaideepak showed a specific shloka which referred to the placing of a treasure of gemstones in the Narasimha corner of the temple which is where the Vault B is currently located.
34. At this point, Justice Indu Malhotra enquired if this is the same Vault B whose opening is sought by the state government. Mr. @jsaideepak answered in the affirmative
35. Justice Lalit then enquired the chapter of the Kerala Mahatmyam from which this shloka is sourced. To this Mr. @jsaideepak pointed out that the shloka is to be found in chapter 88 of Kerala Mahatmyam
36. Mr. @jsaideepak also pointed out that the specific shlokas from the chapter which relate to the treasures and the entrusting of management to the Travancore family are shlokas 10 and 11 of the said chapter
37. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the covenant entered into between Lord Parashurama and Travancore family forms the very basis of the special treatment of the #Padmanabhaswamytemple in the covenant entered into between Travancore / Cochin and the Indian union
38. Mr. @jsaideepak further submitted that it is for this reason that the special treatment is also expressly recognized in the sections 18 - 23 of the TCHRI act 1950
39. Therefore if the relation between Travancore family and the #Padmanabhaswamytemple is severed, it effectively translates to rewriting the history of the temple and its identity will be lost forever
40. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the question that then arises is what is the remedy available in the event the Travancore family mismanages the temple.
41. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the section 37 of the TCHRI act of 1950 specifically provides for the mechanism available to the TDB in the event of mismanagement of the temple by the Travancore family.
42. Mr. @jsaideepak also submitted that the application of section 37 in the event of mismanagement must be understood in light of the judgments of the Supreme court which relate to Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment legislations.
43. In particular Mr. @jsaideepak placed reliance upon Subramaniam Swamy vs Union of India where the court had held that it is impermissible for the state to takeover a religious institution citing mismanagement
44. Mr. @jsaideepak further submitted that the Subramaniam Swamy judgment also required that the takeover by the state is in the form of regulation as opposed to supercession and the state can never permanently entrench itself in the institution
45. Mr. @jsaideepak further submitted that multiple judgments of the supreme court expressly prohibited divesting the original administrators of a religious institution of their control over the affairs of the institution
46. Mr. @jsaideepak then submitted that even if it is assumed for the sake of argument that the #Padmanabhaswamytemple does not enjoy the status of a denominational temple under article 26, members of the Travancore family continue to enjoy rights under article 25(1)
47. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that such rights under article 25 cannot be deprived for eternity in the name of introducing corrective measures to address any mismanagement
48. Mr. @jsaideepak further submitted that such corrective measures maybe introduced by exercise of powers under article 25 (2) (a) which is the exclusive power of the legislature
49. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that in the facts of this case the legislature has already enacted section 37 to address mismanagement and that no corrective measure can be introduced which violates section 37
50. Further Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that thanks to the covenant entered into between the princely states and the Indian Union, the legislature cannot enact or amend an existing law in a manner which is inconsistent with the covenant
51. Mr. @jsaideepak therefore submitted that since even the legislature is bound by such restrictions, the Kerala High Court too was bound by Section 37 and ought not to have proposed a mechanism which savers the relationship between the Travancore family and the temple
52. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that despite the promulgation of the 26th amendment no amendments were carried out to the TCHRI act 1950 which affectef sections 18 - 23 or section 37
53. Mr. @jsaideepak specifically drew attention to the amendments undertaken to the TCHRI act of 1950 in the years 1958 and 1974 to demonstrate that even in the amending act of 1974 no amendment was made to section 18 - 23 and section 37
54. Mr. @jsaideepak therefore submitted that while enacting the amending act of 1974, which came 3 years after the 26th amendment to the constitution, even the Kerala legislative assembly was conscious to not affect the special relationship between Travancore family & the temple
55. Mr. @jsaideepak then proceeded to submit that the TDB is distinct from the Kerala state government and is meant to function as an autonomous body since the state cannot run a religious institution which would violate the state's commitment to secularism.
56. Mr. @jsaideepak therefore submitted that this established the fallacy in the High Court's treatment of the Kerala state government as a stakeholder to the #Padmanabhaswamytemple
57. Mr.@jsaideepak further submitted that a temple being a public temple does not make the state a stakeholder to the temple.
58. Mr. @jsaideepak further placed constituent assembly debates on articles 25, 295, 296, 297 and 363 to demonstrate the original intent behind the said provisions of the constitution
59. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that before proceeding further it is imperative to clarify that he is not acting as mouthpiece of Travancore family. Mr.@jsaideepak submitted that he represents the interests of devotees who are interested in preserving identity& traditions of temple
60. Mr. @jsaideepak then proceeded to place reliance upon a judgment of the division bench of Kerala High Court delivered in 1990 in Muraleedharan Nair vs State of Kerala which discusses the Hindu character of the erstwhile princely state
61. Mr. @jsaideepak pointed out that the said judgment also captures in great detail the nature of takeover of temple properties by the erstwhile princely state and payment of annuities in return for the lands taken over as evidenced by the proclamation of 1922.
62. Before proceeding further Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that even the covenant of merger between the Travancore Cochin states and the Indian Union cannot be treated as the source of their rights but must be treated as acknowledgment of their pre-existing rights
63. Therefore Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the covenant of merger recognizes a pre-existing relationship, and the TCHRI act recognizes the covenant's recognition of pre-existing relationship
64. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that it is evident that the fallacy in the Kerala High Court judgment is that it divorces the TCHRI act not only from the covenant of merger but also from the relationship which existed prior to the covenant of merger
65. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the original covenant is the one entered into between Lord Parashurama and the Travancore family which informs and influences the very identity of the temple.
66. Mr. @jsaideepak then submitted that there are several judgments of the Supreme Court which clearly state that a secular judge cannot question the belief with relation to a religious institution
67. At this point Justice Lalit observed that it is precisely because of the nature of this special relationship that Mr. VP Menon remarked that the erstwhile ruler of Travancore was intransigent in giving up control over the #Padmanabhaswamytemple at the time of merger
68. Mr. @jsaideepak therefore submitted that the reference to the ruler of Travancore both in the covenant of merger and in the TCHRI act of 1950 must be treated as a hereditary right of the trustee of the temple
69. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that while the concept of ruler may have become redundant, the referance to the ruler of Travancore in the covenant and TCHRI act must necessarily be interpreted as including the successors of the erstwhile ruler
70. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the covenant of merger is effectively a contract entered into between the Indian union and the rulers of the princely states which binds successive Indian governments as well as the successors of the rulers.
71. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the covenant was never meant to limit the scope of its application to the lifetime of the erstwhile ruler since had that been the case the rulers may not have agreed to the merger in the first place
72. Mr. @jsaideepak then proceeded to place reliance on judgments to establish the limitation on the state in interfering with such a special relationship.
73. Mr. @jsaideepak relied on Muraleedharan Nair vs State of Kerala to establish that the modern Indian secular state cannot enjoy all rights and privileges enjoyed by the erstwhile Hindu sovereigns of the Princely state of Travancore with respect to the #Padmanabhaswamytemple
74. Mr. @jsaideepak also showed through the said judgment that the devaswom fund was created by the erstwhile princely state from the movable and immovable assets of temples which were taken over by the princely state for the purposes of better management.
75. Mr. @jsaideepak relied on the judgment to also show that the amount being paid to the temples under article 290a is merely a continued compensation for temple lands taken over. Therefore it ks wrong to suggest that the temples of Kerala are state funded
76. Mr. @jsaideepak also relied on the said judgment to submit that no person who does not believe in the essentials of Hinduism can preside over the administration of a Hindu religious institution.
77. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the said position also applies to any person who subscribes to a political ideology which denies the existance of god.
78. Mr. @jsaideepak then proceeded to place reliance on section 6 of Sree Pandaravaka act of 1971 and RTI responses received from the government of Kerala to demonstrate that #padmanabhaswamytemple was due to receive INR 58500 for the lands of the temple takenover by the state
79. Mr. @jsaideepak then placed reliance on the 1995 notification of the Govt of Kerala to show that out of the 1 crore allocated to the devaswom fund 20 lakhs was earmarked for the #padmanabhaswamytemple since Lord Padmanabha has been historically treated as "Deshanathan"
80. Therefore Mr. @jsaideepak that neither INR 20 lakhs nor 58500 was drawn from the taxpayers' money but was drawn from the fund created out of the lands of the temple takenover by the state.
81. Mr. @jsaideepak also submitted that INR 58500 as annual payment was paltry and abysmal compared to the 1000s of acres of land takenover by the state from the #padmanabhaswamytemple alone.
82. Mr. @jsaideepak also pointed out from an RTI response from the govt of Kerala which showed that even the meagre annual rent of INR 58500 has not been paid by the state govt of Kerala since 2016
83. Mr. @jsaideepak then proceeded to place reliance on Rathilal Panachand Gandhi vs State of Bombay (1954) judgment to establish the limitations on the rights of the state to interfere with administration of religious institutions.
84. The bench has asked Mr. @jsaideepak to continue with his submissions on next tuesday.
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