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1. Here are the updates of hearing held on 28th March 2019 in the #padmanabhaswamytemple case.
2. Mr. Krishnan Venugopal continued with his submissions. He addressed the Court's query on whether the Thanthri was consulted by the Amicus while making recommendations w.r.t religious practices at the Temple.
3. He said that the Amicus had not consulted the Thanthri while making any suggestions w.r.t religious practices and observances in the #padmanabhaswamytemple .
4. Dealing with the first report submitted by the Amicus on 1st November 2012, Mr. Venugopal pointed out that all recommendations w.r.t religious observances and practices have been made at the end of the report.
5. He pointed out that the petitioners had made their objections on these recommendations and the Hon’ble Court had also rejected all such recommendations made by the Amicus.
6. Mr. Venogopal pointed out that the second report of the Amicus was submitted on 16 April 2014 after which by an Court order dated 24 April 2014, the then Executive Officer was sent on leave and a new EO was appointed.
7. By the same order the Court had appointed Mr. Vinod Rai based on the recomendations of the Amicus.
8. Mr. Venugopal drew Court's attention to the Amicus's recommendations in respect of religious observances that were implemented. These were directions given by the Amicus during his visit.
9. Mr. Venugopal read out to the Court, various portions from both the reports of Amicus that he had objections with.
10. Justice Lalit suggested Mr. Venugopal to differentiate between the recommendations of the Amicus that were acceptable and not harmful to the religious sanctions of the Temple and those that actually were harmful.
11. Mr. Venugopal continued to read out the objectionable recommendations of the Amicus which affected the religious practices at the Temple.
12. Mr. Venugopal submitted that practices w.r.t. Interning of Nambis, quantity of prasadam, timing and manner of the shloka recitations etc that were suggested by the Amicus in his report and were objectionable were put before the Court.
13. Famous customs that are part of other Temples have been suggested for the #padmanabhaswamytemple by the Amicus which was beyond the scope of his role.
14. Mr. Venugopal submitted that the current EO has assisted in the administration and religious sanctions of the Temple are being respected, that the petitioners have no problem with his functioning.
15. He also submitted that the certain changes were made by the Amicus's directions that were harmful to the religious sanctity of the Temple and that impaired the sacred observances, have now been rectified.
16. Objections were also made by Mr. Venugopal towards the actions of the Amicus that were specifically performed to malign the reputation of the royal family and their loyalty towards the Temple.
17. Mr. Venugopal continued to read out the suggestions and recommendations of the Amicus that were with respect to the structure and repair of certain parts of the Temple. It was submitted that these recommendations were made without consulting the Thanthri or the royal family.
18. Mr. Venugopal also objected to the comments made by Amicus in his report which suggested involvement of the royal family in criminal activities and accidents outside the Temple.
19. The submissions extended after lunch and Mr. Venugopal finished his submissions on the Amicus's report that day. Mr. Jaideep Gupta will address the Amicus's report in the next hearing.
20. Next hearing for #padmanabhaswamytemple case was held on 2 April 2019. Mr. Jaideep Gupta commenced his arguments.
21. Mr. Jaideep Gupta recalled that his previous submissions were in two parts i.e. (1) the scope of 'Ruler' and (2) that SC is parens patriae of all religious institutions.
22. He reiterated that interpretation of Section 18 of TCHRI Act w.r.t. the term 'Ruler' should be done under the guidance of Article 366(22).
23. Mr. Gupta said that the recognised Ruler had passed away in 1991 and therefore the trusteeship of the Temple devolves on to the State.
24. Mr. Jaideep Gupta continued that the State however cannot administer the Temple and therefore a scheme should be devised within the scope of TCHRI Act.
25. Mr. Gupta submitted that the circumstances are such in the case that interference of this Court is necessary.
26. Mr. Gupta further submitted that since Mr. Venugopal had requested to address the Amicus and Auditor's reports before him, the Court has now got a substantial idea of the orders that were passed and the reports that were submitted.
27. Mr. Gupta said that it has always been his submission that the litigation in #padmanabhaswamytemple case is not adversarial.
28. Mr. Gupta pointed out that his submissions have not been in the manner of blaming any person for past maladministration of the Temple.
29. Mr. Gupta said despite no such blames being put, if there has to be an investigation to ascertain whether there was maladministration, and if there is any such finding in the reports, then the State should get an opportunity to point that out.
30. Mr. Gupta pointed out that the nature of the litigation and the institution involved is so complex that complete administration of the same, i.e a public institution of enormous wealth cannot be left in hands of a private party.
31. Mr. Gupta also submitted the reasons as to why royal family is not capable of handling complete administration of Temple - (1) royal family doesn't have that kind of resources which State has; (2) Powers akin to State govt are not there to ensure proper security & maintenance
32. Mr. Gupta submitted that as a consequence of the above situation upkeep of the Temple has suffered. Security, law and order of the Temple cannot be maintained without State's assistance.
33. Mr. Gupta also submitted that for a long time state funds have been employed for the benefit of a private family in order to run an institution in which public has stake and will continue to be employed in future. He will submit details of such expenses before the Court.
34. Mr. Gupta submitted that since State funds are already involved for better management of this Temple, it is convenient that a complete solution is devised for better upkeep and maintenance of the same.
35. At this, Justice Lalit enquired what role according to the State Government would the Royal Family play in such a proposed solution.
36. Mr. Gupta responded that he would share a detailed proposal in the next hearing.
37. Mr. Gupta further submitted that the proposed scheme will not exclude the royal family from administration of the Temple completely.
38. Mr. Gupta said it is undoubted that as Padmanabha Dasa the family has served the Temple for centuries and that they cannot be deprived of that status.
39. Mr. Gupta further submitted that it is not the intention of State to interfere in any religious ceremonies or sanctions of the #padmanabhaswamytemple and the same should continue under the supervision of the Thanthri.
40. Mr. Gupta said that the proposal shall be a three-way partnership between the Royal family, the Thanthri and the Executive.
41. Mr. Gupta then suggested that available models can be evaluated for this purpose. A model that is employed in case of Guruvayur Temple is a good example.
42. Justice Lalit then enquired about the model employed in Puri Temple. Mr. Gupta responded that in Puri model the Maharaja is a part of the administrative committee and he leads the executive decisions w.r.t the Temple apart from being integral to religious ceremonies.
43. Mr. Gupta explained how a special legislation for Guruvayur Temple accomodates the Zamorin Raja in the administrative committee.
44. He also submitted that the State is working on a proposal to bring in a special legislation for #Sabarimala Temple.
45. Mr. Gupta submitted that since #Sabarimala is also a part of the Travancore Devaswom Board and involves a huge stake, general provisions of the Act are not sufficient for these big temples.
46. Mr. Gupta further submitted that solution to these Temple cases can be arrived at legislatively or by a Court scheme but the State would prefer to move legislatively.
47. Mr. Gupta then submitted that before criticising reports submitted by Amicus and the Audit Committee, it is important that they are looked at with positivity.
48. With respect to the report of Audit Committee, Mr. Gupta said that the report was submitted in 3 volumes but he would only put before the Court a summarised version of those.
49. Mr. Gupta submitted that in order to save time of the Court he would bring forth only those portions of the report that deal with circumstances and facts that need to be rectified for future purposes.
50. Mr. Gupta further submitted that the audit report covers both the Temple and the Padmanabhaswamy Trust. He then read out final observations and recommendations from all chapters of the report.
51. Mr. Gupta pointed out that 'Major fiscal deficiencies' as recorded upto 2014 in the main report are important for the Court to take note of.
52. Mr. Gupta then read out the Audit Committee's recommendations for rectifying lacunaes in financial management of the Temple.
53. Mr. Gupta submitted that some aspects of both Amicus's and Audit reports should be seen regardless of comments by the author.
54. Mr. Gupta submitted that instances where removal of valuable objects have been imputed on someone should be seen simply in the manner that those objects are missing and are unaccounted for and therefore the administration need improvement.
55. Moving on to address the Amicus's reports, Mr. Gupta submitted that he would only read out from chapters 3 and 5 of the 2014 report (2nd report).
56. Mr. Gupta submitted that with respect to the Kallaras in a previous civil suit (in 2007) the then EO of the Temple had refused the existence of the same and called it gossipy rumours and old wives' tales.
57. Justice Lalit then requested Mr. Gupta to confine his submissions to records that are before the current forum.
58. Mr. Gupta responded that the mention was only to understand the context of his submissions to which Mr. Venugopal objected.
59. Mr. Gupta submitted that the plaint and EO's written statement are present in the convenience compilation and are a part of records before the Court. Mr. Venugopal requested for a copy of the same.
60. Mr. Gupta added that in the same civil suit one of the plaintiff's allegations was that in the time of Marthanda Varma the Kallara B was opened many times and huge quantities of gold etc were taken out.
61. Mr. Gupta added that the context in which the Amicus visited and inspected all Kallaras was the denial of their existence by the EO in the civil suit
62. Mr. Gupta submitted that even without including Kallara B, the Temple has a huge wealth which needed inventorisation.
63. Continuing to read out from the Amicus' report, Mr Gupta submitted that leaving aside the Amicus' personal views, his efforts towards recording maladministration in the Temple should be appreciated.
64. Mr. Gupta further added that such a magnificent public institution did not have its wealth inventorised until recently, and this defect has now been cured.
65. Justice Lalit then enquired about the current EO and other personnel involved in the administration of the Temple.
66. To this Mr. Gupta submitted that Mr. V. Ratheesan is the current EO and an administrative Committee headed by the District Judge of Thiruvananthapuram is currently handling the administration of the Temple.
67. Justice Lalit further asked whether the officers of the committee are only in advisory positions and if EO takes all decisions.
68. To this Mr. Venugopal informed the Court that after 2014, the Administrative Committee has been taking all decisions and currently administers the Temple. The EO only executes those decisions.
69. Justice Malhotra then enquired if anyone from the Royal family is being consulted by this Committee before taking any administrative decisions.
70. To this, Mr. Venugopal confirmed that no one from the Royal family was being consulted by the Administrative Committee.
71. Mr Gupta added that the Administrative Committee is currently constituted by the District Judge, 3 Thanthris, the Chief Nambi and two other members that are co-opted in consultation with the State Govt.
72. To this, Mr. Venugopal added that the District Collector was co-opted as one of the members of Administrative Committee in 2017.
73. Justice Malhotra then enquired whether any role at all is played by the Royal Family in current administration of the Temple.
74. Mr. Venugopal confirmed that the Royal family does not play any role in current administration of the Temple. This arrangement arises from an order of the Court itself which prescribed the decision making power to the Administrative Committee and appointed the new EO.
75. Mr. Venugopal further added that according to the court's order, Administrative Committee can consult the Trustee of the Temple in matters and situations it deems fit; and that so far, no such consequence has happened.
76. Mr Gupta then continued his submissions w.r.t the Amicus' report. He concluded by requesting the Court to see both the Amicus' reports and Audit reports in a positive light.
77. Mr. Gupta added that since the Amicus is an officer appointed by the Court, his report has to be considered while adjudicating the matter.
78. Mr. Gupta further added that before the Supreme Court prescribed the new arrangement for administration of the #Padmanabhaswamytemple, it was in shambles.
79. To this, Justice Lalit enquired if all accounts and inventories are being maintained now.
80. The Bench requested Mr. Gupta to put before the Court, latest income and expenditure accounts of the #Padmanabhaswamytemple.
81. Mr. Gupta responded that w.r.t Kallaras, there is only one inventory which was made after directions of the Court. He added that accounts of Temple are maintained by Administrative Committee & are timely submitted to Court in form of reports that can be called for evaluation.
82. Justice Lalit asked Mr. Gupta if the EO of the Temple can be present for the next hearing or in the coming week, along with the latest accounts of the Temple.
83. Mr. Gupta confirmed that he would request the EO to be present before the Court as soon as possible.
84. Before breaking for lunch, the Bench enquired about the time required by the counsels from either side to complete their submissions
85. Mr. Gupta responded that he would be able to conclude in 15 minutes. Mr. Suresh also requested for 15 minutes to make his submissions w.r.t the Amicus's report. Mr. Venugopal requested for another half and hour for his rejoinder on the next date of hearing.
86. Next hearing for #padmanabhaswamytemple case was held on 3 April 2019. Mr. Jaideep Gupta informed the Court before commencing his submissions that the EO would be present for the next hearing.
87. Justice Lalit informed the counsel that next hearing would be held on 10 April 2019.
88. Mr. Gupta submitted that inventory of the Kallaras is recorded in 125 volumes in hard bound copies and an electronic record ( a CD) has been made for the convenience of the Court which can be produced for evaluation.
89. He also submitted that w.r.t the accounts of the Temple, the Administrative Committee would be able to put before the Court all the reports compiled by it.
90. Justice Lalit added that the Court would also like to see the accounts of any institution/s (academic or otherwise) that are run by the Temple. Justice Malhotra explained that the Bench wants to know where all the money from the Temple is channelized.
91. Mr. Gupta submitted that he does not know of any institutions that may be funded by the Temple. He also submitted that the Temple does not receive much crowd except during festivals and therefore the income of the Temple is not as much.
92. Mr. Gupta further submitted that the income of #padmanabhaswamytemple can never be attributed for its immense wealth. He explained that the wealth was accumulated mainly due to generous donations by the erstwhile Rulers and other Kings.
93. Mr. Gupta submitted before the Court, a chart detailing expenses incurred by the State for security and maintenance of the Temple from 2008-2019.
94. Justice Lalit enquired if the expenditure shown in the chart was from the funds that are allotted to the Temple under the mandate of Article 290 A of the Constitution.
95. Mr. Gupta submitted that the chart shows expenditure that is in addition to the 6 lakh rupees mandated by the Article 290 A and Section 18 of TCHRI. He added that the submitted expenditure lies in the category of 'non-budgeted expenditure' by the State.
96. Mr. Gupta further submitted that such expenditure with respect to #Padmanabhaswamytemple is sanctioned by Government Orders or executive orders depending on the circumstances.
97. He added that the Temple requires a substantial inflow of funds and therefore a proper scheme should be devised to help better its administration and to maintain transparency in the accounts.
98. Mr. Gupta concluded with the submission that he would respond to the arguments of @jsaideepak in his written submissions only.
99. Mr. Suresh then started his submissions w.r.t the Amicus's report. He submitted that he would read out the sequence of orders passed by the Court so as to refute the claim that the Amicus' visit to the Temple was unauthorised.
100. He submitted that Amicus was an officer of the Court and his reputation shall be protected by the Court itself. He added that Amicus was appointed by the Court not only as 'Amicus on law' but also as 'Amicus on facts'.
101. Mr. Suresh began submitting orders of the Supreme Court starting from the order of 23 August 2012 by which the Amicus was appointed. He submitted all the orders of the Court that dealt with the functioning of the Amicus and implementation of his reccomendations.
102. Mr. Gupta interrupted Mr. Suresh in order to inform the Court that he would submit a draft proposal from State's side w.r.t scheme for administration of the Temple, by the next hearing.
103. Mr. Suresh then continued submitting more orders of the Court. At this point, Justice Lalit requested that only orders that need to be highlighted should be read out to the Bench.
104. Mr. Suresh reiterated Mr. Gupta's submission that the reports of the Amicus and the Auditor should be considered on a positive note.
105. Mr. Suresh also submitted that Kallara B should be inventorised just as other Kallaras were. He added that inventorisation is a secular activity and no religious feature can be imputed to it.
106. To this, Justice Malhotra enquired if there was any proof attributable to the claims made by the Amicus in his report that Kallara B was opened 7 times in the past.
107. Mr. Suresh submitted that proofs and records of the Kallara B being opened in the past are available with the Temple personnel but are not on record before the Court.
108. Mr. Suresh concluded his submissions. Mr. Gupta then enquired if the Bench would like the CD of inventories to be submitted before the Court.
109. To this, Justice Lalit responded that if a copy of this record is being kept with ISRO, there must be a reasonable security concern. He added that the inventories are not required on record.
110. Mr. Venogopal sought permission from the Bench to commence his submissions on the next hearing. He added that Mr. Dattar would also take some time then, i.e. on 10 April 2019.
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