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HC tells TDB to frame new guidelines

By Our Staff Reporter

KOCHI, NOV. 10. A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Friday directed the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) to lay down fresh guidelines for the selection of Sabarimala Melsanthi from next year.

The Bench, comprising Mr. Justice S. Sankarasubban and Ms. Justice A. Lakshmikutty, also directed the Board to include only experts in the field concerned in the selection committee. It can consist of Thantris of different temples or persons who had erudition and expertise in the field concerned.

Though the Bench expressed its dissatisfaction over the mode of selection and constitution of the selection committee, it did not interfere in the selection of Mr. Sambhu Vadyar Namboodiri as Melsanthi as the Mandalam/Makaravilakku season was drawing close.

The court made it clear that it would be better if the board issued questionnaires inviting opinions from various people as to how the selection should be made. The questionnaires should also be sent to religious heads of various Mutts in Kerala and Thantries of important temples.

The Bench also directed the board to take into consideration the representation filed Mr. R. R. Varma, a member of the Pandalam Royal family. In his representation, he had suggested inclusion of Thantri pundits from Travancore, Cochin and Malabar and also the elder members of the Thazman family and the Pandalam Royal family.

Referring to the board which selected the new Melsanthi, the court said the constitution of the committee was not proper. It should have persons who were experts in the field concerned. (The committee had consisted of Devaswom Board members, Commissioner and Sabarimala Thantri). The Court said that the purpose of the interview was to select the best person for appointment as Melsanthi.

The selection of Melsanthi was challenged by Mr. K. P. Mohandas Embrandiri of Cherthala and Mr. E. K. Parameswaran Namboodiri of Changanassery. The petitioners contended that the requirement that at least 5 marks should be obtained from all the members for each question was not a proper criterion.

The Court pointed out that in most cases, the questions were not put only by Thantri and the Commissioner. If each person of the selection board had put questions on a topic, then it could be understood that the candidate should obtain at least 5 marks for each question. That had not happened here. Hence, the court said, there was some substance in what the petitioner contended. Awarding of varying marks for the same answer by different persons showed that there was something wrong in the selection. According to the petitioner, except the Thantri, all the members had no knowledge in the topics meant for interview. They might be persons with high integrity and quality, but it might not be possible for them to assess the candidates because of their lack of knowledge in the particular subject, the court said.

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