We will take a decision, not somebody else: Justice Raveendran
The Supreme Court on Friday reserved for September 21 orders on suggestions made by an experts committee on opening of kallara (secret vault) B and providing security to the precious jewellery and other valuables found in other kallaras at the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
A Bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik indicated that it would not direct the opening of kallara B for the time being. For, the court-appointed committee itself had said it could be opened after some time after substantial progress was made in documentation, categorisation, security, conservation, maintenance and storage of artefacts.
When senior counsel M.N. Krishnamani, appearing for the Kerala Kshetra Samrakshana Samiti, which seeks to implead itself in the case, said kallara B should not be opened as, according to ‘Devaprasnam' (ascertaining divine will through an astrological examination), it was not advisable and doing so would go against the religious faith of the people, Justice Patnaik said, “Kallara B is not being opened for now.”
Justice Raveendran made it clear to counsel: “We [court] will take a decision [on opening it], and not somebody else. We do not propose to hand over the decision to others. We can't encourage impractical suggestions. Superstitions and security can't go hand in hand. Some compromise has to be worked out.”
During the last hearing on September 2, Justice Raveendran flayed petitioner Marthanda Varma for conducting ‘Devaprasnam' and filing an application urging that kallara B be not opened.
On Friday, Justice Raveendran told counsel: “How can security be provided to the valuables without opening kallara B? Comprehensive security measures cannot be taken without the opening of kallara B.”
The judge asked counsel whether security must wait until after it was opened. “Because of your faith if something happens, then who will be responsible? [However] we are not anxious to break the tradition. We will ensure that traditions are respected. But if certain decisions are inevitable to be taken, we will certainly consider your suggestions. Some compromise can be worked out like constables not wearing a shirt and sporting a police badge, etc.”Earlier senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Mr. Marthanda Varma, and senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for Rama Varma, drew the court's attention to the experts panel's report on various aspects.
When the Bench wanted to know how much the temple could contribute towards security and other cost suggested by the committee, Mr. Venugopal said its annual budget was Rs. 5 crore, of which Rs. 4 crore was utilised for staff salary and Rs. 1 crore for temple maintenance. The State was providing Rs. 20 lakh a year for the temple. The number of visitors had gone up to about 3,000 a day since the treasure was found, he said.
No need for CRPF: Kerala
Counsel for Kerala Liz Mathew said the State government had already provided round-the-clock security for the temple and there was no need to strengthen it by the Central Reserve Police Force. She said the police had prepared a three-tier security plan, which was now being upgraded to a five-tier and the State was prepared to bear the cost determined by the court.