The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed video-recording of the ongoing stock-taking of the treasure found in the vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
A Bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik also restrained the members of the court-appointed committee from airing their views on the issue of ownership and value of the assets estimated to be more than Rs. 1 lakh crore.
After hearing senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for the legal heir of the erstwhile king of Travancore, Rama Varma, and counsel Vipin Nair for the respondent T.P. Sundara Rajan, the Bench suggested that a curator from the Archaeological Survey of India be appointed for preserving the treasure and deciding on the artefacts that should be exhibited in a museum and those that should be kept in vaults.
The Bench was hearing a special leave petition filed by Mr. Rama Varma challenging the Kerala High Court's January 31 verdict ordering the State government to take over the assets and management of the temple.
Expressing concern at media reports on the ownership and value of the treasure, the Bench restrained the members of the Supreme Court-appointed committee and observers from “expressing their opinion” till further directions.
The Bench also clarified that its earlier order giving liberty to the observers to decide the procedure for documentation did not mean that they could “dispense with” photography and video-recording which it said were “mandatory.”
Listing the case for further hearing for Friday, the Bench also exempted one of the heirs, Marthanda Varma, from personal presence during the documentation, given his advanced age of more than 90 years.
He could authorise any of his family members to represent him by making a special request to M.N. Krishnan, one of the observers.
Mr. Justice Raveendran said that since “so many things are appearing in newspapers, things are going haywire,” particularly the valuation. Among the things to be decided was the museum for exhibiting the artefacts — whether at the regular museum at Thiruvananthapuram or a special museum to be attached to the temple. Mr. Justice Patnaik said the treasure had become “international news.”
On May 2, the Bench stayed the High Court's order for the takeover of the temple and its assets. It then allowed stock-taking of the assets and appointed the retired Judges of the Kerala High Court, M.N. Krishnan and C.S. Rajan, as observers to supervise the documentation.