Change of stand every now and then is not right, says Bench

The Supreme Court on Friday took exception to the Travancore royal family having conducted a ‘Devaprasnam' in August on the opening of ‘kallara (vault) B' at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

A Bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik conveyed its displeasure to senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for Uthradam Tirunal Marthanda Varma, over the issue.

Mr. Justice Raveendran told counsel: “When we have asked the committee [appointed by the court] to decide on opening of ‘kallara B,' is it open to the committee to outsource it to others and seek ‘Devaprasnam'? The change of stand by the royal family every now and then is not right, particularly when we have passed orders after hearing you.”

Mr. Venugopal said: “There was a huge outcry against opening of kallara ‘B' and hence ‘Devaprasnam' was sought.” Mr. Justice Raveendran asked counsel whether the case was being considered by the court or by astrologers.

“Our primary concern when we passed the order was the religious sentiments should be respected. We would not like to interfere with that. When the value of the jewellery and other articles are put at more than a lakh crore of rupees, we wanted some safeguards and to provide some security,” the judge said. “If you [Mr. Marthanda Varma] are not able to decide because of old age, we will have to entrust the task to somebody else. You consult your family members and tell the court,” he told counsel.

Drawing the court's attention to the former Chief Minister, V.S. Achuthanandan's statement against the royal family, Mr. Venugopal said such a statement was defamatory. To this, Mr. Justice Raveendran said: “You are inviting such statements.”

In his fresh application, Mr. Marthanda Varma said: “A ‘Devaprasnam' was conducted under the supervision of Thanthris on August 8, 9, 10 and 11, and it revealed that ‘kallara B' should not be opened because it contained divinity connected with the deity in the temple, proximately placed to the sanctum sanctorum. The practice followed from time immemorial till this day that accords with the Agama Sastras and Tantric practice, ought not to be trespassed upon.”

Objecting to this affidavit, the court asked Mr. Venugopal why Mr. Marthanda Varma was changing his stand.

Senior counsel P.P. Rao appeared for Rama Varma, senior counsel Dhruv Mehta and counsel Vipin Nair and counsel P.B. Suresh appeared for Respondents 4, 5 and 6 (plaintiffs in the original suit).

Mr. Suresh drew the court's attention to the report of an Advocate Commissioner that there were attempts to remove the temple wealth in small quantities while they were being returned after daily worship.

The Bench posted the matter for September 12 for further hearing after taking on record the report of the committee, which was submitted earlier this week, and asking the Registry to give copies to the parties concerned.

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