Striking findings and observations spelt out in a lengthy report by Gopal Subramaniam, amicus curiae to the Supreme Court, have brought the focus back on the vast treasures in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. The report has raised a host of questions, some of them disturbing, about their safekeeping and the affairs of the temple in general. The Supreme Court is to hear the matter on April 23.
Mr. Subramaniam, in his report, has described that trunks of valuables, antique artefacts and gem-encrusted jewels were found in the temple. These are in addition to what already exists in the six vaults around the sanctum. He has also observed that underground pathways, which have cellars and safe, connect the temple and adjoining palaces.
However, contrary to the earlier impressions that the treasures were safe in the temple, the amicus curiae has remarked that several valuable items might have been pilfered at regular intervals.
The 575-page report also listed the financial irregularities and inadequate documentation of temple properties. It blamed the executive officer, administrative officer and the member of the royal family who is the trustee for the `financial malfeasance writ large in the Temple.’
This is the second report on temple administration submitted by Gopal Subramaniam, who served as the Solicitor-General between 2009 and 2011. The earlier one was submitted in 2012.
The amicus curiae described in detail how he found gold plates, an ancient silver image, gem studded antique Naaga pendant, and five silver bars each weighing 35 kg in the two rooms known as Muthalpadi rooms, located near the sanctum. Though the temple officials have been using these rooms for many years, they had not disclosed the treasures in them to either the court or the expert committee, which has been documenting the treasures in the temple.
Mr. Subramaniam also found a cut bar of gold in these rooms. From the colour of shaving, he has inferred that this gold had been cut recently. What seems to have raised more doubts is the gold sheeting work in three Panippura or workshop rooms. The temple authorities initially claimed that they do not have keys to one of the rooms, but when it was broken open, evidences of goldsmith activities were found. The temple authorities could explain neither the presence of sheeting machine nor its ownership.
When the amicus curiae interviewed a jeweller who was commissioned to do gold plating work, he too did not claim ownership of the machine. When quizzed, he told that a jeweller from Thanjavur was working in the temple earlier used to take away `gold mixed with sand in lorries.’Deposits under scrutiny
The temple claimed that it deposited contributions collected every month in the bank. However, the report found that it was not so, and pointed to the discrepancies between the amount recorded in the temple books and the amount deposited in the bank. Two deposits in particular have come under scrutiny. The temple officials had deposited about Rs. 20 lakh and Rs. 10 lakh in the name of `Supreme Court.'
In one instance, the temple officials claimed that they paid Rs. 10 lakh for buying an elephant. But the report remarked that the elephant was gifted by N. Srinivasan of India Cements.
The temple has been maintaining multiple accounts deposits in the name of temple officials. When enquired, they claimed that only three such accounts in the name of the trustee amounting to about Rs. 10 lakh exist. However, the bank documents have revealed that accounts amounting to Rs. 40 lakhs are present.