Padmanabhaswamy temple facing great financial constraints, panel tells SC

A view of the deserted Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.   | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

The Administrative Committee of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram informed the Supreme Court on Friday that the temple was passing through “very difficult times” financially and accounts spanning 25 years of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple Trust (SPSTT) should be audited along with that of the temple accounts for the same period.

The committee, led by the Thiruvananthapuram District Judge, informed a Bench led by Justice U.U. Lalit that it was necessary to know how much of the temple’s property was with the trust.

“My properties are also with the trust... In April 2014, the Supreme Court’s amicus curiae recommended that 25 years of accounts of both the temple and the trust should be audited... The trust used to care for the day to day expenses of the temple,” senior advocate R. Basant, representing the committee, submitted.

The committee said that the Supreme Court, in its July 2020 judgment upholding the Travancore royals’ right of shebaitship over the temple, had ordered an audit “as suggested by the amicus curiae”.

Mr. Basant argued that the court was referring to an April 15, 2014 report filed by senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, who was then amicus curiae.

Amicus’s recommendation

In his report, the amicus had recommended a “special audit” by former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai of the 25 years of accounts of both the temple and the SPSTT.

Mr. Basant said the temple and the trust could not be viewed separately and needed to be audited together.

The court was hearing an application filed by the SPSTT for a declaration that it was an “independent entity distinct from Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple”.

The SPSTT, represented by senior advocate Arvind Datar and advocate Shyam Mohan, said it did not come under the administrative control of either the Administrative Committee or the Advisory Committee formed under the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Endowments Act of 1950.

“Will the audit of the accounts for the past 25 years extend to both the temple and the trust? We need a clarification... The trust has already been audited for the period between 2008 and 2014... Does it need to be audited for 25 years now,” Mr. Datar asked.

Mr. Basant contended, “The temple is under great financial constraints. Its monthly expenses come to ₹ 1.25 crore... That is why they [SPSTT] are asking to be excluded. The trust has ₹ 2.89 crore of cash and ₹ 1.95 crore of assets as per a report made by former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai... Need to go into how much they have now...”.

‘Trust was a public one’

Mr. Datar countered that the trust was a public one. It was formed by the erstwhile Travancore ruler in 1965 for “the perpetual continuation of the devotional offerings to the temple, other specified religious rite and certain functions integral to the royal family traditions...” He said, “When the case came up before the Supreme Court, the initial investigation was only on the temple and not the trust. This was the position until the amicus curiae brought it up in 2014.”

Mr. Datar stressed it did not want the court to give any supervisory powers to the administrative committee over it. “If My Lords wants the 25-year audit , we have absolutely no problem. But we are an independent entity. We have filed our income tax returns. We don't want the committee to have any supervisory powers over us,” he said.

The court reserved the case for orders.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2021 6:18:24 PM |

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