Tamil Nadu

FIR in peacock idol theft case shall stand quashed if charge sheet is not filed within four months, says Madras HC

A view of Sri Kapaleeswarar Karpagambal temple in Mylapore.

A view of Sri Kapaleeswarar Karpagambal temple in Mylapore. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Madras High Court on Friday directed the Idol Wing - Criminal Investigation Department (IW-CID) to complete the investigation into the alleged theft of a peacock idol from the Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore, Chennai, and file a final report within four months failing which the First Investigation Report (FIR) registered in 2018 shall stand quashed.

Justice G. Jayachandran passed the orders on petitions filed by Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department Additional Commissioner N. Thirumagal and former government chief sthapathi M. Muthiah to quash the FIR since they had been arrayed as accused in the idol theft which reportedly took place during temple consecration in 2004.

The judge made it clear that even if the FIR gets quashed for default, it should not be taken as a clean chit to any person and that those responsible could be prosecuted whenever the missing idol gets traced or any material surfaces which would be sufficient to reasonably believe that the original idol was replaced clandestinely.

Pointing out that even well known philanthropist Venu Srinivasan had not been spared and included as an accused in the case, the judge wrote: ’’This court, like anybody else, has concerns about our heritage and retrieval of idols stolen from our temples. But that concern cannot be exploited and misused to fix innocents to settle a score of personal grudge.’’

The judge pointed out that the Kapaleeswarar temple was not a remote village temple, rather it was situated in the heart of Chennai city with hundreds of domestic as well as foreign devotees visiting it day in and day out. In such circumstances, it was hard to believe that none noticed the replacement of the original idol with a fake one for 14 long years.

According to the 2018 complaint lodged by Rangarajan Narasimhan of Srirangam the original peacock idol, found inside the sanctum sanctorum of Punnai Vananathar, carried a flower in its beak whereas the replaced idol was now carrying a snake in its beak. Though four years had elapsed since the FIR, the original idol had not been traced till now.

The judge said the complainant had warned the police of contempt proceedings if they insisted on conducting preliminary inquiry before filing registering FIR since the Supreme Court in the famous Lalita Kumari case had held that a preliminary inquiry would be required only to find out if a cognisable offence had been made out in the complaint.

Acting on the basis of the warning and the advice of the complainant, the IW-CID had registered the FIR without any preliminary inquiry though the complaint had been lodged 14 years after the alleged crime, the judge said. He also referred to one of the documents indicating that the peacock idol with a snake in its beak being present since 2002 itself.

Further the star witness of the prosecution in the case was one Shekar who served as the driver of Ms. Thirumagal when she was the executive officer of the Kapaleeswarar temple in 2004. The witness, in his statement to the Idol Wing-CID, had asserted to have seen the original idol being removed a day before the 2004 consecration.

However, the same witness had admitted certain personal confrontations with Ms. Thirumagal due to which he was shifted from the job of driver and made to sell ‘archanai’ tickets near the Punnai Vananathar Sannidhi and therefore, his version must be taken with a pinch of salt, the judge added.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2022 12:55:01 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/fir-in-peacock-idol-theft-case-shall-stand-quashed-if-charge-sheet-is-not-filed-within-four-months-says-madras-high-court/article65673808.ece