HR&CE official held for embezzlement

She is suspected of misusing donations of cash and gold for idols in the Sri Ekambareswarar temple

August 01, 2018 01:20 am | Updated 07:45 am IST - CHENNAI

 HR&CE Additional Commissioner (Thiruppani) M. Kavitha has been remanded in judicial custody till August 14.

HR&CE Additional Commissioner (Thiruppani) M. Kavitha has been remanded in judicial custody till August 14.

The Idol Wing of the Crime Branch CID on Tuesday arrested a senior official of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department on suspicion of her involvement in misappropriation of funds and gold collected towards the making of two idols at the Sri Ekambareswarar temple in Kancheepuram.

Police sources alleged that M. Kavitha, Additional Commissioner (Thiruppani), was directly involved in issuing two orders which granted permission to the temple authorities to collect gold and cash from the public for making the idols of Shiva, Parvathi, Skandar (Murugan) and Ezhavarkuzhalamman.

Due to wear and tear, both these idols had been damaged and considered unfit for puja according to the Agama rules .

The police said that a series of attempts had been made in the past to take away the Chola period bronze idols. The Skandar idol is supposed to have gone missing in 1993 during a procession through the streets of Kancheepuram. But strangely, no complaint was lodged in this regard, the police added. The alleged misappropriation came to light in January 2017 after the Kancheepuram judicial magistrate directed the Sivakanchi Police to register a case on a complaint filed by S. Annamalai, a devotee. The complainant also accused 10 persons including the temple executive officer Murugesan, temple chief sthapathi M. Muthiah, sculptor Masilamani, temple priest Rajappa and the guards of misappropriating gold and money.

In 2015, Mr. Muthiah, in a report on the statues, said that on visual inspection, the original Somaskanda bronze idol seemed to contain “a large quantity of gold”.

After due inspection of the idols, of Somaskandar and Ezhavarkuzhalamman, he had recommended that they be replaced. Following this, Ms. Kavitha had accorded approval to the temple’s executive officer for making new idols. The police said that temple authorities collected 100 kg of gold and cash from devotees and the general public.

After a complaint by the devotees, they sought an explanation from temple authorities on the gold collected.

A preliminary investigation was conducted by the special wing led by Inspector General of Police A.G. Ponn Manickavel.

Remanded in custody

“Even before we start interrogating anyone in the case, we are being accused of harassment. In the absence of actual examination of the accused/witnesses, the complaint of harassment by a few is false and malicious. Such an allegation is intentional and is being levelled by some HR&CE officials who could be involved in the wrongdoing,” said a senior officer in the Idol Wing CID. Ms. Kavitha was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate at Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district on Tuesday. She was later remanded in judicial custody till August 14 by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ayyappan Pillai and taken to the Tiruchi Central Prison, said the police. Ms. Kavitha was taken to the Kumbakonam Government Hospital for medical examination.

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