The Madras High Court on Wednesday witnessed an ugly spat between the State government and Inspector General of Police (IG) A.G. Ponn Manickavel, who had been appointed on the directions of the court to investigate all idol theft cases in the State, with both sides levelling serious allegations against each other with respect to the investigations.
It all began when Justice R. Mahadevan questioned the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department for not having provided strong rooms in all temples under its control for safeguarding ancient idols. He wanted to know why a specific direction issued by him in this regard on July 21, 2017, had not been complied with so far.
‘Strong rooms useless’
Replying to it, HR&CE Commissioner R. Jaya claimed that strong rooms had already been constructed in 11,512 temples. However, Mr. Manickavel countered the submission by stating that those so-called strong rooms were of no use since idols worth several hundred crores of rupees had been kept in rooms fitted with locks costing just ₹250.
He also accused the HR&CE Commissioner of not having bothered to visit even a single temple where complaints of idol thefts had been reported. Irked over such allegations, Ms. Jaya claimed that she was being singled out and targeted personally despite having taken all possible measures to prevent theft of ancient idols from temple premises.
Intervening during the arguments, Additional Advocate General P.H. Arvindh Pandian said that he would not take sides on the issue since both the police as well as the HR&CE department were the two organs of the State government. The AAG also said that he personally had great regard for the work being done by Mr. Manickavel.
However, he brought it to the notice of the court that the IG was refusing to attend review meetings called by his superiors in the rank of Additional Director General of Police and Director General of Police and share any information with respect to the idols that he had recovered so far just because he had been appointed on the directions of the court.
Explaining the reason for not sharing any information with his superiors, Mr. Manickavel claimed that they might “pass it on.” Taking strong exception to it, the AAG retorted saying: “It is a defamatory statement to say that officers in the rank of ADGP and DGP would pass on information. Don’t use these kind of words.”
However, the IG persisted and said that his superiors were issuing orders to him “sitting in AC (air-conditioned) rooms” whereas he and his team of officials were slogging on the field day and night to detect crimes. He also accused his superiors of transferring his team members frequently and reducing the number of officials working under him.
After pacifying the visibly emotional IG, the judge asked him to attend the review meetings and provide as much information as he was expected to provide to his seniors.
The judge assured the officer that the court would not allow his efforts to go waste and that his superiors as well as the government could not take any major decision without the court’s nod.
He later adjourned further hearing on the case to July 11.