Tamil Nadu

Special bench constituted to hear idol theft cases

The Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, Indira Banerjee, has constituted a special Division Bench of Justices R. Mahadevan and P.D. Audikesavalu to hear cases related to theft of ancient idols. To begin with, the Bench will hear a case related to the alleged theft of artefacts from the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, Tiruchi, starting next Wednesday (July 25).

Justice Mahadevan made the disclosure during the hearing of a case filed by Rangarajan Narasimhan of Srirangam, seeking a direction to the Idol Wing of the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department, to probe his complaint regarding the theft of idols, doors made of exotic wood, kalasams, sculptures, granite pavements and other treasures.

Senior counsel Satish Parasaran, representing the temple management, said that every other artefact which the petitioner had referred to in his complaint was available intact in the temple, and that the allegation of theft was baseless. He accused the petitioner of attempting to gain publicity through the media by making reckless allegations and getting a case registered.

However, on his part, the petitioner told the judge that his life was under threat for having filed the case. He claimed to have received a phone call from a known person, who threatened to kill him. Stating that he had lodged a police complaint with regard to the phone call too, he said, “The more the delay in deciding this case, the greater the threat to my life.”

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, on its part, filed a detailed counter affidavit, refuting the allegation of theft of artefacts from the Ranganathaswamy Temple. In the counter, the department’s Joint Commissioner (Legal) P.R. Ashok said the Srirangam police had conducted a preliminary investigation into the petitioner’s complaint last year.

No prima facie case

After obtaining details from the temple management, the police had come to a conclusion that no prima facie case was made out for registration of a First Information Report. Further, providing specific details, the Joint Commissioner said that it was wrong to claim that the Namperumal Utsavar idol in the temple was replaced with a similar looking idol.

“No Utsavar idol in the temple was replaced with a similar looking idol. It is submitted that the idol is under the care and custody of the Archakas, Paricharakas, Araiyars etc, and worshipped by the Hindu general public from morning to night. The idol gets wear and tear (sic) due to constant Tirumanjanam with various ingredients and liquids. Therefore, the Lepakaryam was carried out in accordance with the Agamas and Shilpa Sastra on the written request of the Archakas after getting due permission from the Commissioner. The allegation that the Urchavar Namperumal idol has been replaced is sheer imagination of the petitioner,” the counter affidavit read.

It went on to state that the stone idol of Sri Purushothama Perumal was lying on the parapet wall at Sri Chakkarathazhwar Sannidhi without any Peedam or Pradhista. So, during the renovation work, the idols were installed in the 1,000-pillar mandapam, and daily puja was being performed on them at the new location.

Many other stone sculptures that were strewn around the temple complex were also collected and shifted to the 1,000-pillar mandapam, along with the old doors, which were removed because they were in a dilapidated state. None of the Kalasams were removed, and they were only polished during the consecration, Mr. Ashok said.

Stating that the renovation work carried out under the chairmanship of eminent industrialist and philanthropist Venu Srinivasan had received worldwide appreciation, the Joint Commissioner said the temple had been recognised with the Award of Merit, 2017, during the UNESCO Asia Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 4:55:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/special-bench-constituted-to-hear-idol-theft-cases/article24477989.ece

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