Supreme Court: Cellar B can be opened
Supreme Court: Cellar B can be opened

Supreme Court: Cellar B can be opened

Hari S Kartha

The Supreme Court of India, on Tuesday, observed that Cellar-B of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram be opened. The apex court also expressed the view that no religious sentiment would be hurt by opening the cellar.

The significant observation by the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice J.S.Khehar came in the course of hearing of the case on the country's richest temple, originally owned by the royal family of erstwhile Travancore. The temple is now administered by a high level committee headed by a sitting district judge. The day to day administration is carried out by an Executive Officer appointed by the Kerala government from the Indian Administrative Service.

It was following a writ petition by a devotee a few years back that the court intervened in the temple administration. The case has been going on since then.

On direction by the Supreme Court earlier, all other cellars except cellar-B were opened and they were found to contain gold and precious jewels which by most orthodox estimate cost several lakhs of cores of rupees, but cellar-B is yet to be opened. This is in view of the general belief among devotees that the cellar should never be opened for religious reasons. The Travancore royal family, the original owners of the temple, is also strongly opposed to its opening.

The court's observation on Tuesday was that no religious sentiment whatsoever would be hurt by opening the cellar. It would only help remove the mystery surrounding the cellar and the temple. Also it would help ensure transparency. The court felt that the properties in the cellar,be it gold, silver or other precious metals be subject to audit and proper registers maintained about the temple assets. The court directed Amicus Curiae Gopal Subramaniam to discuss the matter with members of the royal family and obtain their consent.

The Amicus Curiae, in his report, submitted to the Supreme Court had said that eight diamonds with antiquity of eighty to 100 years, that used to adorn the deity's forehead, had vanished from the temple a couple of years back. He also called for tightening the security at the temple and appointment of a retired IPS officer as Vigilance Officer.

Now the opinion that cellar-B be opened, although only an observation by the court, has revived the public debate over the temple which is believed to be a few thousand years old.