The Supreme Court has accepted the affidavit of undertaking filed by Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma of the erstwhile Royal Family of Travancore. The Court granted four weeks time to constitute the Administrative Committee and Advisory Committee of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple and to make them functional.
The bench of Justices UU Lalit and Indu Malhotra also accepted the submission that the chairperson of the Advisory Committee should be a retired Judge of the Kerala High Court as he would be more familiar with the practices of the Temple and local issues. It also agreed with the view that if the District Judge, Thiruvananthapuram is not a Hindu, the next senior most Additional District Judge of Thiruvananthapuram District who is a Hindu shall be the chairperson of the Administrative committee.
While upholding the rights of the erstwhile Royal Family of Travancore as the shebait of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram, the Supreme Court in its judgement passed on 13th July 2020, had also directed that the powers of 'the Ruler of Travancore' under the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act (TC Act) with respect to temple administration be delegated to the Administrative Committee and Advisory Committees constituted by the court. The proposals regarding the Administrative Committee and the delegation of powers to it had come from the family itself. The Court had directed the legal representative of to file an appropriate affidavit of undertaking.
Para "C" of the Affidavit of Undertaking filed by Rama Varma stipulates that all members of the Administrative Committee must be Hindus and must fulfill the requirement of Section 2(aa) of the Travancore -Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950. It further states that if the District Judge, Thiruvananthapuram is not a Hindu, the next senior most Additional District Judge of Thiruvananthapuram District who is a Hindu shall be the chairperson. Para H provides that the Chairperson of the Advisory Committee shall be a retired Judge of the High Court of Kerala to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court.
Before the bench, Senior Advocate K. Venugopal submitted that Para "C" is consistent with the mandate of the Statute in Section 2(aa) of the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act and the directions issued by the Court. He submitted that though original Note on the basis of which the directions were issued by this Court did not so stipulate, the chairperson of the Advisory Committee should be a retired Judge of the Kerala High Court as he would be more familiar with the practices of the Temple and local issues and would therefore be suitable to take up the assignment as Chairperson of the Advisory Committee. Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta, who appeared for State of Kerala submitted that the Affidavit of Undertaking as filed, be taken on record and accepted. Taking note of this, the bench ordered:
"In the circumstances, we accept the affidavit of Undertaking and direct that all consequential directions in Para 115 and such other stipulations in that regard shall become operative. Since we have now accepted the Affidavit of Undertaking, four weeks time from today is granted to constitute the Administrative Committee and Advisory Committee of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple and to make them functional."
The bench also made it clear that till the new Executive Officer is appointed by the Administrative Committee in terms of the Judgement dated 13.07.2020, the present incumbent shall continue to hold the charge as the Executive Officer of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The Court also recorded its sincere appreciation for the efforts put in by the applicant as Executive Officer of the temple and by the erstwhile Administrative Committee.
The Affidavit of Undertaking, which has been now accepted by the Court, contains the following clauses as well:
In Para F, it is stipulated that in all spiritual and religious matters and matters concerning the rituals to be performed at the Temple, the views of the Chief Thantri shall be binding on the Administrative Committee.
Para J states that the Administrative Committee shall not take any decision on the following matters of policy without obtaining the prior approval of the Trustee: (a) Any expense item exceeding Rs.15 lakhs per month; (b) Any one-time expense of Rs. 1 Crore; (c) Any major renovation/expansion of the Temple; (d) Any changes in the Standard Operating Procedures; and (e) Any fundamental changes in the character of the Temple that would affect the religious sentiments of the devotees
In Para K it is provided thus: "If the Trustee receives complaints relating to the administration of the Temple or is of the opinion that the administration of the Temple is not being conducted properly, he shall be entitled to recommend corrective measures that may be suggested by the Advisory Committee. If the Administrative Committee is not in agreement, it shall communicate its reasons to the Trustee. However, if the Advisory Committee is nevertheless of the opinion that the corrective measures must be implemented, the Trustee may direct the Administrative Committee to implement them."