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Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust Needs To Be Audited To See How Much Of Temple's Money Is With It, Administrative Committee Tells Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
17 Sep 2021 6:30 AM GMT
Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust Needs To Be Audited To See How Much Of Temples Money Is With It, Administrative Committee Tells Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court on Friday reserved order on an application filed by the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust(which is created by the erstwhile Travancore Royal Family) to exempt it from the audit of 25 years ordered by the Court last year for the iconic Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram.A bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Bela Trivedi reserved orders...

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The Supreme Court on Friday reserved order on an application filed by the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust(which is created by the erstwhile Travancore Royal Family) to exempt it from the audit of 25 years ordered by the Court last year for the iconic Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram.

A bench comprising Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Bela Trivedi reserved orders after hearing the arguments of Senior Advocate Arvind P Datar for the Trust and Senior Advocate R Basant for the Administrative Committee of the Temple.

Last year, the Supreme Court had handed over the administration of the temple to an Administrative Committee from the erstwhile Travancore Royal Family.


Also, the Court had directed the Administrative Committee to order audit of the temple's income and expenses for the past 25 years, as suggested by amicus curiae Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium. The audit shall be conducted by a firm of reputed Chartered Accountants.

The private CA firm engaged for the audit has asked the Trust to submit the income and expenditure records following this. In this backdrop, the Trust approached the Supreme Court, arguing that they are an independent institution formed in 1965 to conduct the religious rituals of the temple and that they have no role in the day-to-day administration of the temple.

A bench comprising Justices UU Lalit and Indu Malhotra(since retired) had passed the direction last year in a special leave petition filed by the legal heirs of the ex-Travancore Ruler challenging a Kerala High Court judgment which declared that royal family has no rights over the temple. The Supreme Court recognized the "shebait" rights of the ex-royal family but handed over the administration to the Administrative Committee, which was to be headed by the District Judge of Thiruvananthapuram. The Court had also directed the temple to repay to the State Government amount to the tune of Rs 11.70 Crores expended by the State for the security and maintenance of the Temple.

Court room exchange

Senior Advocate Datar argued that the Trust was not a subject matter of the litigations before the Kerala High Court and civil courts. The Trust was constituted only to oversee the pujas and rituals of the Temple involving the family, with no role in the administration. He submitted that the Trust came into picture only before the Supreme Court after the amicus curiae demanded that the accounts of the trust also should be audited.

"For the trust, no audit was contemplated. It was only for the temple", Datar argued.

The bench pointed out that the Court passed the direction for 25 years special audit as the audit ordered by it to be done by the former CAG Vinod Rai could not attain completion.

Senior Advocate R Basat, appearing for the Administrative Committee constituted by the Court for the Temple, insisted that the accounts of the trust also need to be audited. He submitted that the Trust had raised a similar argument before the Court earlier. However, they did not press that argument and yielded to the audit initiated by the former CAG.

"Both the accounts have to be audited. The trust is constituted by the then ruler. The aims and objects are to meet the day to day expenses of the temple. It was found by the amicus that this trust was not discharging the duties. The temple properties are with the trust too. The amicus definitely said - audit the accounts of the temple and the temple trust. Both the administrative committee and advisory committee asked them to produce the accounts", Basant submitted.

Basant added, "The temple today is in great financial stress. They(trust) have to meet the day to day expenses of the temple. They are trying to evade the responsibility".

He pointed out that the Trust has over Rs 2.8 crores in cash and assets worth nearly 1.9 crore Rupees. "The entire thing has to gone into. It has to be gone into how much money of the temple is with the trust", Basant stressed.

Later, Datar clarified that the Trust is not objecting to the audit and was seeking a clarification that it should not be placed under the Administrative Committee.

"I am not objecting to the audit. I am not taking a confrontational stand...my submission is, the trust can be audited but it be not subjected to the administrative committee", Datar submitted.

The bench then said that it was reserving orders on the application.

Case: Sri Marthanda Varma(D) Through LRs v. The State of Kerala | CA No.2732/2021

Click Here To Read/ Download Order



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