New Delhi: Amidst reports that a box in one of the vaults of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple containing treasure was found open, the Supreme Court was told on Wednesday that to avert repetition of such a situation, the keys of the vaults should be entrusted to the district judge.
Pointing to certain "disturbing" developments, amicus curiae Gopal Subramaniam told the bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice A.K. Patnaik that the vaults should be sealed and locked in the presence of the district judge, who should also retain the keys in his custody.
In a series of directions that he sought, Subramaniam urged the apex court to order special audit of the offerings that devotees made at the temple. The court was told that the audit of the cash and gold and silver by the devotees put in the donation box have not taken place for past several years. Seeking inventory of the offerings by the devotees, Subramaniam said the land offered to the temple could not be alienated and if it has happened, then it too should be inquired into.
On a query by the court, Subramaniam said audit of the temple accounts could be entrusted to a former Comptroller and Auditor General. The court was told that the offerings by devotees should be accounted for after every three-four days instead of the existing practice of 45 days. The court was also told there were multiple accounts in multiple banks where this money is deposited.
Subramaniam, who submitted a report following a 35-day stay at the temple, told the court that the devotees should be told that the "prasadam" being given to them was not prepared at the temple but was outsourced. Pointing to the pathetic state of hygiene in the temple, Subramaniam said there were certain parts of the temple that were not cleaned for years.
He said there was a virtual gag order on the employees of the temple, and anyone who speaks about the affairs of the temple to outsiders is denied his remuneration. To back up his allegation, he cited the instance of a staffer who had accompanied him during his temple visit.
Subramaniam said the temple pond required immediate cleaning because of its condition. He said he has roped in the services of a company that had cleaned a pond at the Tirupathi temple and it has agreed to do so for Rs.90 lakh.
However, counsel K.K. Venugopal appearing for the successor of the royal family of Sri Marthanda Varma, disputed the findings of the amicus curiae, saying there was tremendous resentment about the steps taken by him. Venugopal said there were just five accounts of the temple and the rest were fixed deposits.
The temple hit the headlines after a huge treasure estimated to be worth thousands of crores of rupees was found in its four vaults. After a public interest litigation, the matter was taken up by the apex court. The hearing would continue on Thursday.