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SC asks Kerala to suggest measures to safeguard ornaments of Sabarimala temple


New Delhi, Feb 05: Taking serious note of internal bickering and litigations in the Pandalam Royal family, which is the custodian of sacred ornaments of Sabaraimala temple, the Supreme Court Wednesday asked the Kerala government to suggest measures to safeguard the jewellery.

SC asks Kerala to suggest measures to safeguard ornaments of Sabarimala temple

The top court said the jewellery does not belong to any family but to Lord Ayyappa and it may appoint a responsible person for the custody of ornaments till the disputes are resolved.

A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari asked senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, appearing for Kerala government, to take instructions with regard to safeguarding the ornaments and listed the matter on February 7.

"There is fighting going on and there is so much of litigation. What will happen if something goes wrong with the ornaments? These ornaments belong to Lord Ayyappa, which was given to him long back. Now there is a dispute in the family. Why not we should allow the ornaments to be kept in the safe custody of a responsible person," the bench said.

It asked Gupta as to what does he think about giving the ornaments to a responsible person, who keeps them in safe custody. Gupta said that as the voices are being raised from within the family, the state can take a decision in this regard but at present he does not have any instructions.

Raja Raja Varma, a member of Pandalam Royal family, has moved an application for impleadment in the pending matter and sought direction for handing over of the keys of strong room, where jewels are kept in custody of secretary of association 'Pandalam Kottara Nirvahaka Sangham', to senior members of the family. Varma has claimed that he has apprehension that President, treasurer and secretary of the association may do something wrong or misappropriate the sacred jewels.

In his application, he said a legal notice was issued by him on January 3, to the secretary of the association as there was alleged mismanagement, maladministration and embezzlement of funds. Senior advocate K Radhakrishnan, appearing for Varma, said ornaments are in the hands of Pandalam Royal Family and are kept in the Palace and they are taken out once a year for Lord Ayyappa.

The bench said, "The question is why should we allow the ornaments to be kept in the custody of a private individual. We should entrust it to some responsible person". It said an inventory of the ornaments should be prepared and they be kept in safe custody.

The bench asked Radhakrishnan as to who has the keys of strong room where the ornaments are kept, to which he replied that secretary of the association has it. "You yourself have made allegation against the secretary, then why not we order the ornaments to be taken out and kept some where else," the top court said.

Radhakrishnan claimed that the president, treasurer and secretary belong to a different sect of the Royal family and there is a strong move on their part to misappropriate the jewellery. He said that this move is very unfortunate and is causing great agony and pain to other senior members of Pandalam family.

The bench asked Kerala government to apprise about the ground situation and whether there is any chance of any mischief with regard to the ornaments of Lord Ayyappa. At the outset, Kerala government sought some time to draft a separate law regarding the administration of the historic Sabarimala temple.

The top court had on November 20 last year asked the Kerala government to come out with an exclusive legislation regarding the administration of the temple. It had asked the state government to place before it by third week of January next year the legislation, also covering the aspects of welfare of pilgrims visiting there.

The state had earlier said it has formulated amendments to the law that would deal with the temples and their administrations which are presently being governed by the Travancore Devaswom Board. The draft law also proposes to give one-third representation to women in the temple advisory committee, the counsel said.

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