Supreme Court orders inventory of Sabarimala deity’s sacred ornaments: Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana said the Justice Nair committee may take the help of an expert appraiser in the exercise. The detailed list will be handed over to the apex court in a sealed cover. The court listed the case for hearing in four weeks.

[2/7, 19:23] Sekarreporter: Supreme Court orders inventory of Sabarimala deity’s sacred ornaments: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-orders-inventory-of-sabarimala-deitys-sacred-ornaments/article30760466.ece
[2/7, 19:23] Sekarreporter: A Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana said the Justice Nair committee may take the help of an expert appraiser in the exercise. The detailed list will be handed over to the apex court in a sealed cover. The court listed the case for hearing in four weeks.

The order for the inventory was initiated on the advice of the Kerala government, represented by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal. The court had asked the State’s opinion on the measures to be taken to keep the ornaments safe and secure.

Mr. Venugopal drew the court’s attention to how the Supreme Court earlier secured “lakhs of crores” worth of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple treasure.

Taking a leaf out of the Padmanabha Swamy case, Mr. Venugopal said the first thing to do would be to take a detailed inventory list of the Lord Ayyappa’s ornaments.

“What the State government has now is a very generalised list. Look, item eight in the list is a diamond object… but nobody knows how many carats. A jeweller can be taken on board by the committee to examine the jewellery so that later it cannot be replaced with fake items,” Mr. Venugopal submitted.

‘Sabarimala issue different from Padmanabha Swamy’
Senior advocate R.K. Radhakrishnan, appearing for senior members of the Panthalam royal family, said the position in the case of Sabarimala was quite different from the Padmanabha Swamy matter. He said the ornaments belonged to the Panthalam Raja, who was the mythological father of the deity. The king ceremonially carried the jewellery to the temple to adorn his son with them.

Mr. Radhakrishnan objected to the move to make the Kerala government responsible for custody and security of the ornaments. He objected to the inventory as “indirect” intrusion by the State on the private property of the royal family.

Mr. Venugopal said this was the same mistake made by the Travancore royal family in the Padmanabha Swamy temple case. They had claimed all the valuables to belong to them. Petitions were filed. The AG said the treasure belonged to the deity and rested with the government.

Justice Ramana said the court was currently only concerned with the safety and security of the sacred ornaments. The Bench orally observed that though the jewellery was with the Raja, the ornaments ultimately belonged to the deity.

The Kerala government, meanwhile, informed the Supreme Court that it needed a month to finalise an exclusive legislation for the management of the famed Sabarimala temple.

Late last year, the Bench directed the Kerala government to draft by the third week of January a separate law covering the administration of the Sabarimala Sree Ayyappa Swami Temple.

The court had previously expressed dissatisfaction when the State produced a draft Bill — The Travancore-Cochin Religious Institutions (Amendment) Bill of 2019 — containing certain proposed amendments to the Travancore-Cochin Religious Institutions Act of 1950.

The 1950 Act is presently governing over a hundred temples, including Sabarimala.

Justice Ramana had pointed out that a temple that received lakhs of pilgrims should be governed by a separate Act. The court had said an exclusive law was imperative for the welfare of pilgrims and effective management of the temple.

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