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Amidst rampant idol thefts from temples, Tamil Nadu govt to transfer all such cases to CBI

The Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday informed the Madras High Court that it has decided to transfer all the idol theft cases to the CBI, which till now were being probed by the Idol Wing of the CID, The Hindu has reported.

As per the report, additional Advocate General P.H. Arvindh Pandian informed the division bench of Justices R. Mahadevan and P.D. Audikesavalu that such a decision to transfer the cases has been taken to inspire public confidence. This division bench was specifically constituted by the Chief Justice Indira Banerjee to hear matters related to idol theft.

As per a Times of India report, the Advocate General conceded in the court that one of the reasons for the transfer was the unsatisfactory performance of the idol theft investigative wing headed by inspector general Pon Manickavel.

Following this, the court directed the Advocate General to produce documents about the policy decision during the next hearing on 8 August. It also directed Manickavel to file a status report regarding the cases.

Such a decision to transfer the cases follows a July hearing in the High Court where the court had warned that it would ask the CBI to probe the thefts if proper steps weren’t taken to curb the menace.

During that hearing, Justice Mahadevan had referred to the recent thefts of Lord Dhandapani’s 15-inch bronze idol and a Trishul from Sri Arunachaleswarar temple to demand that, a separate department needed to be established if the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department wasn’t capable protecting the idols.

The lax behaviour of the authorities was also noted when one of the petitioners alleged that ancient idols worth Rs 7 crore were kept in a small room without any protection. Even two policemen who were tasked at guarding the room had been withdrawn.

As reported by Times of India, an audit by the HR&CE department had determined that at least 1200 ancient idols have been stolen from Tamil Nadu between 1992 and 2017 out of which 350 have been declared untraceable and only 18 have been retrieved.

The HR&CE department has administrative control of about 36.595 temples in the state.

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