The Supreme Court of India has ruled against the Kerala government’s attempt to bring the historic Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram under its control. The apex court overturned the 2011 judgment of Kerala High Court that granted the power to the state government to take control of the temple, its management and assets. The High Court asked the government to run the temple in accordance with the traditions.
The verdict, passed by a 2-member bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and UU Lalit, stated that the death of a king of the Travancore family shall not affect the rights of the family and the temple, perceived to be the world’s richest, will continue to be managed by the family.
The SC has also stated that all members of the temple management committee will be Hindus.
The Travancore Royal family, the traditional custodians of the temple, have welcomed the verdict.
We wholeheartedly welcome Supreme Court verdict on Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. It re-establishes our family's connection with Lord Sree Padmanabha. The family is happy about it. We're looking forward to reading the full verdict:Adithya Varma,Travancore royal family member to ANI https://t.co/suciUDeVvD— ANI (@ANI) July 13, 2020
The apex court said that the Travancore Royal family has the right to the administration of the temple. The court also noted that the committee formed under the supervision of the Royal family would decide if Kallara B or Vault B would be opened. The court emphasized that all the members of the committee will be Hindus.
The Kerala government has also stated that they will abide by the Supreme Court decision. State Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran has stated that the state has always followed SC verdicts in letter and spirit.
The controversy around Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple
The Kerala government has been trying to take control of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, also known as the world’s richest temple. The historic temple is managed by the Travancore Royal family that had ruled Southern Kerala and parts of Tamil Nadu. Lord Padmanabha (Vishnu) is the family deity of the Royal family.
Even after India’s independence, they managed the temple under a trust. On 31st January 2011, Kerala High Court ruled that the state government will control the temple administration. The court asked the state government to form a trust and take control of the temple within three months.
In accordance with the earlier order, 5 of the 6 vaults were opened and vast amounts of treasures were reportedly discovered. The rough estimate of the value was around Rs 90,000 crores.
The court also directed the government to open all Kallaras (vaults), make an inventory of the articles, and create a museum of the Temple’s treasures so that the devotees and general public can visit the temple to see them. The Royal family challenged the High Court orders in the Supreme Court. In September 2011, the Supreme Court asked the government of Kerala not to open the Kellaras till they pass final judgment. On 10th April 2019, a bench of Justices UU Lalit and Indu Malhotra reserved the judgment.