SUPREME COURT HELD THAT ROYAL FAMILY HAS CONTROL OVER KERALA PADMANABHA SWAMY TEMPLE

In a recent case of Sri Marthanda Varma (D) through L.R.s vs State of Kerala, a two-Judge Bench of the #SupremeCourt has passed a Judgment dated 13-07-2020 and held that the #abolition of #privypurses and #derecognition of #Rulers of Indian States under the Constitution (Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 1971, did not take away the rights of the Ruler of Travancore and his descendants to supervise and have control over administration of Sri #PadmanabhaSwamy #Temple (the Temple) in #Thiruvananthapuram, #Kerala and the #properties thereof.

In this case, the Apex Court noted that Late Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma was the Ruler of State of Travancore and after his death, his younger brother, Mr. Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma (the Appellant No. 1 herein) wanted to claim ownership, control and management of the ancient and great Temple. Thus, a Writ Petition was filed by him in the High Court of Kerala, which held that the Appellant No.1 could not claim to be in control or management of the Temple as successor to the last Ruler, on the ground that the Constitution (Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 1971 and Article 363A of the Constitution of India 1950 terminated the privy purses and privileges of the Rulers of former Indian States. Thus, an Appeal against the said High Court Order has been filed before the Supreme Court.

The Apex Court made the following important observations in this case:

  1. That although the Temple was later taken over by Travancore Devaswom Board constituted under the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950 (the TC Act), the management and control over administration of the Temple and the properties thereof remained in the hands of the Ruler of Travancore.
  • That the descendants of the Ruler of Travancore continued to serve as ‘Dasas’, or servants of the deity in the Temple.
  • That based on the historical accounts, customary beliefs and practices, it was observed that the Ruler and his family members had deep involvement in the rituals and affairs of the Temple.
  • That although the concept of privy purses and rulership have been abolished by the Constitution (Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 1971, but the private properties of the Ruler such as a sword, ceremonial weapon, or jewellery, etc, continued to remain available to the Ruler and his family members for normal succession and devolution under the law.

Thus, based on the aforesaid reasons, the Apex Court held that the administration of the Temple and the properties thereof that earlier vested in the Ruler of Travancore, would continue to be under the control and supervision of the Ruler and his natural successors.

Further, the Supreme Court constituted an Administrative Committee and Advisory Committee to work for a period of four months towards preservation of all the treasures belonging to the Temple, arrangement of audit of the Temple accounts for the last 25 years, maintenance of the Temple properties, etc. The Apex Court further directed the Committees to file the report by December 2020 in order to inform the Court about the developments in the said matter.

Harini Daliparthy

Senior Legal Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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