Padmanabhaswamy temple : A verdict of changing ERA

In the 2011 Kerala High Court decision was completely reversed of the recent decision given by the honorable  Supreme court where the court gave the right of the Travancore royal family to manage the property of deity at Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. As per law and customary obligations, the rights to manage the financial affairs of the deity will continue to be with the members of the family . If the last ruler too will die then also  it will certainly be with the family.

Lets us understand the exact case: The main question to be kept as the central legal question was that after the death of the last ruler of Travancore ‘Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma’ in 1991 ,whether the younger brother Utradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma could claim to be the “Ruler of Travancore” .

Then the honorary court further analyzed and found the claim within the abstract meaning of that term according to the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950  that claims the  ownership, control and management of the ancient Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple  should lie with the family.

As per the Instrument of Accession signed between the princely states and the Government of India, since 1949, the administration of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple was “vested in trust” in the Ruler of Travancore.Before 1947 ,The temples which were under the control and management of the Princely States of Travancore and Cochin were under the control of the Travancore and Cochin Devaswom Boards .Although the state of Kerala was formed in 1956 but the temple was managed ,controlled  by the family

In 1971, the sovereign’s private income to the former royals were abolished through a constitutional amendment by abolishing all of  their privileges and entitlements  This step  was further sustained by the honorable court in 1993 and the last ruler of Travancore ‘Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma’ who died in 1991 during the continuation of this case managed the temple 

In 1991, when the last ruler’s death took place his younger brother came forward and had taken the management and ownership of control in his hand. It then caused anger among devotees who moved the courts. The government since then also joined in the  support of the claims of the petitioner that the younger brother had no legal right to further claim the control and  management of the temple.And since then the verdict lies with the supreme court

The temple was considered and still considered a public institution and not as the legal property of any one family  The argument of the royal family is that  as per the family traditions and the ancient custom the temple management was with the family and they claimed even the temple is a public institution but to manage the autocracy the family is following custom generation after generation.And also the last ruler had not included the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple as his personal property and there is no mention of the temple in his last will as well

In 2007, the younger brother of the last ruler Marthanda Varmahas claimed that all  money, jewellery and metals of the temple were the family property . After his claim, multiple suits were filed against his claim and a lower court in Kerala passed a law not to open any vault of temple 

In 2011, the Kerala High Court passed an order that to manage and control the affairs of the temple it is required to form a board and the order is against the royal family. The appeal against this verdict was filed by the royal family immediately  after the order of Kerala high court but the honorary  Supreme Court sustained the High Court verdict.

The honorary court had  appointed two members, the first one is the senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam and the second was  former Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai. It was an order of the SC that they had to prepare an inventory of items in the vaults.The team of the two most experienced members worked and finally had opened  five vaults out of the six vaults . The vault B was kept unopened because the royal family  was continuously claiming that a mythical curse is associated with the opening of vault B and it can cause destruction if was tried to open the vault

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