The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the rights of the Travancore royal family in the administration of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala. By doing so, it set aside the 2011 verdict of the Kerala High Court which had directed the state government to set up a trust to take control of management and assets of the historic temple.
A bench headed by Justice U U Lalit said that as an interim measure, the District Judge of Thiruvananthapuram will head an administrative committee to manage the affairs of the temple.
The top court delivered the verdict on a batch of appeals, including the one filed by the legal representatives of the Travancore royal family, challenging the January 31, 2011 verdict of the high court in the matter.
The sprawling temple, an architectural splendour in granite, was rebuilt in its present form in the 18th century by the Travancore Royal House which had ruled southern Kerala and some adjoining parts of Tamil Nadu before integration of the princely state with the Indian Union in 1947.
Following is the chronology of events in the case pertaining to the management of the temple.
2009: T P Sundarrajan, a former IPS officer, files a PIL before Kerala HC seeking transfer of control of temple from the royal family to state government.
Jan 31, 2011: HC orders state government to take over the temple's control, restrains executive officer and Maharaja of the royal family against opening any of Kallaras (vault).
May 2: An appeal of Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma, brother of the last ruler, comes up for hearing before the SC, which grants interim stay on the high court directives.
It also directs conducting a detailed inventory of the articles/ valuables/ ornaments in Kallaras (vaults) and appoints a team of observers.
Jul 8: SC orders that opening of kallara 'A' and 'B' is to be kept in abeyance till further orders.
Jul 21: SC considers state's response, directs setting up of an Expert Committee to advise on inventory, conservation and security. It says panel would examine and give an opinion whether it is necessary to open Kallara 'B'.
Sep 22: SC examines interim report of the Expert Committee, issues directions. It says issue relating to opening of Kallara 'B' shall be considered after substantial progress is made in regard to documentation, categorization, security, preservation, conservation, maintenance and storage relating to the contents in the other Kallaras.
Aug 23, 2012: The Court appointed Senior Advocate Gopal Subramaniam as an amicus curiae.
Dec 6, 2013: Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma passed away, his legal heirs later substitute him in SC.
Apr 15, 2014: Amicus Curiae submits report.
Apr 24: The Court appoints Administrative Committee headed by the District Judge, Thiruvananthapuram, to manage the temple.
Aug-Sep 2014: Gopal Subramaniam writes to SC opting out as amicus curiae. Later, he withdraws his resignation and continues to assist the SC.
Nov 2014: Royal family questions Amicus Curiae Gopal Subramaniam's report, files objections before SC.
Nov 27: SC accepts some of the recommendations made by the Amicus Curiae.
Jul 4, 2017: SC appoints Justice K S P Radhakrishnan as Chairman of the Selection Committee for the Sreekovil and other allied works.
Jul: SC says it would examine claims that one of the vaults of the temple contains extraordinary treasure with "mystical" energy, passes a slew of directions including on the security of the treasures, auditing of accounts and repair of the deity.
Jan-Apr 2019: The cases are posted before the bench comprising of Justices UU Lalit and Indu Malhotra for final hearing.
Apr 10: SC reserves verdict on pleas challenging January 31, 2011 judgement of the Kerala HC in the matter.
Jul 13, 2020: SC upholds right of Travancore royal family in administration of Temple.