Is it possible to open a treasure-laden vault at Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, or it would hurt religious sentiment? This was the question that came up before the Supreme Court. Although the top court asked the temple administration what purpose would be served if the vault is not opened, it said the vault should not be opened unless directed by the court.

There are six vaults in the temple, and five had been opened under the Supreme Court’s directions and inventories had been taken. But the last vault – Vault B – has not been opened due to opposition from priests at the temple.

The royal family and the temple administrators say Vault B should not be opened as it would hurt religious sentiments.

Amicus curiae or adviser to the court Gopal Subramanian informed the Supreme Court that although it has been claimed that the vault has never been opened, an expert committee’s report said it had been opened a few times earlier.
Mr Subramanian said he needed time to consult the stakeholders on whether Vault B should be opened. He said the stakeholders, however, were of the opinion that the vault should not be opened “on the apprehension that there is some mystical energy”.

A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, observed orally that the very purpose of the Supreme Court’s ongoing intervention in the temple’s management and affairs was to usher in sanctity and transparency. The opening of the vault to make an inventory of the valuables inside would hardly be a transgression against faith and sentiments.

Chief Justice Khehar made the observations when the royal family’s lawyer and senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal said there was a tantri’s report that Kallara B should not be opened as it concerned a matter of belief.

Mr. Subramanium informed the court that an expert committee had already completed the inventories of the other vaults in temple, but is unable to end the exercise due to its lack of access to the B vault.

However, Mr. Subramanium said former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai, who was appointed by the Supreme Court to audit the temple finances and records, had submitted a report in which it was pointed out that temple records showed that this very vault had been opened nine times in the past.

The court, however, refused to order a separate investigation in the case of eight missing diamonds used as part of Lord Padmanabhaswamy’s tilakam, saying that there was already an FIR registered in the case.

The court said foolproof measures should be taken by the 200-strong contingent of police at the temple and no such incidents of theft should ever occur.


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