New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ordered an audit on the financial dealings spanning the last 25 years of the Padmanabha Swamy Temple and its Trust in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram, rejecting a plea by the trust to evade the audit ordered by the top court last year.
The three-member bench comprised of Justice U Lalit, Justice SR Bhat and Justice Bela M Trivedi also directed that the audit of income and expenses of the Trust and the Temple should take place in three months.
Seeking an exemption from the audit, the former Travancore royal family created Trust argued that it has no role in the administration of the Temple but is involved only in daily pujas and rituals, distinct from the Temple, hence it should be exempted from the audit ordered for the Temple.
The Temple's administrative committee is being headed by a district judge. The administrative committee said that the Temple is under financial stress for the donations and on-site offerings by devotees have dwindled significantly due to the COVID and it needs financial contribution from the Trust.
The court had been told the temple was "hardly getting ₹ 60-70 lakh (as against ₹ 1.25 crore in monthly expenses)" and needed financial contributions from the trust. The administrative committee also claimed the trust had ₹ 2.8 crores in cash and assets worth nearly ₹ 1.9 crores.
The SC said that the entire financial transactions, including the Temple's assets with the Trust, should be subjected to the audit.
Last year legal heirs of the former ruler of Travancore challenged a Kerala High Court judgment that said the family had no rights over the temple. The Supreme Court recognised 'shebait' rights, or rights of individuals who serve the deity, but handed administration to the committee headed by a Thiruvananthapuram district judge.