SC allows audit of Tempe Trust

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an application filed by Shree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust, created by the erstwhile Travancore Royal Family, to exempt it from the audit of 25 years as ordered by the top court last year for the Shree Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram.

New Delhi [India], September 22 : A Bench headed by Justice UU Lalit allowed the audit of the trust and said it should be completed preferably within three months. The top court said its order of last year to allow audit was not only confined to the temple but also to the trust.
The Bench, however, refrained from passing orders on the temple trust’s plea to declare it an “independent and distinct entity” from the temple. The Trust wanted to be outside the administrative control of the temple administrative and advisory committees formed under the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Endowments Act of 1950.
“We have rejected the first prayer. It is clear that the audit was not intended to be confined to the temple only but also the trust. We refrain from entering issues pertaining to the second prayer,” the bench said in its order.
The Trust was created by the erstwhile Travancore Royal Family which manages the affairs of iconic Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple, the richest temple in the world.
Last year the apex court ordered that the income and expenditure records of the past 25 years of both Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple and Trust must be audited by a trustworthy institution. Following the top court’s direction private Chartered Accountancy firm engaged in the audit has asked the Trust to submit the income and expenditure records.
The top court had also upheld the right of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore to manage the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram with its immense riches. With this, the apex court had decided the nine-year legal battle over whether the erstwhile royal family of the State of Kerala had the right to administer and manage the ancient temple after the death of the last Maharajah of the princely state.
The top court had also 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 temple.
Now, the Trust has approached the top court against the audit and contended that the Trust was constituted only to oversee the pujas and rituals of the historic temple involving the family, with no role in the administration.
The Trust came into the picture only before the Supreme Court after the amicus curiae demanded that the accounts of the trust should also be audited, senior advocate Arvind P Datar appearing for the Trust argued in the apex court while asking to not allow the audit. (ANI)
Senior advocate R Basant, appearing for the Administrative Committee constituted by the Court for the temple, said that the accounts of the Trust also need to be audited.
“The temple today is in great financial stress. Trust has to meet the day-to-day expenses of the temple. They are trying to evade the responsibility,” Basant said.
“Rs 1.25 crore is the monthly expense we are able to hardly get 60-70 lakh rupees, therefore, we have sought certain directions,” Basant has added.
Advocate Datar later clarified that the Trust is not objecting to the audit and was seeking a clarification that it should not be placed under the Administrative Committee.

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