Latest Judgements

Dated : July 13, 2020

Padmanabha swamy temple Kerala -Supreme Court rules in favour of Ruler of Travancore


The Apex court today (13th July, 2020) in the case of SRI MARTHANDA VARMA (D) THR. LRs. & ANR. ...Appellants VERSUS STATE OF KERALA & ORS was dealing with a question Ruler of Travancore’s claim to ownership, control and management of the ancient and great Temple in Kerala namely, the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple located in Trivandrum is valid or not which was ruled by Kerala High court in favour of the State Government. The Temple is claimed to have treasures of more than Rs 1 lac crore and the central issue that was germane was that the Temple is a public temple and no claim was made by the Petitioner or anyone to owning the Temple or its treasures and that what was being sought was only the right as a trustee of the Temple to manage and administer it. The court noted that Leaving aside the issue of ownership as such status is not claimed by the appellant No.1 or any of the family members who have intervened, the fact remains that it is well accepted that the management of the Temple had all along been in the hands of the ruling family or the Travancore Palace. As stated by the State, that has been the traditional and customary belief. Such management has spanned, not for few years or decades, but dates back to centuries. The court dealt with catena of judicial decisions including the issue regarding shebaitship, distinction between private and public temples by observing that a place in order to be a temple, must be a place for public religious worship used as such place and must be either dedicated to the community at large or any section thereof as a place of public religious worship. The distinction between a private temple and public temple is now well settled. In the case of former the beneficiaries are specific individuals; in the latter they are indeterminate or fluctuating general public or a class thereof. Finally the court dealt with the issue of Escheat by negativing the same and ordered that the managership of the temple will continue with the Ruler family of Travancore and at the same lead down various measures including setting up of a museum to display vast treasurers belonging to the temple and audit of 25 years accounts by a chartered accountants and All the income accruing to the Temple, as well as the offerings made by the worshippers, shall be expended in the following manner:

(i) To improve the facilities for the worshippers; and

(ii) For such religious and charitable purposes as the Advisory Committee may deem appropriate; and

(iii) In investments that will fetch reasonable returns and ensure that the properties of the Temple are completely safe and secure.

This is a classic judgement which will be relevant where state tries to take over Hindu temples. Moreover this judgement will also be eye opener for those temples who are running the temples as their private property while collecting funds and offerings from the public at large.


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