Home / India / Padmanabhaswamy Temple: Ruling by Justices Indu Malhotra and UU Lalit explained in public

'Communist govts want to take over because of revenue'

Padmanabhaswamy Temple: Ruling by Justices Indu Malhotra and UU Lalit explained in public

In a video, a person resembling the ex-judge seems to be alluding to the case in which an SC bench upheld rights of erstwhile Travancore royal family to manage the shrine
A person resembling Indu Malhotra is seen in footage that appears to have been shot outside the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
A person resembling Indu Malhotra is seen in footage that appears to have been shot outside the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
The Telegraph

K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 30.08.22, 02:22 AM

Standing near a temple that is considered the world’s richest, a person resembling a retired judge of the Supreme Court has said that she and Justice U.U. Lalit, the new Chief Justice of India, had disallowed the communist government in Kerala from taking over the shrine.

In a video clip that appears to have been shot outside the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the person resembling Justice Indu Malhotra can be heard telling a group of people: “That’s what happens with these communist governments. They want to just take over because of the revenue. Their problem is the revenue. All over they have taken over, all over. Only Hindu temples. So Justice Lalit and I said, ‘no, we will not allow it’.”

She seemed to be alluding to the case in 2020 in which a bench of the Supreme Court upheld the rights of the erstwhile Travancore royal family to manage the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The bench was made up of Justice Malhotra and Justice U.U. Lalit.

The judgment followed a nine-year legal battle over whether the erstwhile royal family or the Kerala government had the right to manage the temple, considered the richest with gold and diamond jewellery valued at an estimated Rs 1 lakh crore in its possession.

Justice Malhotra was in the southern city to take part in the valedictory function of the platinum jubilee of the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College and she had visited the temple on Sunday.

It is uncommon for retired judges to speak about their judgments in such a setting in a public space and make comments that lay stress on religion.

From the clip, it looks like a group approached her and thanked her for the verdict. “We are so proud of you… you have done such a wonderful job,” someone is heard saying, to which the retired judge responded.

The Telegraph tried to contact Justice Malhotra to verify if the video clip is authentic and, if so, why she made such a statement. There was no response till Monday night.

Justice Malhotra was the lone dissenting voice in the September 2018 Supreme Court judgment that allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala where women of childbearing age were not allowed entry. The then Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, Justices R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud constituted the majority in that judgment. A batch of review petitions is now pending in the Supreme Court.

Her allegation is in tandem with that of the BJP that has for long been accusing successive state governments led by the Congress and the CPM of controlling Hindu temples for their wealth.

But the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala has been insisting that it does not touch temple coffers and instead funds them during difficult times like the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Monday, Hindutva proponents sought to leverage the video clip to strengthen their long-standing allegations against the successive state governments milking Hindu temples. Left leaders denied the allegation and at least one social media user expressed concern about the view expressed by a retired judge of the apex court.

Senior CPM leader and former finance minister Thomas Isaac tweeted: “Justice Indu Malhotra is ignorant of public finance of Kerala government, and worse, deeply prejudiced against communists. Not a paise of temple revenues enters budget receipts, while hundreds of crores are spent for facilities for devotees and to support temple administration.”

During an online address to mark the 73rd anniversary of Cochin Devaswom Board earlier this month, chief minister and CPM veteran Pinarayi Vijayan had said the previous LDF government headed by him had provided Rs 1,720 crore for the expansion of Hindu temples across the state.

When temple revenues shrank because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the state government allotted Rs 273 crore to the temples under various governing boards, he added.

The Travancore Devaswom Board that governs temples in the southern districts, including the Sabarimala shrine, Cochin Devaswom Board, Malabar Devaswom Board and Guruvayur Devaswom Board, are the main governing bodies of Hindu temples in the state.

The retired judge’s remarks drew attention on social media.  “If this is the view held by retd Justice Indu Malhotra, it is of great concern,” tweeted a social media user named Charmy Harikrishnan.

Rahul Easwar, who appears on news channels to comment on a myriad of issues and who has been advocating a pro-tradition stand on the Sabarimala issue, expressed his support for the retired judge. “Only 1 Great Woman Judge had the courage to stand for #Dharma Ethics & Truth in #Sabarimala case vs 4 male Judges,” he tweeted.

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