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SC appoints retired Kerala HC judge for making inventory of ornaments at Sabarimala temple

SC appoints retired Kerala HC judge for making inventory of ornaments at Sabarimala temple

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday appointed retired Kerala High Court judge C N Ramachandaran Nair to prepare an inventory and valuation report of ornaments of Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala temple that are claimed by different sects of the Pandalam Royal family.

The top court said he can take assistance of a jeweller for valuation of the sacred ornaments and should file its report in sealed cover. A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Ajay Rastogi and V Ramasubramanian said, "We are only worried about the safety and security of the sacred ornaments".

The top court also requested Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Kerala government, to use his "good office" in finding an amicable resolution to ongoing dispute between warring faction of the royal family. It also asked Venugopal to make submission on next date of hearing of the matter about the safety and security of the ornaments.

It granted four more weeks to the state government to prepare a draft legislation regarding the administration of the historic Sabarimala temple.

At the outset, Venugopal said that similar issue arose in the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, where the apex court had constituted a committee to assess the jewellery after an inventory was prepared.

"The government first needs to have the list of ornaments of Lord Ayyappa, which are kept in custody of Pandalam Raja. At present the list we have is very general in nature, which does not say how much carat gold is there or diamond is of how much carat. We also need to have a jeweller to do the inventory with each and every specification," Venugopal said.

The bench said the problem is the parties do not agree that the ornaments belong to Lord Ayyappa and they claim that they belongs to the royal family.

The Attorney General responded, "This is what precisely happened in Padmanabhaswamy Temple case as there was dispute over the ownership of jewellery. No individual can claim that the jewellery is not of the deity". Venugopal submitted to the court a list of ornaments that was available with the government.

The bench after perusing the list expressed surprise and said, "Are there only 16 ornaments with the lord Ayyappa, as per the list. There is so much donation given at Sabarimala temple and there are only 16 ornaments with Lord Ayyappa".

Venugopal urged the court to direct the royal family to submit the full list of inventory and allow a jeweller to assess the ornaments for its valuation.

Senior advocate K Radhakrishnan, appearing for the royal family, objected to the submission of Venugopal and said that "this is an attempt by the state government to take indirect control of the jewellery". The bench told Radhakrishnan that it was the fighting between the parties which brought the situation to this level. Radhakrishnan replied that there is a dispute between the family and it can be sorted out but state cannot be allowed to take control of the jewellery which the property of the royal family.

Venugopal said that there can be a trust which can keep the custody of the ornaments and wondered as to why was royal family resisting the valuation of ornaments and preparation of inventory. The bench said, "Why are you resisting the preparation of inventory. A valuer would go there and make a inventory without taking out the jewellery from the Pandalam palace. This jewellery cannot be used for any other purpose except for adorning of Lord Ayyappa".

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