Sri Marthanda Varma (D) Th. Lr. . vs The State Of Kerala State Of Kerala … on 22 September, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Sri Marthanda Varma (D) Th. Lr. . vs The State Of Kerala State Of Kerala … on 22 September, 2021

Author: Uday Umesh Lalit

Bench: Uday Umesh Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat, Hon’Ble Ms. Trivedi

                                                                                                  1

                                                                                      REPORTABLE

                                       IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                          MISCELLANEOUS APPLICATION NOS.2280-2281 OF 2020
                                                IN
                               CIVIL APPEAL NOS.2732 AND 2733 OF 2020
                                               AND
                            MISCELLANEOUS APPLICATION NO.1465 OF 2021
                                                IN
                                    CIVIL APPEAL NO.2732 OF 2020

             SRI MARTHANDA VARMA (D)
             TH. LRS. & ORS.                                                          APPLICANT(S)/
                                                                                    ..APPELLANT(S)

                                                           VERSUS

             STATE OF KERALA & ORS.                                               ..RESPONDENT(S)

                                                     O R D E R

1. In Miscellaneous Application Nos.2280-2281 of 2020, two reports each of

the Administrative and Advisory Committees of Sree Padmanabha Swamy

Temple dated 10.12.2020 and 31.8.2021 have been filed.

A) The Administrative Committee Report dated 10.12.2020 has stated:-

“I may report that presently, the Temple is facing
financial crisis, resulting from the outbreak of COVID-19
pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. In compliance with the
guidelines / health advisories of the Central and the State
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by Dr.
Governments, the entry of devotees to the Temple was
Mukesh Nasa
Date: 2021.09.22
15:59:29 IST
prohibited during the period from 24.03.2020 to 25.08.2020.

Reason:

Anyhow, without any hindrance, the routine rituals and poojas
were performed during the said period. There had been no flow
of income to the Temple during the period of lockdown, but, had
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to spend huge amounts for meeting the expenditure for
performing routine rituals, salary, wages, pension, family
pension etc. and other recurring expenses. The amounts accrued
till the declaration of lockdown have almost been drained out.
From 26.08.2020, the entry of devotees was resumed with
restrictions observing COVID protocol. However, as a result of
the situation prevailing, the income of the temple is meagre
which is not even enough to meet the expenditure towards
salary, wages, pension, family pension and other routine
expenses. Considering the financial position of the Temple, in
the joint meeting held on 11.10.2020, it was resolved to address
the Government to grant time to return the amounts expended
by the State Government.

The directions contained in Para 116 (e) can be complied
with only when the situation attains normalcy.

Special Audit

In Paragraph 116 (g) of the Judgment it was directed that
the Committees:-

“(g) Shall order audit for the last 25 years as
suggested by the learned Amicus Curiae. The audit shall
be conducted by a firm of reputed Chartered
Accountants. The Advisory Committee shall also
consider what further steps need to be taken for the
preservation of the Temple properties, both movable and
immovable.”

After deliberations in the Joint Meeting, as per the
resolution dated 27.10.2020, M/s Sridhar & Co. Chartered
Accountants, Thiruvananthapuram, has been appointed as the
Auditor to conduct special audit in respect of Sree Padmanabha
Swamy Temple, Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust and
other allied Trusts, for a period of 25 years, as suggested by the
learned Amicus Curiae in his report dated 15.04.2014, from the
financial year 1989-90 to 2013-14.”

B) In Administrative Committee Report dated 31.08.2021, it has been stated :

“3. The Special Audit for 25 years as directed by the Hon’ble
Supreme Court has commenced in respect of the accounts of
the Temple. As per Paragraph 116(g) of the judgement, the
Hon’ble Supreme Court has directed to conduct ‘audit for 25
3

years as suggested by the learned Amicus Curiae’. Whereas,
the learned Amicus Curiae has suggested (in Paragraph 65 of
his report dated 15.4.2014) for the audit of Sree Padmanabha
Swamy Temple Trust and allied trusts, along with the audit of
the Temple. Thus, the auditor was entrusted to conduct special
audit of the accounts of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple
Trust and allied Trusts, as well for a period of 25 years. But the
Auditor has now informed that though he has served a letter,
the said Trust has not provided the accounts of the Trust to the
Audit team, so far. In this circumstance, I may report the
following facts.

4. The objects of the Trust, as per its Registered Deed
No.66/1965 dated 12.08.1965 are as follows:

(1) Routine and major items of repairs in and to the
Temple, including the compound walls.

(2) Routine and major item of repairs to Vahanam,
ornaments and pooja vessels used in the Temple.

(3) Payment of Vilavasi in respect of articles which
used to be paid for by the former Government of
Travancore State and the cost in respect of articles
whose source of supply is specified as Palace
Panivagai, Kandukrishy and Nithyachilavu in the
pathivoos.

(4) Annual repairs to vessels other than pooja vessels
used in the Temple.

(5) Manufacture or purchase and supply of new vessels
for use in the Temple.

(6) Performance of Bhagyasooktha japom and viseshal
nei japom in the temple.

(7) Performance of Chathayam Thiruveli and cost of
other miscellaneous items of expenses.

(8) Performance of Ganapathy homam in the Temple.
Performance of Paradesa paksha japam for 41 days in
July/August in each year in the Temple.

(9) Performance as hitherto fore of Murajapom and
Lakshadeepam in the Temple once in six years, the first
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of which is to be performed under this instrument in the
year 1971.

(10) Such capital items of work as may be necessary
from time to time to and in the Temple including the
compound walls.

5. Thereafter, few more objects were also added by
executing a supplemental indenture of Trust on 10-01-1970.

i. Payment of Dakshina to Tharanalloor
Namboothiripad in connection with Bhadradeepom
ceremonies in Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple.

ii. (a) Supplying Devan kadalipazham in Sree
Padmanabha Swamy Temple on Ekadasi days.

(b) Supplying milk for Abhishekam daily in Sree
Padmanabha Swamy Temple.

iii. Performance of Paradesa Paksha Sahasranama
Japom for ten days during utsavam festival;

iv. Expenditure on salary of the Executive Officer and
staff.

6. From these objects of the said Trust, it is evident that the
Trust was created only for the benefit of the Temple and the
Temple is its sole beneficiary. The founder of the Trust
Sri.Rama Varma Maharaja of Travancore had transferred to
this Trust various items of landed properties which are
surrounding the Temple, and the transfer was made solely for
the benefit of the Temple. As per the Trust deed, the income
from the Trust has to be used only for the said objects viz., the
benefit of the Temple. The present trustees of the said Trust
are members of the erstwhile Travancore royal family and
persons connected to them.

7. In view of the above facts, the learned Amicus Curiae has
opined in his report (page 375, Volume I, April 2014) that the
utilisation of income of the Trust for the Temple has not been
adequately established and thus he recommended for auditing
the accounts of the Trust, during the special audit.

*** *** ***
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10. I may most humbly report that, despite the earnest
efforts of the Temple to improve its income and to cut short its
expenditure even by drastically reducing the daily wage
employment, it is not able to fill the income and expenditure
gap. So far, the crisis is managed by utilizing the funds
available in various Fixed Deposits and Savings Bank
accounts, but the said amount will completely be depleted, if
the Temple pays of the salary of the next two months and the
amount due towards gratuity and other debts. It is submitted
that the Temple is facing an unprecedented crisis, which can
only be tide over with the aid of the Trust and the
Government.”

2. Miscellaneous Application No.1465 of 2021 has been filed by Sree

Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust (‘SPSTT’, for short). In the application, it is

asserted :

“2. The Applicant Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust
is an independent Trust created in the year 1965 (“SPSTT”) by
the then “Ruler of Travancore” Sree Chithira Thirunal Bala
Rama Varma for the perpetual continuation of the devotional
offerings to the Temple, other specified religious rites and
certain functions integral to his family traditions, which earlier
were done by the erstwhile royal family. The Temple and
SPSTT, it is submitted, are two separate and distinct entities.
The primary source of income of SPSTT is the rentals from
some buildings, which are in its ownership and the same is
spent towards maintenance and upkeep of the said buildings,
minor administrative expenses, the offerings for the Temple and
in accordance with its objects. Most of the buildings owned by
the Applicant are old and has great historical importance.

*** *** ***

5. In 1965, the Applicant herein was created by Sri Chithira
Thirunal Bala Rama Varma, the erstwhile Ruler of State of
Travancore by an indenture of settlement dated 25.06.1965 for
the purpose of carry out specific rituals/ functions which were
continued by him in the Temple after the loss of State. The
initial corpus was Four percent Madras State Development
Loan, 1971 of the face value of Rs.10,000/-, transferred by the
Founder. Subsequently, the Ruler kept adding some of his
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private immovable properties and buildings to SPSTT. SPSTT
was created to, among others, ensure that the special offerings
and functions to the Temple, done as a part of the erstwhile
royal family’s devotion, could be conducted smoothly and
without any departure from the age old customs and traditions.
The objectives, however, also included the family ritual of
Chathayam Thiruveli, which is conducted to commemorate the
anniversary of the eldest nephew of the Founding Trustee, who
passed away at the age of 6 years.

9. It is submitted that SPSTT was not formed with an object
of making payments in cash for the day-to-day management of
the Temple. As stated above, SPSTT was formed to ensure the
continuance of the offerings to the Temple made by the
erstwhile royal family. At the cost of repetition, it is
respectfully submitted that the object of SPSTT was not to run
the Temple but to provide some financial assistance for certain
poojas and vazhipadoos, in line with its objects. This is evident
from the fact that the payment made to the Temple by SPSTT
was fixed, taking into account its limited resources, and did not
cover the entire expenses incurred towards performance of a
Pooja or offering. Further, the income of SPSTT crippled over
time on its account of buildings being transferred by the
Trustees based on the requirements of the Temple. For instance,
more than two buildings were transferred to house the security
of the Temple. These transfers left the Temple with very
limited revenue earning properties. Needless to state, the
expenses of the Temple kept increasing over time.”

2.1 The report of the learned Amicus Curiae is dealt with as under:-

“14. The Ld. Amicus Curiae in its report dated 15.04.2014
made several recommendations including conduct of a special
audit of the Temple. In particular, the report recommended
that:

“65. It is submitted that a special audit needs to be
conducted by Shri Vinod Rai, former Comptroller and
Auditor General of India. It is further submitted that a
team of auditors appointed by him shall undertake
complete audit in respect of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy
Temple for the last 25 years. It is also submitted that he
be empowered to take into his custody and seal all the
documents of the Trust properties forthwith. The said
audit must not only cover the Sree Padmanabhaswamy
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Temple, but also the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple
Trust and other allied trusts ……”

15. Pursuant to the said Report, this Hon’ble Court vide its
order dated 24.04.2014, inter alia, directed as under:

“A special audit of the Temple and its properties shall be
conducted as early as may be possible, preferably by
Shri Vinod Rai, former Comptroller and Auditor
General of India. He will be at liberty to take
services/assistance of any other person/persons in
completion of this task.”

It is submitted that though recommended by the Ld.

Amicus Curiae, this Hon’ble Court, had not directed the audit
of the Applicant or other Trusts. It is submitted that the
properties of the Applicant do not form a part of the properties
of the Temple. This fact was intimated by the Applicant to the
Special Audit authorities vide its letter dated 20.09.2014.”

*** *** ***

17. Thereafter, when the petition was listed on 05.05.2015,
this Hon’ble Court took note of the submissions of the Ld.
Counsel for the Applicant as under:-

“…. Mr. Arvind P. Datar, learned counsel appearing for
the Trust submits that although the special audit for the
period 01.04.2008 to 01.04.2014 has already been
conducted and a report submitted to this Court, the trust
would have no difficulty in co-operating with Mr. Rai in
undertaking scrutiny of the said audit report and in
conducting a fresh audit, if in his opinion doing so is
necessary. There could in that case be an audit for the
entire period commencing from 01.04.2008 to
01.04.2014. Mr. Datar further submits that Mr. Rai may
be requested to raise whatever queries are considered
relevant for completion of the audit so that the trust
answers the same suitably…

Further, this Hon’ble Court directed the copy of
the audit report filed on behalf of SPSTT (of M/s
Manohar Chowdhary) to Mr. Vinod Rai for his perusal
and evaluation and, further, directed that in case Mr. Rai
upon consideration of the audit already conducted, is one
of the opinion that a fresh/special audit needs to be
conducted for the period 01.04.2008 onwards, he shall
8

be free to undertake that exercise. SPSTT was also
directed to make available all such information and
record as may be necessary for completion of that
exercise. Further, it was observed that Mr. Rai will also
do well to raise any query that may be relevant for
completion of the audit to enable the trust to answer
them. With the above directions, it is submitted, the
recommendation made by the Ld. Amicus Curiae with
respect to the Applicant was considered and acted
upon.”

18. That this Hon’ble Court, on 09.10.2015, requested Mr.
Vinod Rai to complete the audit of SPSTT for the period
01.04.2009 to 01.04.2014 and to submit report. It is submitted
that pursuant to the above order, the Special Audit Authority
conducted detailed audit of the Applicant from June, 2015 and
submitted its report before this Hon’ble Court on 28.03.2016.
It is respectfully submitted that the said audit report does not
record any finding that:

(a) The properties of SPSTT are part of the properties
of the Temple;

(b) Funds have been transferred from the Temple to
SPSTT;

(c) The Trust is entrusted with the administration of the
Temple;

(d) There exists any agreement between the Trust and
the Temple on any matters relating to the rituals
and rites or any other functions in the Temple;

(e) The working of SPSTT is accountable to the
Temple administration; or that

(f) There exists a legally auditable relationship
between SPSTT and the Temple.”

2.2 Certain interim orders passed by this Court in Civil Appeal No.2732 of

2020 and the Report of the learned Amicus Curiae dated 15.04.2014 are referred

to as under:

“24. Additionally, the Applicant respectfully submits that the
decision of the Temple Committees to conduct audit of the
Applicant is misconceived in view of the following, among
others, reasons:

9

i. The Applicant is a distinct and separate entity from the
Temple. There are no findings to the contrary by this
Hon’ble Court or the High Court, as there was no
adjudication on this aspect;

ii. The administration of the Temple contemplated by
Chapter III of the TC Act has been handed over to the
Administrative Committee and Advisory Committee
pursuant to the judgment. The Applicant respectfully
submits that Committees are not empowered, under the
TC Act, to direct audit of the Applicant – a third party
which is independent and distinct from the Temple. Such
an action, it is submitted would be illegal, ultra vires the
TC Act and beyond the scope of the directions of this
Hon’ble Court.

iii. The reliance placed on Paragraph 116 of the judgment,
for the purpose of directing the audit of the Applicant, it
is respectfully submitted, is misdirected as the directions
contained therein pertain to the functions to be performed
by the Committees of the Temple, with respect to the
administration of the Temple, in the way forward. The
said directions cannot be interpreted to exercise control
over the Trusts created by the erstwhile Ruler, for the
purpose of performing different objects;

iv. A reading of clause (g) of Paragraph 116 of the judgment
makes it evident that the audit primarily deals with the
Temple and its properties, which is the subject matter of
the underlying litigation. In this regard, it may be seen
that none of the audit reports suggests that any property
or funds of the Temple has been transferred to the
Applicant or that it has played any role in the day to day
administration of the Temple;

v. The judgment, it is submitted did not specifically deal
with SPSTT. It is reiterated that this Hon’ble Court did
not have an opportunity to consider the relation of SPSTT
with the Temple or its functions, which necessitate a
direction to be passed to conduct audit of accounts of
SPSTT;

vi. The Applicant was subjected to a special audit pursuant
to the orders of this Hon’ble Court and it had also filed
detailed objections to the same, by way of an Affidavit.
Under the given circumstances, subjecting the Applicant
to another audit especially when it has always remained
as a stand-alone trust is highly unreasonable and
10

unjustified; and
vii. The suggestion for conduct of an audit of SPSTT was
vehemently opposed and the said aspect, it is respectfully
submitted, was dealt with by this Hon’ble Court in its
previous orders.”

2.3 In the premises, the application prays:

“(a) Allow the present Application and pass appropriate
directions to exclude Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust
from the audit of its accounts as per the directions given in
Paragraph 116(g) of the judgment dated 13.07.2020 in Civil
Appeal No.2732 of 2020, as the said Trust remains separate and
distinct from Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple;

(b) Pass an appropriate order holding that the Applicant Sree
Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust is an independent entity
distinct form Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple and does not
come under the administrative control of the Administrative
Committee and/ or Advisory Committee under the Travancore
Cochin Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1950.”

3. In this backdrop, the following observations made by this Court in its

judgment dated 13.07.2020 disposing of Civil Appeal No.2732 of 2020 and allied

matters must now be noted:-

“34. The Order dated 05.05.2015 passed by this Court noted the
submission of the learned Amicus Curiae that an audit be
conducted with regard to the account of Padmanabhaswamy
Temple Trust and its properties. It also noted the submission of
appellants that a special audit for the period had already been
conducted, but he would not have any objection in cooperating
with Mr. Rai. The Order, therefore, directed:-

“In the circumstances, therefore, we direct that a copy of
the audit report filed on behalf of the Padmanabhan
Swamy Trust in this court for the period 01.04.2008 shall
be forwarded to Mr. Rai for his perusal and evaluation.
We further direct that in case Mr. Rai upon consideration
of the audit already conducted is of the opinion that a
11

fresh/special audit needs to be conducted for the period
01.04.2008 onwards he shall be free to undertake that
exercise in which case the Trust shall make available all
such information and record as may be necessary for
completion of that exercise. Mr. Rai will also do well to
raise any query that may be relevant for completion of
the audit to enable the trust to answer them. We extend
the time for completion of the audit till 31.12.2015.

We permit the State Government to approach the
Expert Committee for scaling down the staff deployed
for inventorisation and archiving of antiques and
artifacts by KELTRON and Expert Committee who may
upon consideration of any such request issue appropriate
orders in that regard. Mr. Rai has in terms of
communication dated 1.04.2015 raised a demand for a
sum of Rs. 45,00,000/- representing the total fee
including expenses etc. for the period up to December,
2015. There is no objection by any one appearing for the
parties to the release of the said amount in favour of Mr.
Rai. We accordingly direct the Administrative
Committee to release the amount billed by Mr. Rai.

*** *** ***

36. In March 2016, Report about Special Audit of Sree
Padmanabhaswamy Temple, its properties and Sree
Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust was filed by Mr. Vinod Rai,
running into two volumes along with “Major Audit
Observations and Recommendations”.

The Administrative Committee appointed by this Court
resolved on 13.06.2017 as under:-

“the Committee is in the darkness on the financial
position of the temple. Quarterly budget proposals
should be prepared and communicated to the
Committee. Similarly, monthly accounts statement
should be placed before the Committee before 10th of
every succeeding month. The matter will be
communicated to the Executive Officer.”

The resolution was communicated to the Executive Officer.”

3.1 In keeping with the submissions made by the learned Amicus Curiae,
12

direction No.116(g) issued by this Court was as under:-

“…..

(g) Shall order audit for the last 25 years as suggested by the
learned Amicus Curiae. The audit shall be conducted by a firm
of reputed Chartered Accountants. The Advisory Committee
shall also consider what further steps need to be taken for the
preservation of the Temple properties, both movable and
immovable.”

4. Mr. R. Basant, learned Senior Advocate appearing for the Administrative

and Advisory Committees of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple has reiterated the

submissions made in the aforesaid reports. On the other hand, Mr. Arvind P.

Datar, learned Senior Advocate appearing for SPSTT has prayed that this Court

may pass appropriate orders declaring SPSTT to be an independent entity distinct

from Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.

5. In response to the Report of the learned Amicus Curiae dated 15.04.2014,

in its order dated 24.04.2014 this Court had initially directed that special audit of

the Temple and its properties be conducted by Shri Vinod Rai. Later, the order

dated 05.05.2015 recorded the submissions of Mr. Arvind P. Datar, learned Senior

Advocate appearing for SPSTT that the Trust would not have any difficulty in

cooperating with Mr. Rai in undertaking scrutiny of the Audit Reports and in

conducting a fresh audit.

6. If direction No.116(g) as stated above, is considered in the light of

developments leading to the passing of the Judgment dated 13.07.2020, it is quite
13

clear that the audit contemplated by said direction was not intended to be confined

to the Temple but was also with respect to SPSTT. This direction has to be seen

in the light of the report dated 15.04.2014 of the learned Amicus Curiae and the

submissions of Mr. Arvind P. Datar, learned Senior Advocate, as recorded in the

order dated 05.05.2015.

Thus, the first prayer made in Miscellaneous Application No.1465 of 2021

deserves to be rejected.

7. The second prayer made in said Miscellaneous Application will require

assessment of facts which analysis may appropriately be done by a Court or an

authority competent to go into that question after the special audit as directed in

direction No.116(g) and as explained hereinabove, is conducted. We, therefore,

refrain from going into issues pertaining to the second prayer.

8. Miscellaneous Application No.1465 of 2021 is, thus, disposed of in

aforesaid terms.

9. We now come to the reports filed by the Administrative and Advisory

Committees. Our answer with respect to the first prayer in Miscellaneous

Application No.1465 of 2021 will be sufficient to take care of the issue of special

audit dealt with in the resolution dated 27.10.2020. The urgency spelt out in the

report dated 31.08.2021, however, calls for immediate action. We, therefore,

direct that the special audit, as referred to hereinabove, with respect to Sree
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Padmanabhaswamy Temple and SPSTT be completed as early as possible and

preferably within three months from the date of this order.

10. As the order dated 05.05.2015 had recorded the statement of Mr. Arvind P.

Datar, learned Senior Advocate for SPSTT, we are certain that SPSTT will render

complete cooperation in the conduct of special audit.

………………………………J.

[UDAY UMESH LALIT]

………..……………………J.

[S. RAVINDRA BHAT]

………………………………J.

[BELA M. TRIVEDI]
New Delhi;

September 22, 2021.



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