Odisha CM orders judicial probe into disappearance of Jagannath temple’s treasury keys
At a meeting of the Sri Jagannath Temple Managing Committee on April 4, it was recorded for the first time that the keys of the inner chambers of the treasury had gone missing.Updated: Jun 04, 2018 22:07 IST
Days after the keys to the treasury of the 12th century Jagannath temple went missing, triggering a public outrage, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday ordered a judicial probe into its disappearance.
“The inquiry will be conducted by a retired Orissa high court judge with a focus on the circumstances that led to the disappearance of the Ratna Bhandar (treasury) keys in next three months,” said the chief minister, after holding discussions with law minister Pratap Jena and chief administrator of Sri Jagannath Temple Administration PK Jena.
The disappearance of the keys to the treasury of the richest temple in Odisha came to light during a meeting of its management committee soon after the court-mandated inspection of the Ratna Bhandar on April 4 by a 16-member team.
Though the team inspected the outer chamber of the Ratna Bhandar and noted the cracks on its roof, it could not enter the inner chamber as the keys given to them by the temple administration did not match the locks.
As per norms, after every use the keys to the temple treasury are handed over to the district collector who then deposits them in the district treasury. However, as it now turns out, there is no record of any receipt of keys either in the government treasury or with the collector ever since the last inspection in the 1980s.
The disappearance became controversial after Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati of Govardhan Peeth on Sunday demanded a probe into the case.
Though the Ratna Bhandar was last inspected in 1984 when only three of its seven chambers were opened, no audit of the valuables was done.
Law minister Pratap Jena said in May 1978 an inventory of the valuables in the Ratna Bhandar was prepared, which revealed 12,831 ‘bhari’ of gold and 22,153 ‘bhari’ silver (one bhari equals 11.66 grams). However, 14 gold and silver items could not be weighed during the inventory making process for different reasons. Jena, however, said the government does not have any information about the value of the items in the temple treasury.
Following a public interest petition for proper repair and renovation of the temple, the Odisha high court on March 22 this year had ordered the inspection of the Ratna Bhandar. The court, which is monitoring the repair work by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in the temple, had ordered it to inspect the structural condition of the Ratna Bhandar and submit a status report.
Though law minister Jena expressed hope that the judicial inquiry would unearth the truth, a senior priest of the temple Binayak Das Mohapatra said he did not expect anything from the judicial inquiry. "The state government should first take disciplinary action against the person who was in-charge of the keys,” said Mohapatra.
The opposition Congress and BJP also slammed the state government over missing treasury keys. “The judicial probe order shows the casual approach of the government in the matter. It could have directed for a CBI or Crime Branch investigation,” said state Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik.
“The judicial inquiry is an eyewash. Forgery case should be registered against those who had kept the keys. Why was the CM silent since April 4 after the matter came to light,” said state BJP vice-president Samir Mohanty.