17 kg gold stolen from India’s richest Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple vault
At least 17kg gold was pilfered from the vaults of the richest Hindu shrine of the country, Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, a legal expert has told the Supreme Court and requested it to disband the trust currently running the temple's affairs.
In his 575-page report, Amicus Curiae Gopal Subramaniam cited grave irregularities in the running of the temple and requested the apex court to order an audit of its wealth by former comptroller and auditor general of India Vinod Rai.
The SC is expected to examine the report on April 23.
The trust managing the temple is run by the erstwhile Travancore royal family.
Subramaniam said the temple goldsmith, Raju, has confessed to smuggling the stolen gold in a sand-laden truck to Tamil Nadu and later selling it to a jeweller in Thanjavore. Raju, however, denied making the statement.
The recovery of a gold plating machine on the premises of the temple should be viewed seriously, the report said.
Without naming the royals, the amicus curiae also recommended the removal of the special rights granted to certain people.
To contain further erosion of wealth, it recommended many steps, including the opening and inventorying of the 'B' cellar, which was hitherto untouched.
"Though the palace had resisted the opening of 'B' kallara (underground vault), eye-witness accounts say that a member of the palace and an executive officer opened 'B' some years ago," said the report that also criticised the state government for conniving with temple officials.
"There appears to be resistance on the part of the state apparatus in effectively addressing these issues," it said. When contacted, palace officials declined to comment.
The temple, situated at the heart of the city, shot to fame three and a half years ago when the apex court ordered inventorying of the temple wealth situated in six underground vaults coded "A to F."
Except B, all others vaults were opened and the wealth was estimated at around Rs 1 lakh crore.
Kerala opposition leader VS Achuthanandan the report has proved his charges, made a few years ago, that "royal family members used to smuggle gold in payasam (kheer) pots".