The observation from the apex court came after it noted the dispute between two factions in the Pandalam royal family, which is the custodian of the sacred ornaments of Sabarimala temple.
A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana and comprising Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari asked senior advocate Jaideep Gupta, representing the Kerala government, to come up with suggestions to safeguard the ornaments and scheduled the matter for further hearing on February 7.
The court said that the jewellery does not belong to the erstwhile royal family but Lord Ayyappa, and it may appoint a responsible person for its safe custody.
The court observed that there is a dispute between the family members, and as a result “why we should not allow the ornaments to be kept in the safe custody of a responsible person”.
The Kerala government counsel contended that the state could take a decision in the matter.
Raja Raja Varma, a member of the former royal family, moved an application for impleadment in the pending matter and sought directions to access the jewellery, kept in custody of the secretary of ‘Pandalam Kottara Nirvahaka Sangham’, to the family’s senior members. He contended that high-ranking officials of the association may misappropriate the sacred jewels.
Senior advocate K Radhakrishnan, representing Varma, said that the temple ornaments have been in the hands of the Pandalam royal family, inside the Palace, and they are brought out once a year for Lord Ayyappa.
The court queried: “Why should it allow the ornaments to remain in private custody, and also who has the keys to the strong room where ornaments are kept.”
To this, Radhakrishnan replied that the association is responsible for the same but its members – president, treasurer and secretary “come from a different branch of the royal family”. Therefore, he contended, Varma had apprehensions of misappropriation.
The bench asked the Kerala government to examine the possibility of any mischief in this scenario and report back to the court. The state has asked for more time to frame a separate law for the administration of the temple.