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Guruvayur Devaswom 5 Cr Case to Larger Bench

KOCHI/THRISSUR: The Kerala High Court on Friday admitted a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the president of Democratic Social Justice Party (DSJP), KSR Menon, challenging the action of the Guruvayoor Devaswom Board Chairman TB Mohandas giving away Rs 5 crore to Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. The arbitrary move had triggered widespread outrage among Hindu organisations and temple devotees.

According to a Press release, the court clubbed the PIL with similar petitions and referred the matter to the bench of the Chief Justice. The Devaswom Board promised that it won’t make any further donations. However, the court said it will look into previous judgments to see whether the donation was in order. If found otherwise, the donation should be returned to the temple, the court said. “The court said it is a very serious issue,” said Menon.

The petition filed by Dr Mathew A Kuzhalnadan, KMNP Law, on behalf of the petitioner said that the donation was made in violation of the provisions contained in the Guruvayur Devaswom Board Act -1978 and hence illegal.

The petition said the act of Mohandas constituted a breach of his fiduciary duty towards the devotees of the temple and the Managing Committee was not authorized to spend money in contravention of the budgetary allocation. Therefore, the same act is liable to be struck down on account of being arbitrary and without any authority, the petition added.  

At a time when the LDF government faces strong criticism over the misuse of flood relief fund, the Guruvayur Devaswom’s contribution of Rs 5 crore to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund sparked a fresh controversy on Tuesday. Handing over the fund to District Collector S Shanavas here, Guruvayur Devaswom chairman KB Mohandas said that the contribution to the fund was a part of the devaswom’s social responsibility and there was nothing unlawful about it.  “Guruvayur Devaswom had also donated a fund to CMDRF after the flood and it was given after obtaining the permission of the Devaswom Commissioner,” he said. The devaswom used the interest amount received from the fixed deposits from the banks.

Addressing the concerns over the source of income to pay the salaries of devaswom staff since the temple lacked a proper income during lockdown, Mohandas assured that the devaswom was financially secure and interest amount for fixed deposits would be more than enough to pay the salaries.  Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson B Gopalakrishnan said that the contribution to CMDRF from devaswom income was not legal. 

“As per section 27 of the Guruvayur Devaswom Act, the main deity, Sree Krishna, is a minor and the owner of all property and income. It is well written by law that this income and properties should only be used for temple purposes. Moreover, there already exists a case in the High Court challenging Guruvayur Devaswom’s contribution to CMDRF after the 2018 flood,” he said. 

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