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Monetisation of temple jewellery in Tamil Nadu: Petition filed in Madras HC against DMK govt’s move

T S Venkatesan

T S VenkatesanOct 15, 2021, 02:16 PM IST

Monetisation of temple jewellery in Tamil Nadu: Petition filed in Madras HC against DMK govt’s move

 

With the filing of a petition in Madras High Court ( being heard) seeking to quash the GO and circular on implementation of Gold Monetization Scheme of Tamil Nadu Temple jewellery, a mother of fraud in nature is stopped on the right track, as we hope.  

The temple properties both moveable, immovable, antique jewellery, rare and invaluable idols were the targets of politicians, international idol smuggling mafia and some corrupt HR and CE officials. Lakhs of acres of temple lands were grabbed, alienated and given to other religious people. Idols were being stolen and smuggled for a hefty sum. Rare and antique value ancient temple jewellery was, reportedly, replaced with duplicate ones. There is a strong cry to retrieve the temples from the government control and leave it to function independently like Waqf board and Christian churches. But both the DMK and AIADMK are not in favour of it for reasons better known to them. A piece of Vadapalani temple land was given free of cost to the Muslims to make the public path to their illegal mosque. 

Ever since the DMK came to power, from day one, its actions are aimed at robbing temples of their vast properties, its income,  jewels and interfering in its daily Agma based rituals.  It first announced women would be appointed in temples as archakars. The next bomb was the appointment of non-Brahmins, improperly trained people as Archakars in agama based temples which is a clear violation of SC orders. Temple lands were acquired for public interest purposes like building collectorates, bus stands etc. Thanks to the court’s intervention they are saved.  Income from offertory collections ( Undiyal) and other incomes from Hindu Temples are being used for purposes other than they are intended for. Despite strong opposition from the public and devotees, the DMK led M K Stalin government is bent on implementing the scheme of melting temple jewellery into gold bars to be kept in bank vaults.  According to HR and CE Minister P Sekar Babu, there are about 38,000 temples that have 2,000 kg of gold worth Rs.10,000 crore. 

TN government has proposed to melt 2,137 kg of gold jewellery at the government mint in Mumbai into bullion, which would then be deposited at nationalized banks.  Mind you Bharat's gold  (pure) reserve with RBI is  703.71 tones. If the jewellery in hand and melted one are to be accounted for properly, TN temples are richer. But the irony they are in dilapidated conditions and many temples even do not have funds for one-day pujas. Temple staff are not paid regularly and there is a huge outstanding  

The gem stones in the gold ornaments would be removed before sending to the government refinery in Mumbai where it will be melted and made into gold biscuits.  This will be deposited in banks to raise funds for welfare schemes. 

Opposing this move, M Saravanan and Gopalakrishnan filed a petition seeking to quash the September 9 GO and a circular dated September 22.  He said deprivation of precious temple property is in violation of the constitutional right to property under Article 300-A of the Constitution.   He said the same pieces of jewellery are going to be melted by a so-called secular state. After melting it can’t be identified from which it temple it came and how the proceeds are going to be divided.  It is well laid in law that Deities are the owners and for whom people had donated. When these jewellery and ornaments belong to temples, the state has no authority…. To touch it”  His counsel argued that the devotees had no clue on the jewellery of the temple as no register was properly maintained by the HR and CE dept, though the court had issued an earlier order regarding the same. Rule 11 of jewel Rule say the trustee is the only person who can decide on repairing or altering of the same and Rule 13 provides power to the trustee to melt jewels” Now in the absence of appointment of trustees how can the government decide on melting the same?   

Government counsel said the  “ about 500 kg of gold has been melted into bars so far, and deposited at banks. This has earned Rs. 11 crore through interest. It was being practiced during the past 44 years and why some now creating furor over its”.   A division of Madras HC court comprising judges R Mahadevan and  Abdul Quddhose has adjourned the matter. 

TN government on 13th October told the Madras HC that the practice of melting temple gold jewellery was not new and that it has been in vogue since 1977. So they are looting for the  44 years.  The court was informed that so far 5 lakh kg of jewellery had been melted and deposited in banks. 

While the matter is being heard by a top court, Chief Minister M K Stalin virtually launched preliminary works to melt gold ornaments in temples under HR and CE and convert them into gold two days ago. He launched the work at the Karumariamman temple in Tiruverkaadu, Maraiamman temple in Samayapuram and Mariamman temple in Irukkankudi. These are famous temples.  Earlier the government had appointed retired SC judge justice D Raju and two High Court judges, justices K Ravichandrababu and R Mala. Do devotees ask what was the urgency in these while the scheme lacks transparency?  Another devotee says after melting, they may not give the correct weight of melted jewels and what will they do with the precious, rare stones including Diamond and others?  What will be the wastage percentage? On what basis the proceeds would be shared in what proportion. 

The submission was made during the hearing of the two petitions filed against the practice. The judge asked the petitioners to file additional affidavits, if necessary, by 21 of this month.

TN HR and CE Minister Sekkar Babu has threatened to take legal action against protestors objecting to the government’s move to melt temple gold ornaments. To this TR Ramesh, president of Temple Worshippers Society said in a tweet “  it was an open threats that fight the HR and CE dept misfits.  What else can you expect from @arivalayam # DMK. Govt that brazenly takes illegal and unethical steps to melt temple jewels and Gold? @Swamy39”.
 

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