Kerala High Court has ordered the Pinarayi Vijayan government to return Rs 10cr which was transferred from the Guruvayur Devaswom Board to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Funds.
The order was passed after devotee N Nagesh along with other devotees and local BJP leaders, including Kerala BJP president K Surendran, approached the court stating the temple deity is the sole proprietor of the shrine’s fund and that the board has no right to distribute it for other causes.
Guruvayur Devaswom Board is among the four prominent devaswom boards in the state that have been delegated with the duty of managing the affairs and funds of 12 temples in Guruvayoor. It had earlier donated Rs 5cr to the Chief Minister’s Fund in 2018 when the worst flood of the century hit the state.
Again, in May 2020, the remaining Rs 5cr was transferred as Covid-19 relief fund by board chairman KB Mohandas to Thrissur district collector S Shanavas, stating the contribution was part of the temple’s social responsibility.
Many Hindu bodies questioned the move, with some even calling it illegal. However, the board rationalised its decision saying it had done the same earlier too.
The court in its order said “matters such as contributions towards disaster relief fund do not fall under the purview of the Devaswom Board. It can protect the temple wealth but has no right to pass it on to someone else”.
It stated trustees are only custodians of the board and rules do not permit such sort of contributions. However, it is to be noted that the channel or mannerism of the return of the funds is yet to be decided by the court.
Hindu Aikya Vedi as well as many other organisations lauded the verdict.
In the past, a similar incident was seen when the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of Tamil Nadu issued an order on April 22 for the state temples to transfer Rs 10cr to the Chief Minister’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.
The Edappadi Palaniswami government was forced to take back the order after Madras High Court found it “not legally tenable”.