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SC appoints Gopal Subramanium as amicus curiae in Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple row

New Delhi, Aug 23 - The Supreme Court today appointed senior counsel and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium as amicus curiae to assist it in the case relating to Kerala's famed Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple, which had been taken over by the state on the high court's order.

A bench of justices R M Lodha and A K Patnaik appointed Subramanium as amicus after obtaining consents of the state government and Marthanda Verma's royal family, represented by senior counsel K K Venugopal.

The apex court expressed displeasure at the state government's decision to strip the Temple Executive Officer Hari Kumar of his powers and right to enter the temple's security area on security consideration.

"Your home ministry report says he is a man of serious antecedents. It is not fair on your part. If they had any problem, they should have made an application to us," the bench told the state's counsel.

The apex court said as the issue relating to the temple management was being dealt by it, the state could not have taken any unilateral decision on the matter. It posted the matter for further hearing on September 19.

The bench had directed the state and the temple management on September 22, 2011 to take all necessary steps for ensuring adequate security for the huge assets of the temple, which media reports had estimated to be worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore.

The apex court is also examining some suggestions put forth by the overseeing committee formed by it to strengthen the security apparatus in and around the temple.

The committee, among other things, had suggested building security vaults on the lines of those of the Reserve Bank of India, immediate release of funds by the state government for taking up the security measures and hiring an international agency with sufficient expertise to ensure foolproof measures with particular emphasis on maintaining the traditions, culture and confidentiality of the assets.

The court had on July 21 last year appointed a five-member expert committee to supervise the unearthing and preservation of assets of the Thiruvananthapuram temple and also a three-member committee to oversee the work of unearthing of the temple's assets.

The overseeing committee comprises retired Kerala High Court judge M N Krishnan, erstwhile Prince of Travancore Marthanda Varma and a government representative of the rank of secretary.

The court had directed that the management of the temple would provide an amount of Rs 25 lakh a year for preservation of assets and security of the temple and the rest of the amount needed would be borne by the state government.

The apex court had passed the orders on an application filed by Marthanda Varma and his family members challenging a Kerala High Court ruling of January 31 last year, ordering a takeover of the assets and management of the shrine by the state. PTI

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