A week after a batch of police officers belonging to the Idol Wing first approached the DGP, officials of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) have followed suit, registering their complaint against Idol Wing Special Officer Pon Manickavel.
On Thursday, as many as 10 senior officials of the HR&CE visited the DGPâ€™s office in Chennai, detailing the 'injustice' meted out to the Department by recently-appointed the Special Officer. The officials have also sought the appointment of an agency to enquire into the 'foisting of criminal cases against officials of the department'.
On November 30, the day of his superannuation, the Madras High Court granted former chief of the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu police a year-long extension, appointing him as Special Officer. Shortly thereafter on December 18, over two dozen officials of the Idol Wing, including the ADSP Elango, the second-in-command of the agency, have made serious allegations against the officer. Addressing an unprecedented press conference in the city over two days, the officers alleged that Pon Manickavel had interfered in their investigations, forcing them to foist cases on innocent persons, staged arrests and inflated the worth of recovered idols.
Thursdayâ€™s petition to the DGP, however, is not without its own baggage, for the Idol Wing and the HR&CE Department have been at loggerheads in the past. With Pon Manickavel taking over the Idol Wing in 2012, tensions heightened. The arrests of several senior HR&CE officials came as public humiliation for the Department.
Allegations from HR&CE officials
Their petition states that they "have been targeted by Idol Wing Special Officer Pon Manickavel who is simply dancing to the tunes of some interested elements and also the set of so-called public interest litigants. It is a sorry state of affair that Mr Pon Manickavel has assumed the role of the HR&CE Commissioner and now he doing mischiefs at the behest of interested elements.â€ť
The HR&CE alleges that Elephant Rajendran, who has been filing PILs on behalf of the Thanjavur Palace Devasthanam, has been engaged by Pon Manickavel in order to obtain the Rajarajan idol from the court. â€śWe have concrete information that the Assistant Commissioner of Thanjavur Palace Devasthanam has been threatened by Mr Pon Manickavel to sign the affidavit prepared by him," the petition states.
The HR&CE officials particularly cite the recovery of idols at the Pandanallur Sri Pasupatheeswarar temple in Thanjavur as an example of Pon Manickavelâ€™s excesses. Stating that the Department has been cooperating with Pon Manickavel from the get-go, the officials allege that the two HR&CE Department officials arraigned in the Pandanallur case were, in fact, unrelated to the templeâ€™s administration.
â€śWith mental pain and soreness, we are duty bound to brought to your notice that for the idols which were missing from 2010 onwards the Joint Commissioner Mr Gajendran who has joined duty in the year 2015 had been arrayed as 1st accused and the Assistant Commissioner who has conducted the enquiry on a specific direction by the Joint Commissioner and unearthed the factum of missing idols arrayed as 2nd accused. It is pertinent to point out that Assistant Commissioner who is nothing to do with the administration of Pandanallur temple had been arrayed as 2nd accused.â€ť (sic) states the petition.
Interestingly, in the first of two press conferences held by rebelling Idol Wing officers, ADSP Kumar, who was the Investigating Officer in the in the theft of nearly 100 bronze idols at the Pandanallur temple said that he was forced to arrest accused persons without sufficient evidence.
â€śI told him (Pon Manickavel) that we cannot arrest without sufficient evidence. He threatened me saying he would suspend me and report me. At that time, he cornered me and made me remand the accused. Almost one year I went on medical leave because of that. Because I could no longer work with him,â€ť he said.
On December 16, the arrest of HR&CE Additional Commissioner N Thirumagal raised eyebrows for the official was known to cooperate with the Idol Wing investigations. The arrest was also the latest in a list of officials that the HR&CE says have been targeted by Pon Manickavel.
The HR&CE petition states that five out of six HR&CE arrests have been made in cases where the Idol Wing has no jurisdiction. This includes the arrest of Additional Commissioner M Kavitha, Sculptor M Muthiah, former Assistant Commissioner Pugazhendi, former Verification Officer Deivendran, and former Joint Commissioner KK Raja. Regarding Additional Commissioner Thirumagalâ€™s arrest in the alleged theft of idols at the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Chennaiâ€™s Mylapore, the HR&CE states, "The said idols are not been notified as antique by ASI and value is not above five lacks rupees.â€ť (sic)
â€śThe officials who have been affected by the dictatorship of Pon Manickavel, the court appointed special officer and the prolonged trial of the foisted criminal cases due to the non-filing of the chargesheet certainly landed the officials in doldrums,â€ť (sic) the petition says, and adds, â€śNow it is time to wake up and safeguard the officials of the department from the hands of unruly police officer.â€ť