In a significant development on Thursday night, TVS Motors Company Chairman Venu Srinivasan applied for anticipatory bail in the Madras High Court. This came hours after the Madras High ordered investigations in the alleged theft of idols and other antiquities from two temples – namely, the Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple (Srirangam temple) in Tiruchi, and the Kapaleeswarar Temple in Mylapore, Chennai. Venu Srinivasan’s anticipatory bail application says he’s filing the petition because there is ‘reasonable apprehension’ of arrest.
Earlier, the Madras High Court ordered an inquiry into idol theft after a batch of petitions and complaints were filed on the issue. The probe was ordered primarily on the basis of a complaint filed by a person called Rangarajan Narasimhan from Tiruchi, and another petition by lawyer Elephant Rajendran from Chennai.
The complainants have alleged that several previous artefacts from the Srirangam temple have been stolen, and that the main Perumal idol in the temple has been damaged. Rangarajan has also alleged that the peacock that represents Goddess Parvati doing puja for Lord Shiva at the Kapaleeswarar temple has been replaced.
How Venu Srinivasan is connected to these complaints
Venu Srinivasan was part of a government committee that was responsible for conducting the Kumbhabhishekam in various temples in Tamil Nadu, including the Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore. This was in the year 2004, and the committee was called the Koil Thiruppani Committee (Temple Renovation Committee).
Rangarajan has mentioned this committee in his complaint and had alleged, "It was more of a Koil Thiruttupani Commitee (Temple Theiving Committee) which replaced idols overnight and took away several."
Venu Srinivasan was also the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Srirangam Temple. He was part of the Kumbabishekam of this temple, too.
The idol wing of the TN police have been making several arrests lately – and officials of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) have also been arrested for their alleged involvement.
A lawyer from Venu Srinivasan’s team told TNM that there are also reports that the TVS Motors chairman has been named in an FIR – however, the team is unsure if this is true. In an affidavit submitted by Elephant Rajendran to the Madras HC on July 28, there is a mention of Venu Srinivasan.
“Elephant Rajendran has mentioned that there is an FIR in which Venu Srinivasan’s name is there. We don’t know if there is such an FIR, when and where it was filed or what the case is. But we decided to take precautions and ask for anticipatory bail,” the lawyer said.
Sources say that Venu Srinivasan’s application could also have been filed as a proactive measure, noting that the High Court had taken an undertaking from the idol wing that Additional Commissioner of HR & CE N Thirumagal should not be arrested.
In his anticipatory bail application, Venu Srinivasan said he has spent his own money as well money from his trust for the renovation of the two temples. “The petitioner being a devotee of Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple on his accord undertook voluntarily the following works in the temple. Among the works done at the expense of the Petitioner, included the paintings of various Sanadhis, Gopurams and flooring. Apparently it costs around Rs 70 lakh which was spent through the personal fund of the petitioner.”
He also claimed to have spent Rs 25 crore of his own in renovation of the entire Srirangam temple complex. He further explained that he has a private trust funded by him and his company has undertaken renovation works over 100 temples in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.
He says that the thoroughness and devotion with which it has been done has attracted just admiration of the general public and devotees of Sri Ranganathan, in particular including an award UNESCO.
The petitioner in the case, Rangarajan has in the past reportedly made representations to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE officials) and the police but to no avail.
"The perumal (Lord Vishnu's idol) here is made of several herbs and possessed precious stones in it. But they have taken it apart and stolen the jewels in the name of making repairs. One look at the legs and it is obvious that they have tampered with it," said Rangarajan.
“Similarly in Kapaleeshwarar temple, the peacock that represents Goddess Parvati doing puja for Lord Shiva has been replaced. The peacock present now is not the same one. This idol along with several others were stolen or replaced when renovation work was underway there in 2004," he alleged.
Rangarajan alleged that precious idols, doors made of exotic wood, kalasams, sculptures, unblemished granite pavements and other treasures reportedly buried by kings of the past were missing from the 157-acre Srirangam temple premises.