The Hyderabad High Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, challenging the constitutional validity of the Andhra Pradesh government’s control over 11 temples, including the Sri Venkateswara temple atop Tirumala.
A two-judge bench comprising of Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice SV Bhatt asked the state and Centre to file its responses after Swamy alleged several financial irregularities in the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the governing body of the richest Hindu temple in the world. The plea also challenged provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act, 1987,
The court sought an audit report of the TTD, which is generally conducted under the state's Endowments Department.
The plea alleged that the AP government had misused temple funds and destroyed the heritage of the temples. It referred to the TTD’s budget of Rs 2,678 crore for 2016-17 and alleged that the TTD did not have an external audit of its accounts and that money was diverted from the TTD funds. The court too, expressed its displeasure over the same and said that an internal audit was completely under the state's control.
The matter was adjourned for further hearing to December 18.
Swamy had earlier approached the Supreme Court seeking a direction to free the temples from state government control. However, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case and had asked the petitioner to move the High Court in Hyderabad.
Swamy had first moved the court shortly after former TTD chief priest Ramana Deekshitulu was sacked by authorities in May on the grounds that he exceeded the retirement age limit. However, the sacking was preceded by shocking allegations made by the priest against the TTD administration on financial irregularities. Deekshitulu had also claimed that several old ornaments from the temple were missing.
Deekshithulu demanded for a CBI inquiry, and also pressed for bringing the TTD under the ambit of the RTI for transparency. In response, the TTD accused Deekshitulu of ‘politicising’ temple affairs and threatened to take legal action against him.