While Idol Wing officials claim that they have found new evidence against HR&CE Additional Commissioner N Thirumagal, her lawyer says she has been given a clean chit by the Department.

Idol Wing crackdown TN HRCE officials arrest raises eyebrowsCourtesy: News18 Tamil Nadu Screenshot
news Idol Theft Monday, December 17, 2018 - 16:06

Even as the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu police is investigating the theft of idols at the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Chennai’s Mylapore, an official of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE), N Thirumagal, was arrested on Sunday. According to reports, Idol Wing CID officials first entered her home on Sunday and questioned her and then took her to the Idol Wing’s Guindy office where she was arrested.

The arrest is based on an FIR dated July 23, 2018 in which Thirumagal, along with Venu Srinivasan of the TVS group and others are accused of being involved in the disappearance of a 1400-year-old stone idol of a peacock with flowers in its beak from the Mylapore temple. The FIR has been registered under Sections 403 (Dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (Punishment for criminal breach of trust), 409 (Criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent), 202 (Intentional omission to give information of offence by person bound to inform) and 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

However, the arrest of the top official, who is an Additional Commissioner with the Department, has raised eyebrows since she is known to cooperate with officials. The Idol Wing, now armed with new teeth since the time Special Officer Pon Manickavel was given a year’s extension, has been accused of targeting the HR&CE, given the discord between the two agencies.

Speaking to TNM, an official from the Idol Wing justified the arrest stating that there was new evidence against Thirumagal.

"When we initially conducted investigations, the accused said that she was not at the temple when the theft happened in 2004 and had no idea about it. But now we have video footage to show her presence at the time, including other evidence. It proves that she was indeed there. We want to produce her in court with this new evidence and interrogate her over the missing peacock idol,” said the official.

However, Thirumagal’s lawyer, Sudha Ramalingam, contests this claim, stating that the HR&CE Department has given Thirumagal a clean chit.

“The HR&CE Department came and deposed before the Madras High Court, stating on record that Thirumagal was not involved in the destruction of any documents pertaining to the Kapaleeswarar Temple and its Kumbabishekam. Now they are saying there is a video but we know nothing of it. This arrest is unnecessary, time consuming and is a waste of manpower and resources. Thirumagal has been transparent and cooperating with officials from the start. Not a single document has been seized from her so far. There is absolutely no need to arrest when an individual is cooperating with the process and is making herself available for due process.” she says.

The lawyer also adds that arrests like these bring down the morale of honest officers in the Department. Further, an order dated November 28 by the Supreme Court states that in the event of Thirumagal's arrest, she "may be released on bail on such terms and conditions as may be imposed by the Trial Court."

Her lawyer also told TNM that Thirumagal has been granted bail on Monday, with the condition to appear before the Investigating Officer in Trichy before 10 am, until further orders.

(With input from Priyanka Thirumurthy)

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