The Madras High Court expressed concern on the rising cases of idol thefts from temples in Tamil Nadu and ordered the state government to take steps to check the menace or else stated that it will ask the CBI to step in and conduct an inquiry.
Reports said that Justice R Mahadevan suggested a new department be put in place if the Hindu Religion and Charitable Endowment department is not equipped to protect the idols.
Hearing a petition filed by Rangarajan Narasimhan, Justice Mahadevan said that he was getting complaints about idol thefts as this case is in progress and that the continuing incidents of thefts show the lack of administrative capabilities in the HR & CE department.
“It is a very sorry state of affairs in the State. This is totally unacceptable. The petitioner [Mr. Narasimhan] has been repeatedly approaching the government officials, but not an inch has moved. If idols are missing from each and every temple, then we will have to ask the CBI to probe into it. Why should there be a HR&CE department at all?” remarked the judge, as reported by The Hindu.
In another petition, advocate Rajendran had stated that several panchaloha idols in a temple in Nagapattinam district were kept in a small room with a normal lock, despite the value of the artefacts. He sought the court to direct the Director General of Police to provide protection to the idols.
The judge, after hearing both the petitions, adjourned the hearing to Friday by when the counsel for the HR & CE department and the police were ordered to submit their representations.
In 2017, Justice Mahadevan had ordered that the details of the all the idols across the state be computerised and that all the temples must have a ‘strong room’ with adequate security and 24x7 surveillance to keep the idols safe.
The court had also pulled up the HR & CE department back then for not doing its duties of maintaining historical temples and protecting the antique idols.
Earlier this year, the court had issued an ultimatum to the department to comply with all the 21 directions issued by the court in 2017. The court had given time till March 23, 2018 to comply with its order, failing which it would take action against the concerned officials.