During a 5-year period that saw two of the worst droughts in Karnataka, successive governments have paid over a crore of rupees to the Wadiyars - former royal family of Mysuru - for the use of the golden howdah and the throne that “illegally” belong to the family.
An RTI application filed by historian and former Mysuru University professor PV Nanjaraja Urs, reveals that the state government paid Rs 75 lakh to the former royal family over a period of three years.
Urs had filed a Public Interest Litigation with the Karnataka High Court challenging this amount, stating that the state government was paying the former royal family this money for the use of the golden howdah and the throne during the Naada Habba celebrations on the occasion of Dasara.
Information furnished by the Office of the Dasara Special Officer and Deputy Commissioner of Mysore shows that the Wadiyars were paid Rs 20 lakh in 2012, Rs 20 lakh and Rs 5 lakh in two installments in 2013, and Rs 30 lakh in 2014.
On Wednesday, the High Court dismissed the petition, stating that the government had the discretionary power to disburse royalties.
“Just two days before the hearing, the state government paid Rs 30 lakh. Every year there is a 5 percent increase,” Urs said. This would bring the total amount to Rs 1.05 crore.
Asked why he sought the intervention of the Court, Urs said: “My 10 paisa is there in that money. Every tax payers 10 paisa is there in the royalties the government is giving to property illegally held by the Wadiyars.”
He said that the government did not provide a satisfactory answer explaining why it was giving the family money for properties that should have belonged to it in the first place. “They keep saying it is for cooperation provided by the family for Dasara, but they cannot explain what that cooperation is,” Urs said.
Stating that he would approach the Supreme Court appealing against the High Court order, Urs alleged that the two properties – the golden howdah and the throne – were allowed to be vested with the royal family when the state government acquired the palaces and other properties attached to the family.
First, the government passed the Bangalore Palace (Acquisition and Transfer) Act 1996, which was challenged by the family in 1999 on the grounds that it violated the right to private property. In the meanwhile, the state government passed the Mysore (Acquisition and Transfer) Act in 1998, which has been challenged in the Karnataka High Court.