The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) department, on Tuesday, told the Madras High Court that it would construct strongrooms in around 3,000 temples by 2019 to protect ancient idols. Initially, it had submitted that the construction works would be done by 2021, which was rejected by the court.
As per reports, Justice R Mahadevan has asked for a list of temples in which the rooms would be constructed on priority to be submitted by AG Ponn Manickavel, the Inspector General of Police, Idol Wing.
In its revised schedule submitted to the court, the HR & CE Commissioner stated that the inspection of the 3,000 temples would be done by December 31, 2018, and the tenders for construction would be approved by June 30, 2019. The schedule also stated that the timeline would be adhered to only if the designs and locations of the strongrooms were approved at the rate of 200 proposals per week.
The Madras High Court had expressed concerns over the increasing cases of idol theft and had pulled up the HR & CE Department for its failure in protecting valuable idols. It had suggested a new department be put in place if the HR & CE Department is not equipped to protect the idols.
The judge had also warned that if the thefts continue to happen, then it would order for a CBI probe into the issue.
In 2017, Justice Mahadevan had ordered that the details of all the idols in temples across the state be maintained in a computerised register and that the idols must be kept in a strongroom with adequate security and CCTV surveillance round the clock.
Earlier in 2018, the court had issued an ultimatum to the department to comply with all the directions issued by the court in 2017 and had given time till March 23, 2018 for compliance. The court had also said that failure in compliance would lead to the court initiating action against the concerned officials.