The Madras High Court on Tuesday criticised a former Tamil Nadu minister for taking a stand that a competent Tamilian be appointed as a non-hereditary trustee to the Chola-era Brahadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, forgetting the fact that "pride of Indian" should come first.
A division bench of Justices M Sathyanarayana and R Hemalatha dismissed a peitition by V V Swaminathan, a former AIADMK Rajya Sabha member, seeking appointment of a "competent Tamilian" as a non-hereditary trustee to administer the over 1,000-year old shrine, popularly known as the Big Temple.
"It is unfortunate that an ex-member of Parliament and former minister has taken such a stand in his representation forgetting the fact, the concept and rather, the pride of "Indian should come first and India is one.
"It is rather unfortunate and paining to note that the petitioner who held such an esteemed position took such a stand," the bench observed.
In his petition, Swaminathan alleged the present hereditary trustee, a descendant of Marathas, exhibited negligence in the matter of theft of a 'Panchaloha' idol and in preserving the valuable properties despite being in-charge of the administration of the temple.
Hence, it was high time a Tamilian should be posted in that position, he contended.
"The concept of hereditary trustee continues even under the present act of 1959 and therefore the continuance of the present hereditary trustee cannot be faulted with," the bench observed in its order.
The petitioner submitted the last Maratha King Sivaji Maharaja II had ruled Thanjavur from 1832 till his death in 1855 and thereafter the East India Company took over the property as well as the administration of the shrine.
In 1929, a scheme vide proceedings of the Board of Commissioners for Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras, came to be formulated with regard to the administration of the temple and provided for hereditary trusteeship.
As per the scheme, succession to the office shall devolve by the hereditary right on such member of the family of Sivaji Maharaja.