TN idols smuggling: Govt ready to transfer case to CBI

By NT Bureau Published on Aug 01, 2018 02:26 PM IST

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Chennai: The State government today informed the Madras High Court that it was ready to transfer the idol theft case to the CBI.

The team, headed by Idol Wing Inspector-General of Police Pon Manickavel, has been investigating the theft of idols from various temples in Tamilnadu for the past two years.

During their investigation, it was found that 7,000 idols of Gods and Goddesses across the State have been smuggled and replaced with fake ones.

Following this, 'Elephant' Rajendran, an activist and advocate, filed a petition with the High Court seeking a direction to the State government to check idol thefts and take appropriate steps to recover stolen idols.

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department, on Tuesday, informed 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 basis.

In the revised schedule submitted to the court, the HR and CE Commissioner stated that the inspection of the 3,000 temples would be done by 31 December 2018, and the tenders for construction would be approved by 30 June 2019.

The schedule also stated that the timeline would be adhered to only if the designs and location of the strongrooms were approved at the rate of 200 proposals per week.

The Madras High Court had expressed concern over the increasing cases of idol thefts and had pulled up the HR and CE Department for its failure in protecting valuable idols.

It had suggested a new department to be put in place if the HR and 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 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.

During the inspection by Pon Manickavel, it was found that several ancient icons had been stolen and were replaced by new ones during the past few years.

Already, some of the accused in this case had been arraigned in an earlier case pertaining to idol lifting from the Pandanallur temple's safe.

When the case came up for hearing today, the government counsel said, "The State government does not trust the Idol Wing. So, it is planning to move the case to the CBI."

However, Pon Manickavel's advocate claimed that the wing was formed by the court and so they are answerable only  to the court. "We need not report anything to the State government that may influence the case," he added.

The case was later adjourned to 8 September.