Justice S.M. Subramaniam of the Madras High Court on Monday took serious note of corruption in the issuance of special Dharshan tickets at the Vadapalani Dhandayudhapani Temple in Chennai.
The judge told the temple’s Executive Officer, who was present in the court along with State Government Pleader (SGP) P. Muthukumar, that he visited the temple with his family on Saturday.
“I didn’t want to have a VIP dharshan by disclosing my identity. Therefore, I went there as a common man and purchased three special dharshan tickets costing ₹50 each,” the judge said. To his shock, he found that the staff manning the counter issued only two ₹50 tickets and one ₹5 ticket, despite taking ₹150 from him. On being questioned, the staff behaved rudely.
‘No notice boards with contact numbers’
The judge wondered why there were no notice boards with contact numbers of official authorities to whom the devotees could complain when they encounter such misappropriation. He said the temple staff refused to share the phone number of the Executive Officer to lodge a complaint regarding the illegality and indulged in a wordy duel trying to intimidate him and his family.
“When my wife asked, why wouldn’t they share the phone number of the EO when even the Chief Minister does not hesitate to shares his number with the people, the temple employee said, CM may share but he won’t share,” the judge lamented.
The judge added that the temple staff gheraoed him for questioning the illegality and would have pushed him out of the temple too, like they do with others, if the local police had not arrived at the spot and identified him.
“If such is the situation of a temple which owns properties worth hundreds of crores of rupees and with an annual income of ₹14 crore, I shudder to think what would be happening in other temples, “ he said.
The judge said it was considering the importance of such a huge temple that the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department had appointed an officer in the rank of Deputy Commissioner as the Executive Officer. He said the Executive Officer was also equally responsible for the sad state of affairs as she had failed to put in place a mechanism to prevent such illegalities. Therefore, she should also be subject to disciplinary proceedings, he insisted.
The judge handed over to the SGP, a written complaint addressed to the HR&CE Department Commissioner and said he would also not hesitate to identify the temple staff, who behaved rudely, if required.
Justice Subramaniam said, he was refraining from initiating suo motu proceedings with the fond hope that the HR&CE Commissioner himself would look into the issue and take stern action.
The SGP assured the judge that necessary action would be initiated and reported to the court by the second week of January.
“It is only when Constitutional functionaries visit public places without VIP treatment, we get to see the amount of difficulties faced by the common man and the illegalities by the officials,” the judge said, and insisted on remedial action.
The judge also said toilet facilities should also be provided outside the temple precincts since many elderly people, especially those suffering from diabetes and other ailments, visit temples regularly.