The Madras High Court has stayed the Tamil Nadu (TN) government order transferring all idol theft and smuggling cases in the state to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The stay came during the hearing on a petition moved by ‘Elephant’ Rajendran by the court on Tuesday morning (7 August), reported Tamil daily Dinamalar.
Rajendran complained that the government order was passed over-ruling the court’s directive and in an effort to rescue officials and politicians. The court also issued a notice to the Director General of Police seeking his response to the petition.
Last week, the government sprung a surprise by informing the Madras High Court that it had taken a policy decision to hand over all pending idol theft cases in the state to the CBI. The decision has met with criticism with those following the cases closely pointing out that the idol theft wing of Tamil Nadu police has been doing a great job under the charge of inspector general of police Pon Manickavel.
Manickavel has helped crack over 50 cases and recovering 20 idols. The feather in the cap is the effort he put in to recover idols of Raja Raja Chola and his consort Lokamadevi. On 6 August, Manickavel had chased a group of idol smugglers and recovered an Amman panchaloha idol worth Rs 50 lakh.
Under Manickavel, the idol wing has cracked down on corruption at the Palani Murugan and the Kanchipuram Ekambareswarar temples. The investigation has resulted in a few arrests, the latest being the arrest of M Kavitha, additional commissioner in the Hindu Religious and Charities Endowment (HR&CE) Department, that has been questioned by the High Court.
Manickavel was appointed by the Madras High Court last year to head the investigations into missing and stolen idols. The Tamil Nadu government’s move comes at the heels of a spat between Manickavel and HR&CE Commissioner R Jaya. In June this year, the Madras High Court bench hearing the idol theft cases, Justices R Mahadevan and P D Audikesavuly - made it clear that it will not brook any interference in the case.
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