The Madras High Court sides with Tamil Nadu idol wing amidst the latter’s tussle with the state government.
The Idol Wing of Tamil Nadu is having to battle its own and go to court to ascertain its efficiency despite the commendable work it is doing to solve cases of idol thefts in the state.
Its only respite being the Madras High Court’s assurance that no one can interfere with the probe into idol theft cases being carried out by the team headed by Inspector General of Police (IG) A G Ponn Manickavel, who had specially been appointed by the court. As reported by the Business Standard, the court made the observation after Manickavel submitted that the court's directions over the idol theft cases were not being followed properly.
This quells all rumour of the possible transfer of the said officer out of the idol wing said to be motivated by vested interests who would like to safeguard certain names that had been exposed by the officer during his probes.
“We will never permit violation of the order of the court and any violation will be viewed seriously," said Justice R Mahadevan, as quoted.
This brought the curtains down on the ugly spat that ensued in the court between the state government and the head of the Idol wing during the hearing of two petitions seeking transfer of all pending cases of idol thefts to the CB-CID police.
The court, last year in July, taking serious note of the theft of ancient idols and the failure of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department to protect the antique idols and valuables, had transferred all cases to a court in Kumbakonam and put Manickavel in charge of the investigations despite him being transferred from the Idol wing then.
Justice R Mahadevan had issued specific direction on 21 July 2017 for provision of strong rooms to safeguard ancient idols in all temples under the control of the HRCE. During the hearing yesterday (27 June) he asked why this hadnt been complied with. To which HRCE Commissioner R Jaya claimed that 11,512 temples had already been provided with strong rooms.
But these rooms ‘fitted with locks costing just Rs 250’ do not serve the purpose of protecting idols worth hundreds of crores of rupees argued Manickavel, also accusing the commissioner of not having visited any of these sites of idol theft even once.
Additional advocate general (AAG) P H Arvindh Pandian who intervened in this heated argument while refusing to take sides and lauding Manicakvel, brought to the notice of the court that the officer had been refusing to attend review meetings called by his superiors.
In his defence, Manickavel justified holding back information to avoid it being “passed on”. The AAG called this statement defamatory. But Manickavel pursued his case saying orders were being issued to him by those sitting in air-conditioned rooms while his team was slogging to keep crime in check. An emotional Manickavel is said to have accused those in higher ranks of trying to weaken his team by transferring his team members frequently.
As reported by The Hindu, another petitioner advocate 'Elephant' Rajendran alleged that officials were dragging the matter because they were waiting for the retirement of Manickavel this November.
Intervening at this juncture, Justice Mahadevan while assuring him that the court would not let his efforts go waste, asked him to attend the review meetings and provide the required information to his seniors. The judge reassured
After pacifying the visibly emotional IG, the judge asked him to attend the review meetings and provide as much information as he was expected to provide to his seniors. Adjourning the case to 11 July, Justice Mahadevan assured Manickavel that neither the government nor his superiors could take any major decision without the court’s approval.