Melkote temple jewel case: AC court recommends action against priest

With the allegations of irregularities against Narasaraja Bhat, the priest at Cheluvarayaswamy temple here involving precious stone-studded gold chains adorning the deity having been reportedly proved true, the Assistant Commissioner's (AC) Court in Pandavapura, has recommended strict disciplinary action against the priest.

The court in its recommendation regarding the four-year-old case is said to have cited dereliction of duty, breach of sanctity of temple and misuse of power against the priest who is unable to justify the difference of about 800 gm of gold in the ornaments and hence submitted its report to the Deputy Commissioner recommending a COD inquiry to unearth the facts.

The report is said to have stated that the said priest had given the physical measurements of the idol of the presiding deity to private firms, obtained gold ornaments from devotees directly and kept in his house for four months, not maintained official receipts of jewel makers properly and evaded tax.

DC seeks legal opinion

DC Krishnaiah who reportedly received the report of the AC Court on May 18 is believed to have sought legal opinion from the District Public Prosecutor, before sending a directive to the Melukote Temple Trust to take disciplinary action against the priest, based on the instruction from the Religious Endowment Commissioner.

The Public Prosecutor, upon thoroughly studying the court order, besides recommending probe by a government agency like the COD, proposed suspension of the priest for six months, which is liable for further extension, in case the enquiry is not completed in time.

The Public Prosecutor held that the priest be suspended under Section 17(4) of the Religious Endowment Act, 2012.

Temple Trust to decide on suspension of priest

Meanwhile, the Temple Executive Officer Venugopal said that a decision will be taken regarding the suspension of the priest who has served in the temple for 15 years, at the Trust's meeting to be held on May 28.

CM’s assurance

On receiving a copy of the order of the AC Court at his residence in Mysore on Tuesday, Chief Minister Siddharamaiah is said to have assured the temple authorities that the case would be referred to the COD.

The office-bearers of Vishwa Hindu Dharma Samrakshana Vedike have urged the District Administration to dismiss the accused priest from service immediately and not to entertain any of his kin for the post.

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