TDB commissioner says Board didn't change Sabarimala stand

TDB president asks commissioner to explain U-turn on Sabarimala
Padmakumar said that he was not a party to the decision.

Thiruvananthapuram: The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) is in a churn but both president A Padmakumar and commissioner N Vasu agree on one thing. The Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter Sabarimala should be respected.

Here is the disagreement, and the source of the confusion. The TDB president said that the Board officials and lawyers were asked to seek more time from the Court to implement the verdict. The commissioner but said that the petition seeking more time was not even listed by the court. “Only the 56 review petitions came up for hearing,” he said. Vasu even questioned the need for such a petition at this juncture.

“The petition seeking more time was intended for the season that had just concluded. The next season comes only in November. It is up to the Board to decide whether another petition asking for more time needs to be filed,” Vasu said here on Thursday, just after he returned from Delhi. A couple of hours before Vasu met the press, Padmakumar said that he would seek an explanation from the Commissioner and the standing counsel about what transpired inside the court.

There were reports that the Board's lawyer Rakesh Dwivedi had spoken for the entry of women into Sabarimala, prompting Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone dissenting judge, to ask him about the sudden change of stand.

Vasu said that the Board's attorney had just three minutes to speak. “It is true that the lawyer told the court that the Board accepts the Supreme Court verdict. This is in keeping with the decision taken by the TDB,” the commissioner said. But he said that the poser attributed to Justice Indu Malhothra was false. “I was there in the court and nothing of that sort had happened,” Vasu said.

The commissioner also emphasised that there was no change in the Board's stand. He defended the lawyer saying that there was nothing new in informing the court that the Board had accepted the verdict. “In fact, a resolution was passed by the Board in the first week of November last year saying that the Board was obliged to implement the Supreme Court verdict,” Vasu said. Padmakumar, too, did not find anything wrong in telling the court that the Board would abide by the SC verdict. “Being a Constitutional body, the TDB is obliged to go by the SC verdict,” he said.

The commissioner said that he would apprise the TDB president about what happened in court. “We have not said anything in the court that the TDB president is not aware of,” he said. “He has not told me about any confusions that he has nor has he asked for any explanation from me. But I would definitely brief him about the court proceedings,” Vasu said.

TDB president Padmakumar is peeved at the way the board officers take decisions without consulting him. He joins a section of officers who think that the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court order has antagonised conservative devotees and dented revenue at the temples the board manages.

Though the government is often irked by Padmakumar’s contrarian stands, he is unlikely to be unseated in an election year to avoid unnecessary controversies. He is expected to complete his term in November.

Even a section of the CPI(M) leadership is not amused by the TDB stand in the court. They had expected the Left Democratic Front government to soften its stand and pass the buck to the court in view of the stiff opposition to women’s entry to the popular temple. They are worried that the uncompromising stand miight lead to an erosion of votes for the ruling front in the general election a few months down the line.

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