The Andhra Pradesh High Court on Tuesday directed 16 members of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), whose appointment was challenged through a PIL, to file counter affidavits.
The court was informed by counsel of the petitioner that 16 out of 18 members against whom the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed have not yet submitted their affidavits.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra took serious note of this and directed the respondents to file the affidavits by March 11.
BJP leader and former TTD board member, G. Bhanu Prakash Reddy has filed the PIL challenging the appointment of 18 board members and special invitees to the TTD. The petitioner challenged the appointments on the grounds of lack of morality as they were having pending criminal cases against them.
Last month, the court had asked counsel of the petitioner to publish notices to respondents in two newspapers stating that a PIL has been filed against their appointment as board members and they are required to file affidavits to contest the allegations.
The direction came after it was brought to the court’s notice that some members have refused to accept the notice.
The petitioner alleged that 14 of the TTD members have criminal background while appointment of four others was purely political in nature.
A total of 24 persons nominated as members of the TTD Trust Board through a Government Order dated September 15, 2021. The same day, two more GOs were issued nominating 52 persons as special invitees to the TTD Trust Board.
The same month, the High Court stayed the GOs appointing special invitees. The BJP leader, who filed the PIL against all three GOs, contended that the government had scant regard to their personal details and questioned whether they had faith in the Hindu customs and traditions followed in the world-famous temple.
The TTD manages the affairs of Sri Venkateswara temple atop Tirumala which has annual revenues of about Rs 3,000 crore.
Opposition TDP and BJP have slammed Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government for constituting 81-member Trust including the Chairman and special invitees.
Last month, the state cabinet approved an ordinance to amend the Endowments Act 1987 to allow the appointments of special invitees to TTD.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the petitioner’s counsel questioned the need for issuing an ordinance. The court suggested the petitioner file a petition challenging the ordinance.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with a modified headline.)