The idol wing investigation department of the Tamil Nadu police has arrested the chief priest of Kanchipuram Ekambaranathar temple on charges of going abroad without prior permission from the court, as a misappropriation case against him is pending before the court.
The priest, Rajappa, 87, who was arrested at the Mumbai airport upon his return from Canada on June 21, was produced before a court in Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district and has been remanded in the Trichy Central Prison. The case against Rajappa was that he had misappropriated gold meant for making two idols for the temple.
Even as the case was pending against him, Rajappa had gone to Canada without informing the court. He returned after a 20-day stay, He was caught by the immigration officials and handed over to the idol wing police.
According to sources, Rajappa had sought the replacement of the idols of the utsavar deities Somaskandhar and Ezhuvar Kuzhali with new ones as they had worn out. In order to make the new idols, he received 8.7kg of gold worth Rs 2.82 crore from various donors and devotees. However, Rajappa, inconnivance with some officials of the Hindu religious and charitable endowments (HR&CE) department allegedly misappropriated the entire gold meant for making the two idols.
The incident came to during a test conducted by a team from IIT, Chennai, the idol wing police said. Meanwhile, the two new idols, a two feet Somaskandar weighing 111kg and a three feet Ezhuvar Kuzhali idol weighing 63kg have been kept at the icon centre in Kumbakonam, as per the court’s order.
It may be recalled that the former commissioner of HR&CE M Veera Shanmuga Moni was arrested in March in connection with the case. Another HR&CE official, M Kavitha was also arrested by sleuths from the idol wing but is now on bail.