Howdah & throne row: How media was taken for a ride

This has reference to the news report: ‘Row over ownership of golden throne, howdah lands in Supreme Court’ published in City Today and a few other newspapers.

I am surprised to read the report which appears to have been circulated by the petitioner himself.

In the first place there is no recognized Senior Advocate or an Advocate on Record (AOR) going by the name Mr. Vishnu Shankar Jain! (Though there is an active pro- Hindu advocate by that name !)  Also the Special Leave Petition (Civil) CC No. 4974/2016 filed by this petitioner is yet to come up for hearing and as such any advocate arguing as bandied about is laughable. Besides the Supreme Court is closed for Holi and Good Friday Holidays from March 21 andMarch 26 and the timing of the news item is  delusionary.

Now coming to the imbroglio in question, it is necessary to delineate the sequence of events which culminated in the enactment of the Mysore Palace (Acquisition & Transfer) Act 1998:


  1. On 29-4-1975 , the then CM made a statement in the Legislative Council  stating that a Public Charitable Trust was formed on 28Th by the members of the Royal family to manage the Mysore Palace and both the state and central Govt. have nominated their officials as members of the Trust. But for some inexplicable reason this Trust was given a legal quietus by the State.


  1. Instead by ORDER No. GAD 2 PSR 76, Bangalore, dated the 26th February, 1976, State Government took over the Palace in Mysore along with the entire vacant lands etc., around it except the portion occupied by the legal heirs of the late Maharaja along with some movable therein.


  1. Empowered by the above Executive order, the Superintendent Engineer, PWD was directed to take possession of the Mysore Palace (excluding the residential portion) and the surrounding lands and other immovable properties after drawing property inventory for the purpose of maintenance and preservation of the said properties.


  1. The above inventory does not include Throne and Golden Howdah.


  1. However, the Division  Bench of the Karnataka High Court on 6-11-1997  quashed the above G.O and issued a writ of Mandamus to the State to  hand over the Palace and movables within 30 days to the legal heirs. SLP filed by the State Government was also dismissed by the SC. Yet the State Govt. in a naked exhibition of its autocracy refused to hand over the property and took refuge in questionable legislative mechanism to browbeat the rights of a citizen.


  1. On May 8 and 12 1998, the Legislative Council and Assembly passed the Mysore Palace (Acquisition and Transfer) Bill 1998.


  1. On 27-11-1998, Presidential assent for the above Bill was communicated with a condition: – 2. The State Government will also ensure the compliance of the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972 and the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 so far as it is practicable.


The above direction by the Ministry of Home clearly renders the Presidential Assent as conditional and an inherently flawed assent. The State ignores the direction and notifies the Bill without any amendment on 30-11-1998.

Notwithstanding the above, the State wantonly ignores the writ of Mandamus from 6-11-1997 to 30-11-1998 and perpetuates its illegal possession of a private property by virtue of a flawed legislation.

In an identical situation the Royal Family continues to hold possession of Bangalore Palace and continues to use and enjoy the property despite a similar legislation with regard to Bangalore Palace.

As the fundamental issues concerning the legislation are before a Nine Judge Constitution Bench, the rights of a citizen are held in fetters for 20 years.  


  1. On 2-3-1999, a division Bench of the Karnataka High Court refused to go into the controversy of who actually is in possession of the Throne and Howdah and ordered that the above mentioned properties shall not be removed from the place where  they are now kept and those properties can be used for traditional functions as has been done for so many years and kept back in the same place with proper care and protection.


  1. It is debatable whether the use of Golden Howdah for carrying Goddess Chamundeshwari is traditional as it is not part of an age old religious ritual procession of a God belonging to a Temple. It is essentially a Government trying to imitate a glorious past and replacing a mortal with a Goddess. Albeit such aberration the above very clearly sidesteps the factual position about the ownership and possession of the properties and allows status quo to prevail. Now some busybody to wake up after 16 years and question the actions of the Govt. in the garb of PIL is an abuse of due process of law. The Division Bench of Karnataka High court while dismissing his petition on 7-10-2015 expressed its doubt whether the petition is indeed filed in Public interest.


  1. It is also necessary to highlight the badly drafted Mysore Palace (Acquisition & Transfer) Act 1998. In its definition of Mysore Palace lies the conundrum of the State’s claims:

Now the self-styled historian is taking the media for a spin and creating a din even before the time barred petition is even admitted.


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