India’s top court announced a ruling on Monday, allowing an Indian royal family the rights to a 17th century Temple. 

The Travancore family, a former Indian royal family, won the rights over the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, said a Reuters report. 

The former royals released a video statement following the verdict.

“Please do not consider this as the victory of a royal family member,” they said. 

“We see it only as a blessing of Lord Padmabhaswamy on all his devotees,” they added. 

The Supreme Court’s decision overruled a 2011 court decision over one of the world’s richest temple. 

India High Court’s 2020 Ruling

India’s Supreme Court based its ruling from India’s customary law, the Shebait rights, as per The Indian Express. 

“We allow the appeal of the royal family of Travancore,” said India high court’s justices U.U Lalit and Indu Malhotra. 

“Death does not affect Shebaitship,” they said, as per Reuters.

The legal battle over the temple started when the last ruler of Travancore died in 1991. 

What is the Shebait Rights

The Shebait Rights allows people to manage the affairs of a deity, said the Indian Express. 

However, it does not mean that the temple is the property of the royal family.

It only means that the family has control over the opening of the temple’s vaults, among its other administrative obligation.  

Hindu temple’s assets are governed by the state through its statutory laws, as per the Indian Express. 

The 2011 Ruling

In the 2011 ruling, the court transferred the rights of the temple from the Travancore royal family to the state. 

This is due to a petition from devotees citing mismanagement from the family, as per a Bloomberg report.  

During the 2011 ruling, the court also allowed the opening of the temple’s vaults

Treasures amounting to $20 billion were found inside, including gold, diamonds, and other precious stones.

However, the court halted the opening of the last vault due to security concerns. 

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