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Andhra HC tells TTD board members to file counters over alleged criminal history

The High Court was hearing a PIL alleging that 14 of the TTD members had criminal backgrounds while the appointment of four others was purely political in nature.

On Tuesday, February 23, the Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered 16 members of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), whose appointment was challenged by a PIL, to file counter affidavits. The court was informed by the plaintiff’s attorney that 16 of the 18 members against whom the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed have yet to submit their affidavits. The petitioner alleged that 14 of the TTD members had criminal backgrounds while the appointment of four others was purely political in nature.

A divisional bench headed by Chief Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra took notice and ordered the respondents to file the affidavits by March 11.

BJP leader and former TTD board member G Bhanu Prakash Reddy has filed a PIL challenging the appointment of 18 board members and special guests to the TTD. The petitioner challenged the appointments on the grounds of lack of character as criminal proceedings were pending against them.

Last month, the court had asked counsel for the claimant to publish notices to the respondents in two newspapers stating that a PIL had been filed against their appointment as board members and that they were required to file affidavits to dispute the allegations.

The directive came after it was brought to the attention of the court that some members refused to accept the notice.

A total of 24 people appointed as members of the TTD Trust Board of Directors through a Government Order (GO) dated September 15, 2021. On the same day two more GOs were issued appointing 52 people as guests specials to the TTD Trust Board of Directors.

In the same month, the High Court suspended GOs appointing special guests. The BJP leader, who filed the PIL against the three GOs, claimed that the government takes little notice of their personal data and questioned whether they had faith in the Hindu customs and traditions followed in the hall of fame world.

The TTD manages the affairs of the Venkateswara temple at the top of Tirumala, which generates annual revenue of around Rs 3,000 crore. The opposition TDP and BJP have criticized the government led by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy for setting up an 81-member Trust, including the chairman and special guests.

Last month, the state cabinet approved an order amending the Endowments Act 1987 to allow for the appointment of special guests at the TTD. During Tuesday’s hearing, counsel for the petitioner questioned the need for an order. The court suggested that the petitioner file a motion challenging the order.