Kerala HC rejects plea questioning selection of head priest of Lord Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala

The Kerala High Court on Thursday rejected a plea challenging the recent selection of the ‘melsanthi’ or head priest of the Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala.

A bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and G Girish said that after considering the submissions and perusing the video clippings and CCTV footage of the election process “we find no reason to interfere with the selection” of the melsanthi of Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple.

“In the result, the challenge made in this writ petition against the selection of the 5th respondent (Mahesh P N) as melsanthi of Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple for the year 1199 ME (2023-24) fails for the aforesaid reasons,” the bench said.

The plea was moved by Madhusoodanan Namboothiri, a devotee of Lord Ayyappa, challenging the selection of Mahesh P N as melsanthi of the hill-top shrine and seeking direction from the Travancore Devaswom Board to conduct the selection process afresh.

Namboothiri had alleged that the Special Commissioner, Sabarimala, after folding and rolling the paper containing the name of Mahesh, did not roll it by using both palms, before putting it into the pot, as was done in the case of the other lots.

“This also happened while rolling the paper which contained the writing ‘melsanthi’,” he had claimed in his plea.

The petitioner had contended that while shaking the pots, the unrolled paper pieces having less density and more area than that of the rolled paper pieces will come to the top, making the child, who has to draw the lots, take the unrolled paper pieces first.

This is actually what resulted in the selection of Mahesh as the melshanti, he had claimed.

The amicus curiae, representing the Special Commissioner, Sabarimala, told the court that before the draw of the lots, both pots were shaken thoroughly inside the sanctum sanctorum by the ‘tantri’.

“The drawing of lots was done by a small child, who was deputed by the erstwhile Pandalam Royal family.

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“As evident from the video that appeared on Asianet News’ and the CCTV footage of the camera installed in the Sopanam, some of the lots in both pots were unfolded partially at the time of draw of the lots, due to thorough shaking inside the sanctum sanctorum, and as such there is absolutely no basis for the allegations contained in the writ petition,” the amicus had told the court.

The amicus also said that the paper pieces containing the name of Mahesh and that containing the writing ‘melsanthi’ were put in their respective pots by the Special Commissioner, after folding and rolling with fingers.

After hearing the arguments, the bench agreed with the submissions of the amicus and said it found no reasons to interfere with the selection.

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