The administrative committee of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala told the Supreme Court on Friday that it was unable to pay Rs 11.7 crore to the state government because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, reported NDTV. The temple needs to reimburse the state government for security and maintenance-related expenses.

The committee, one of two constituted by the court in July to manage temple affairs till arrangements are made by the former royal family of Travancore, said donations had been affected because of the pandemic, and sought additional time to pay the amount.

The court did not pass an order at the time. “Let the [Kerala] government consider the request,” a two-judge bench said, adding that the temple has followed all the previous court orders in the case. The court also said that the audit review of the temple can be taken up in mid-September.

The temple had reopened on August 26 amid restrictions after remaining closed to the public since the coronavirus-induced lockdown in March. It was temporarily closed again in October after 12 staff members, including 10 priests, tested positive for the coronavirus.

In July, the Supreme Court had upheld the rights of the Travancore royal family in the administration of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The court had also approved the continuation of an interim committee under Thiruvananthapuram district judge to oversee the administration.

A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit had reversed an order passed by the Kerala High Court in 2011 that ruled the rights of the royal family over the temple ceased to exist with the death of the last ruler of the Travancore in 1991. “Death will not affect the rights of shebaitship of the family over the deity and they will survive as per custom,” the Supreme Court had observed.

The sprawling temple was rebuilt in its present form in the 18th century by the Travancore Royal House, which had ruled southern Kerala and some adjoining parts of Tamil Nadu before integration of the princely state with the Indian Union in 1947. However, the historic temple has been mired in controversy amid charges of alleged financial irregularities against the administration.

In 2011, one of the vaults of the temple was opened and is believed to have revealed a treasure trove of precious jewels estimated to be worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore, making it the richest temple in the world. The opening of “B Kallara” [Vault B] was, however, put on hold, following objections from the royal family that it will invite divine wrath.