Justice Raghubir Das probe panel submits report on missing Ratna Bhandar key

Bhubaneswar: Justice Raghubir Das Inquiry Commission on Friday submitted its final report on the mysterious disappearance of the key of Ratna Bhandar-the treasure trove of Lord Jagannath temple in Puri. The inquiry commission secretary submitted the 324-page report to the undersecretary of the Home department in less than the stipulated six- month time frame.

Official sources said various aspects including the circumstances under which the key of Puri Srimandir Ratna Bhandar went missing and the guidelines for the safekeeping of the key as well as some suggestions to ensure that such incidents do not recur have been highlighted in the report. The inquiry commission has also taken into account ten affidavits that were received during the course of the investigation since July 25.

“The commission submitted its report on the missing Ratna Bhandar key to Odisha government yesterday,” informed the commission’s secretary.

A 16-member team entered the ‘Ratna Bhandar’ after 34 years on April 4, 2018 and had a quick scrutiny of its physical conditions amid tight security following an order of the Orissa High Court. It is pertinent to mention here that during a meeting of the Sri Jagannath Temple Managing Committee held on April 4, 2018, it was recorded that the key of the inner chamber of Ratna Bhandar had gone ‘missing.’

Odisha government had ordered for a judicial probe on June 7, 2018 following massive public outcry over the disappearance of the Ratna Bhandar key. The State Government appointed Justice Raghubir Das, retired judge of Orissa High Court as the chairman of the ‘Commission of Inquiry.’

However, the entire issue again snowballed into a controversy after the then Puri Collector Aravind Agarwal, on June 13, claimed that a ‘duplicate key’ of the Ratna Bhandar was recovered from Puri district record room.

Agarwal then had claimed that the key was found by one of the two teams that were constituted to investigate the matter.

Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb also clarified that Odisha government took over the management of Srimandir from his father, the then king Birakishore Deb after the implementation of the Sri Jagannath Temple Act in 1960; and since then, the State government has been the supreme authority for ensuring safety of Ratna Bhandar and safe custody of its keys. He had nowhere mentioned about existence of any duplicate key in his exclusive mail to OTV.