Visakhapatnam: The chief priest of Simhachalam Temple, Godavarthi Gopala Krishnamacharyulu, has been suspended for allegedly defying the COVID-19 lockdown rules and allowing an outsider to enter the temple.

The executive officer of the Simhachalam temple, M. Venkateswara Rao, issued the suspension order on 29 April after allegations that the priest had allowed an outsider into the temple premises during the Ekanthaseva Puja.

Mr Rao said a committee will be formed to conduct an enquiry into the matter and further action will be taken based on the committee’s report. The suspension orders were issued following an initial enquiry, he said, adding “Our initial enquiry revealed that the chief priest had allowed an outsider, T. Srinu, to enter the temple, violating the lockdown norms.”

However, the chief priest has alleged that he has been made a scapegoat. “I will meet district collector V. Vinay Chand and request him to conduct a comprehensive enquiry into the matter,” he said.

The authorities, however, have made it clear that a free and fair enquiry will be conducted which will decide the fate of the chief priest.

Sources said T. Srinu, a resident of the hilltop village near the  Simhachalam temple, and a daily visitor to the temple, had been allowed access to the main Gopuram.

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