Yet another blow to the Tamil Nadu government over its callous attitude in administering and retrieving encroached lands. A vacation bench of the Madras High Court recently came down heavily on the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department of the Tamil Nadu government, ordering it to initiate proceedings to recover the encroached lands of Sri Ramanaadheswarar temple at Palnankuppam.
According to Law Beat, while hearing a petition moved by a devotee of the Sri Ramanaadheswarar temple seeking a direction to the Commissioner of HR & CE to take proceedings to recover three and a half acres of land belonging to the Sri Ramanaadheswarar temple at Palnankuppam near Chennai from encroachers. He said in his petition that the temple property was being encroached upon without paying any rent to the temple. The encroachers were also attempting to illegally sell the temple land. It was also said that efforts are being made to manipulate the revenue records, and therefore urgent actions are required. Drawing the court’s notice, the petitioner claimed that certain illegal transactions had occurred on temple property, which had been brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities, including HR & CE, yet the commissioner took no action.
Justice Subramaniam said that the HR and CE department is bound to protect temple properties and their belongings. “When the petitioner made a complaint that the temple properties are encroached upon without even paying the rent and an attempt is taken to alienate the temple properties, the authorities are duty-bound to conduct enquiry and initiate all appropriate action for the purpose of protecting the temple properties,” he added further.
The bench said the petitioner’s affidavit revealed that certain transactions had been brought to the attention of the authorities and ordered the Commissioner of HR & CE to take all necessary steps to protect the temple properties, as well as to evict the encroachers and reclaim the temple properties in accordance with the law. The commissioner was also given a deadline of twelve weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of the order to finish the exercise.
The court has been given strictures and admonished the HR and CE department for their failure to act on such complaints, retrieve encroached land and buildings, collect arrears of rents , and misappropriation of temple funds and properties.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, while hearing a contempt of court petition filed against top government officials for having failed to recover the encroached lands of the Agatheshwarar Temple at Nungambakkam.
Recently HR and CE came out with a book entitled ‘Temple Properties Recovered by the Endowment Board, 2021-2022’. It talks about temple properties recovered after DMK came into power. In October last year, Madras High Court asked the government to initiate proceedings to evict the Queensland amusement park from 21 acres of land in Poonamallee belonging to Kasi Viswanathaswami temple and Venugopalaswami temple. The disputed land was part of a much larger extent of 254 acres endowed to the temple in 1883. Justice M. Sundar observed that a private institution could not be permitted to squat on public property without paying a penny either to the State government or the temple 1997.
A Madras High Court Division bench comprising justices R Mahadevan and P D Audikesavalu has fixed 8 -week time frame to prepare an exhaustive set of guidelines encompassing spiritual to scientific upkeep of temples, idols, assets, historical monuments, paying salaries to staff, filling up vacancies in the post of trustees, maintaining the animals owned by the temples and safeguarding their water bodies. It issued a list of 75 directions to the Tamil Nadu government. Despite court strictures the recalcitrant Dravidian stock government has not mended its way.