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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Court raps TN government for illegally encroaching and distributing temple land

The Madras High Court has stressed that temple land cannot be used for anything other than religious purposes. While taking up a PIL regarding the illegality of distributing 26 acre temple land for free, the court has held that the land should be used only for religious purposes.

26 acres of land belonging to Subrahmanya Swami temple near Tiruchengode, Namakkal was distributed for free to the homeless by the revenue department. The temple is under HRCE management. Hereditary trustee of the temple appealed in the court against the revenue department’s move alleging that the revenue department didn’t get NOC from the temple management and HRCE as per HRCE Act.

The trustee in his petition has pointed out that unless the temple land is to be used for religious purposes like temple festivals and Hindu customs it amounts to encroachment. As per news reports the revenue department argued in its affidavit that the temple management did not have any documents to prove that the property belongs to the temple.

However the court pointed out that both the HRCE and revenue department rules mandate that the temple properties can be used only for religious purposes and to generate revenue for the temple. The court also observed that as per the rules temple properties cannot be alienated or transferred to anyone else.

In another PIL against construction of the Collectorate in the newly formed Kallakurichi district, the court asserted that the earlier stay order continues. A few months ago, 34.8 acre land belonging to Veeracholapuram Ardhanareeswarar temple was alienated without following due process for building the Collectorate and living quarters for police personnel. After widespread protests and a PIL in the Madras HC, the court ruled that temple properties cannot be alienated in the name of secular purposes.

Following this the government changed its tactics, said it will lease the property to build the Collectorate, and started construction. However temple activists persisted and pointed out that the government is paying a very less amount as lease and opposed the move. The court granted a stay on construction as a result and appointed a valuer to estimate the value of the property. Yet the government went on with the construction work even in the midst of lockdown.

Another PIL was filed against the government for violating Covid-19 norms and flouting rules in obtaining NOC from the Environmental Department and approval from the Directorate of Town and Country Planning. Now the court has again stressed that whether the land must be used for building government offices be decided first and said that the stay on construction continues.

While the DMK government has been trying to paint itself as honest and pro-Hindu by hyping up recovery of encroached temple properties, it is yet to be seen how it’s going to interfere in the management and usage of such properties. The HRCE minister had already revealed the government’s intent to build colleges and educational institutions on temple lands supposedly to generate income for the temples. However such colleges will be run by HRCE which is a government body and there is no provision in the HRCE Act to allow such interference in the management of temple wealth. 

(Featured Image Source: Twitter)


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