A Bench of Justice R. Mahadevan has directed that the lands belonging to the subject temples shall not be alienated or leased or encumbered illegally and against the interests of such temples and shall only be used for temple related purposes.
A batch of writ petitions was filed challenging the transfer of land belonging to various temples to other Departments entirely and also encroachments. Certain Government orders which ordered the transfer of the disputes land to the fisheries Department were challenged. The Madras High Court has also directed the HR & CE Department to initiate appropriate action to retrieve land belonging to temples by removing all encroachments.
The Court while criticizing the HR&CE Department observed that, “Such callous attitude on their part cannot be countenanced. This Court, time and again observed that Temples in Tamil Nadu are not only a source of identification of the ancient culture but also a testimony of pride and knowledge of the talent in the field of arts, science and sculpture and a conduit for its betterment”.
The Court further held that the temples are entitled to the rights of possession and enjoyment in respect of the respective disputed lands possessed and enjoyed by temples in any manner whatsoever. The following directions have been issued by the Court:
- The Commissioner, of the HR&CE Dept, shall initiate the appropriate action to retrieve the subject lands, remove all the encroachment, and maintain the same with the utmost care and for the beneficial interest of the subject temples.
- It is made clear that the lands belonging to the subject temples shall not be alienated or leased or encumbered illegally and against the interests of such temples.
- The HR&CE Dept. shall have the administration and entire control over the subject lands and shall deal with the same in accordance with the law.
- The Department shall take steps to start construction by putting a compound wall to secure the safety of the subject lands.
- The Officer-in-charge shall not permit any unauthorized shop inside the temple's premises.
- The Commissioner shall order appropriate inquiry forthwith related to the missing documents and files connected to the respective temples and its properties and initiate action against erring officials responsible for the same.
- The Government shall provide necessary assistance to the Department for proper maintenance and protection of the subject temples and its properties.