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Make uniform law for charitable, religious bodies: Kerala HC tells Centre

Kerala High Court urged the Centre to explore possibility of a uniform central legislation to regulate the functioning of charitable organisations and religious institutions

Kerala HC

Kerala HC

ANI General News
Kerala High Court on Thursday urged the Central Government to explore the possibility of a uniform central legislation to regulate the functioning of charitable organisations and religious institutions of the concurrent list of VIIth schedule of Constitution of India including the constitution of a centralised body to address the income, expenditure, acquisition, and disposal of assets of such bodies.
Court also requested that the possibility of a constitution of a centralised force/body for that purpose may be explored by the Central Government.
The request was made by the Single Bench of Justice P Somarajan while considering the matter of massive encroachment upon Government properties by religious/charitable institutions.
The court in the matter ruled, "the fact that nobody has taken up the issue so far and nobody would have the effrontery to take up the issue against such organised encroachers, would show the existence of an invisible conducive atmosphere favourable to the organised encroachers/land mafia and the upper hand they enjoyed without challenge from any corner".
It further ruled that this reprehensible inaction on the part of the Government, political leaders, and the society at large has given leverage to such massive assaults over the large tracts of properties all over Kerala by some religious/charitable institution/organisation added by the fact it is quite easy for them to obtain pattayam under the bargain of vote bank they possessed.
A congenial environment is still in existence in the entire State of Kerala promoting encroachment over the Government land with the apparent acquisition of properties by such institutions. This has given immense wealth and authority to religious institutions to dominate the will of Government machinery and it is injurious to the democratic system and the principle of equality and liberty guaranteed under the Constitution.
The court referred that both the state Government and the Central Government are duty-bound to follow the constitutional mandate and to preserve properties of bona vacantia and property belonging to the public at large. The property ostensibly obtained by such bodies/institutions has to be enquired into and investigated by taking proper action against the culprits.
Necessarily, the State Government is duty bound to take over all property of bona vacantia and to preserve it, remove all sorts of encroachment over the Government land, scrutinize the validity of pattayam, if any obtained under the garb of Land Assignment Act by misusing its provisions and to conduct a survey in order to find out such incident all over Kerala, for which, the State Government (the Chief Secretary) shall constitute a State wise high power body for its implementation and to supervise the survey besides formation of District level body headed by the respective District Collector and revenue head of each district and the Tahsildar. The assistance of forest officials can also be obtained whenever it is found necessary.
The court said that It is also advisable for the State Government to legislate a state law by incorporating a provision for a periodical/quinquennial survey so as to find out any encroachment or invasion over the property of the State Government/public property/property of bona vacantia. Needless to say that the State Government is also bound to register cases against the erring officers and the culprits under the provisions of the Land Conservancy Act. The survey has to be completed by the State Government within a period of six months from today's report.
The court said, "The misdeeds and mischief done by various persons/institutions to extort the property of the public shall be investigated through the agencies available under the State Government such as Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau, etc.

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First Published: Oct 28 2022 | 7:34 AM IST

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