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HC directs authorities to retrieve temple properties in TN

Press Trust of India  |  Chennai 

Noting that nearly 50,000 acres of temple land in has been encroached upon in the last few years, the today directed authorities to take steps to retrieve the properties illegally alienated or leased.

Justice R Mahadevan held that a duty was cast on the Hindu Religious and (HR and CE) department authorities to ensure and endowments were properly administered and that their income was duly appropriated for the purposes for which they were founded or exist.

He also directed the HR and CE to constitute committees that would visit all and identify lands belonging to them and those encroached upon.

A report should be filed within six weeks specifying the details of the temple lands for which 'patta' (land deeds) had been granted to third parties/encroacher, he said.

The set aside a June 30, 2017 order of an Assistant of HR and CE, directing the trustees of a temple in district to approach the civil court for retrieving alienated lands after they petitioned him over it.

The trustees of the temple at Nagara Soorakudy, in their petition, submitted that lands of the temple had been alienated to third parties by way of agreements by a previous and sought to retrieve those.

The also directed the to instruct all tahsildars/district revenue officers to take steps to alter the 'patta' granted to the beneficiaries of illegal transfer of land or possession and restore the name of the temple in the document.

He ordered the authorities concerned to refrain from issuing 'patta' for temple lands without written communication from the HR and CE department.

Going through the statistics submitted in connection with the petition, the said it revealed that a few years ago 5.25 lakh acres of land was there in the name of and religious institutions and only 4.78 lakh acres exist now.

The balance of nearly 50,000 acres was in the hands of encroachers, he said.

The judge said endowments were created and lands were donated in love, in faith and in satisfaction towards one's contribution to the religion they profess, for the temple to be self-sufficient to perform all every day rituals.

Custodians of temple properties, be it the trustees or the HR and CE department, must keep in mind the objective and the reason behind donations to the temple.

Justice Mahadevan concurred with the petitioner's stand that it was mandatory to obtain the sanction of the HR and CE department before sale of temple land was effected and otherwise it would be void.

"Ignorance of fact can be excused but not ignorance of law. Therefore, the alienates/purchasers can only be treated as encroachers, entitling the Assistant Commissioner, HR & CE to invoke the powers under Sections 78, 79 and 79 A of the HR & CE Act (retrieve)," the judge ruled.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, February 12 2018. 23:20 IST
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