The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE), the custodians of the temple properties, to retrieve the encroached properties belonging to temples in Tamil Nadu.
While issuing the directions, Justice R. Mahadevan said those lands should not be alienated or leased or hampered with illegally and used against the interests of temples. The court also criticised the HR&CE department for not taking any steps to protect the interest of temple lands, reported LiveLaw.
"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 spiritual activities as well; and that, the properties of the religious institutions, more particularly, the temples have to be maintained properly to derive more income from spending for its betterment," Justice Mahadevan observed.
Justice Mahadevan was hearing writ petitions challenging the transfer of land belonging to various temples to other departments entirely and encroaching some of them. Certain Government orders which ordered the transfer of the disputed land to the Fisheries Department were challenged.
The directions issued by the court states that temples have the right to possession and HR&CE department, no trustee or private individual can claim right over disputed lands whatsoever. The department will have control over the subject lands and will deal with the same as per the law. No construction will take place inside the temple premises.
The department shall maintain a proper financial record of the subject temples and its properties. And present before the authority at a regular interval. If failed to do so, appropriate action will be taken against the person responsible for lapses.
The government shall provide required aid for the maintenance and protection of the subject temples and its properties.