Recover Temple Lands From Illegal Occupants, Madras High Court Tells HR&CE Dept

The sad state of temple properties

Over 50,000 acres of encroached temple land will now have to be recovered from illegal occupants, the Madras High Court ruled on Monday(12 February) directing the State Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department to work in the direction.

Taking the HR&CE to task for failing, ‘to protect temple lands continuously for a considerable amount of time’, Justice R Mahadevan directed the department to issue public notices asking for voluntary surrender of such properties, as reported by The Times of India.

A recent survey had revealed that the records which showed 5.2 lakh acres of temple land a few years ago, now mention only 4.78 lakh acres. Based on the survey, the judge asked the department to ‘at least now’ take appropriate steps to retrieve such properties.

Responding to a petition moved by the trustees of Arulmighu Avudainayagi Ambal Sametha Desiganatha Swami Temple in Sivagangai district to recover temple properties, the court directed the assistant commissioner of HR&CE in Paramakudi to conduct an inquiry and recover the properties.

The judge also instructed the department to file in four weeks a report specifying details of temple land across the state that had been granted to third parties, disclosing the sanctions granted for alienating the properties. Following this, committees will have to be constituted in every region and they will then visit all temples, identify encroached land and file a report in the court within six weeks.

Stressing on the importance of the upkeep and maintenance of temple properties, the judge said, “It is very pertinent to point out that when the properties belonging to temples are not properly maintained, then the revenue cannot be derived therefrom and it would not be in the interest of such temples”.