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TNN | Chennai | Nov 23, 2019:: Parcels of temple land in Tamil Nadu worth thousand of crores of rupees will continue to remain in God’s possession, as the Madras high court on Friday stayed the operation of a controversial government order that proposed to cede the encroached pieces of temple land to the encroachers.
Staying a part of the August 30 GO that seeks to ‘regularise’ non-objectionable temple land encroached by squatters for more than five years, a division bench of Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice N Seshasayee also directed the Tamil Nadu government to file a report on the number of temples administered by HR&CE department, parcels of lands owned by them with survey numbers, details of encroachment on such lands, action taken against encroachers and officials who failed to take action against encroachers, by January 20, 2020.
“Any attempt to regularise encroachers and sanctify encroachments are likely to denude the temples of their properties and any act that brought losses of properties of temples for purposes other than those intended for the benefit or necessity of temple may well contravene the spirit behind the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act and this process would also more likely to render the Act otiose,” said the judges.
The court further ordered that the second part of the government order pertaining to regularising temple land encroachment should not be implemented till a biometric evaluation of all the temples land across the state are undertaken and completed.
The interim directions were passed on the PIL moved by A Radhakrishnan of Salem challenging the government’s decision to issue patta to encroachers of temple land. Opposing the plea, the state contended that the GO is not a blanket order and that the encroachments in the temple lands will be taken up temple-wise, based on the availability of temple land and after getting concurrence of the HR&CE department. “The government has decided to grant patta for eligible poor families residing in temple lands for a considerable period of time and the land which are no longer required for the temple, but only after compensating the department,” it added.
The state further argued that the yardstick applicable to residential encroachments in objectionable and non-objectionable public lands is not adopted for temple lands. In respect of such encroachments of temple lands necessary action will be taken to purchase the land from the department for which proposals would be sent to the government from temple-wise through HR&CE commissioner, the government said.