HC stays bid to regularise temple land encroachments

Chennai, Nov 22 (PTI) The Madras High Court on Friday stayed till further orders a part of a Tamil Nadu Government Order that envisaged issuing housing 'pattas' to homeless squatters of temple lands.

Seeking details about number of encroachers, it directed the government to spell out measures taken against them as per the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act (HR and CE Act) and action against officials for not taking prompt measures against the illegal occupants.

A division bench comprising Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice N Seshasayee in an interim order held that there was prima facie merit in submissions praying for interim stay on the impugned G.O issued in August by the Revenue and Disaster Management Department.

After hearing the petitioner and the government on the miscellaneous petition on a PIL, the bench said it 'finds that prima facie there is merit in the submission made in aid of an order for stay of Para 2(V) of the impugned government order.' The August 30 G.O envisages providing housing pattas to homeless encroachers of the lands belonging to the government, local bodies and temples.

The portion stayed by the court dwells on regularisation of encroachments based on government guidelines.

The move to regularise encroachments has kicked up a row with sections of devotees and right wing outfits strongly opposing it.

The bench said any attempt to regularise encroachments and sanctifying them was more likely to denude the temples of their properties.

Any act that involves loss of properties for temples may contravene the spirit behind section 34 of the HR and CE Act that covers alienation of properties, the court said.

As per that section, alienation of temple properties shall be null and void unless it is sanctioned by the HR and CE commissioner as being necessary or beneficial to the institution.

It posted the main public interest litigation by A Radhakrishnan of Thirthondargal Sabha, a forum of devotees, challenging the government decision to issue patta to encroachers of temple lands to January 20.

The court, in its order, also directed the Commissioner, HR and CE Department to file a detailed report on the number of temples it administers and its lands that came under its ambit with respective survey numbers.

Stating further that even if para 2(V) of the impugned G.O was considered on its face value, the bench said it shall not be put to use till a biometric evaluation of the encroachers of all the temple lands across the state was undertaken and completed.PTI COR VGN NVG VS VS