Pointing out that encroachments on temple lands are possible only with the passive or active collusion of the concerned authorities and such acts of 'fences eating the crops' should be dealt with sternly, the Madras High Court has directed Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE) to evict the encroachment made in the over 3000 sq ft land belonging to the Arulmigu Agatheeswara Swamy Thirukkoil, Villivakkam.
Justice S M Subramaniam before whom a plea claiming ownership of such land since 1967 came up, said “In the present case, the petitioner is not only an encroacher but abused the property of the temple for his personal gains. The petitioner, admittedly, sublet the temple properties to several third parties (ground floor- four shops and one-Party Hall, first floor- Gym and second floor-Godown) and earned a huge amount from and out of the temple properties.”
“The period of illegality and the quantum of amounts collected from and out of the temple properties by the petitioner, are also to be looked into by the competent authorities of the HR&CE Department by conducting an elaborate enquiry. Any such abuse is established and if the authorities competent are also in collusion for such abuse, then all further actions are highly warranted,” the court held.
Also, recording the submission of the executive officer of the temple that the petitioner has neither paid the fair rent nor was recognised as a tenant, the court said “So far the petitioner has not only enjoyed the temple properties in an illegal manner but derived profit from the temple properties and the profit gained is running to several lakhs.”
"The High Court is not expected to close its eyes in respect of such patent illegalities in dealing with the temple properties. The High Court has its constitutional obligation in such circumstances to step in and protect the interest of the minor idol and issue appropriate orders," the court held.
Based on this, Justice Subramaniam directed the Secretary and Commissioner HR&CE to complete the eviction in all aspects and take over possession of the temple properties and deal with the same in accordance with the provisions of the HR&CE Act and more specifically for the benefit of the temple administration.