Passing orders on a plea moved by a trustee of Sri Audikesava Perumal Peyalwar Devasthanam temple, Mylapore challenging his suspension by the HR&CE department, Justice S M Subramaniam said, “In some cases, actions may be required under the HR & CE Act and in other cases, serious actions under the criminal law are required. In extreme cases, the provisions of the Goondas Act are to be invoked by the Police based on facts-to-facts basis.”
“In such circumstances, the State shall not hesitate to invoke the provisions of the Goondas Act against such professional land grabbers and persons involved in encroachment and illegal activities in respect of the temple properties at large for personal and unjust gains,” the court stressed.
Based on this, Justice Subramaniam directed the State to initiate appropriate action through the Police Department in such cases, where actions under the provisions of the Goondas Act are warranted.
In effect, the court also directed the constitution of a “Special Cell”, consisting team of officials with integrity and devotion to duty for monitoring the actions initiated for the retrieval of temple properties, funds and jewelleries.
“The “Special Cell” constituted in the Head Quarters shall have separate Telephone / Mobile Numbers and such numbers must be displayed in all the temples and in the offices of the HR & CE Department, facilitating the general public / devotees to register their complaints,” the bench held while seeking the DGP to provide all the necessary protections to the Government officials and the officials engaged by the HR & CE Department to perform the works, as and when required.
Also, pointing out that the “Deity” in the temple in question is a “minor” and the Court should be astute to protect the interests of an idol in any litigation, also directed the State to appoint an Enquiry officer, not below the rank of the Joint Commissioner of HR & CE Department immediately to conduct an enquiry into rampant encroachment that has been allowed in the said temple lands on taking possession of all relevant records.
“Temple properties are allowed to be looted by few greedy men and by few professional criminals and land grabbers. Active or passive contribution and collusion by the officials of the HR & CE Department cannot be overruled. These lapses, negligence, dereliction of duty by such public officials are also to be viewed seriously and all appropriate actions in this regard are highly warranted,” Justice Subramaniam added.