Temple lands can't be transferred: High Court

While heading the first bench with Justice N Mala, Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari passed the orders on disposing of the writ appeals filed by the state government.
Temple lands can't be transferred: High Court
Madras High Court

CHENNAI: While upholding the order of a single judge quashing the move of the state government to assign the lands of Sri Sakthi Muthamman Temple in Chinna Neelankarai, Chennai and Sri Kottai Mariamman temple in Omalur, Salem to the fisheries and transport departments respectively, the Madras High Court on Wednesday held that temple lands cannot be transferred to other departments without the consent of HR&CE commissioner.

While heading the first bench with Justice N Mala, Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari passed the orders on disposing of the writ appeals filed by the state government. The state had challenged the November 2020 order of Justice R Mahadevan who quashed the orders by the government to allocate the temple lands to the fisheries department in Chennai and the transport department in Omalur.

When the matter was taken up, the first bench held that they are concurring with the judgment of the single judge quashing the government’s move to transfer the temple lands to the various government departments.

“The Commissioner, HR&CE Department, who has the general power of superintendence and control over all the temples has neither been consulted nor been involved in the decision-making process. It is not in dispute that by virtue of Section 34 of the Act, 1959, the Commissioner has been empowered to grant a long lease of the temple property, but in consultation with the Government, ” the bench ruled.

In 1963, a GO was issued to transfer 2.03 acres of land belonging to the Sakthi Muthamman temple in Chinna Neelankarai to the fisheries department. Likewise, in 2018, the Salem district collector ordered the transfer of the 1.15 acres of land of Kottai Mariamman temple to the transport department for building the RTO office. The act of the government was challenged before the court by litigants named S Guhan, S Sridhar, C Maran, and A Radhakrishnan.

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