Chennai, Feb 12: (PTI) — Noting that nearly 50,000 acres of temple land in Tamil Nadu has been encroached upon in the last few years, the Madras High Court today directed authorities to take steps to retrieve the properties illegally alienated or leased.
Justice R Mahadevan held that a duty was cast on the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) department authorities to ensure temples and endowments were properly administered and that their income was duly appropriated for the purposes for which they were founded or exist.
He also directed the HR and CE commissioner to constitute committees that would visit all temples and identify lands belonging to them and those encroached upon.
A report should be filed within six weeks specifying the details of the temple lands for which patta (land deeds) had been granted to third parties/encroacher, he said.
The judge set aside a June 30, 2017 order of an Assistant Commissioner of HR and CE, directing the trustees of a temple in Sivaganga district to approach the civil court for retrieving alienated lands after they petitioned him over it.
The trustees of the temple at Nagara Soorakudy, in their petition, submitted that lands of the temple had been alienated to third parties by way of agreements by a previous trustee and sought to retrieve those.
The judge also directed the state revenue secretary to instruct all tahsildars/district revenue officers to take steps to alter the patta granted to the beneficiaries of illegal transfer of land or possession and restore the name of the temple in the document.
He ordered the authorities concerned to refrain from issuing patta for temple lands without written communication from the HR and CE department.