Chennai: Terming the growing trend of encroachment of public lands, temple lands and trust lands as a menace, the Madras high court has said greedy men, land grabbers and land mafias are tempted to encroach all such public lands, temple lands by using their muscle power and money power and by influencing the authorities concerned and with the assistance of few local politicians.
Disposing of a petition from a temple relating to fixation of rent, Justice S.M. Subramaniam said such land mafias and land grabbers are acting as a gang in their locality. However, no effective steps are being taken to curb the illegal activities of those land mafias and land grabbers. Contrarily, the authorities have either colluded or remained as silent spectators. Few honest officials remained as silent spectators and their inactions have encouraged those illegal activities. In few cases, the officials themselves colluded by indulging in corrupt activities. Circumstances are many, however, the situation remains that the valuable properties and hard earned money donated or gifted by the great souls for the welfare of the Temple and the devotees are mostly misused and abused, the judge added.
The judge said the temples in the state own properties, worth several crores. Nearly about 36,000 temples were now under the administrative control of the HR & CE through out the state. Most of the temples were owning large extent of immovable properties and movable properties, worth several crores. Lots of litigations were pending. Lease agreement, sale deed, original documents etc., were to be preserved and protected by the department. The valuable immovables including jewelleries, ornaments, properties and valuables belonging to the temple across the state were to be protected. The requisite qualification of law degree has been prescribed for appointment to the post of executive officer. It was painful to pen down that all such law graduates, who all were duty bound to uphold the rule of law were failing in their duties to protect the interest of religious institutions, the judge added.
The judge said the Commissioner, HR & CE, who was the head of the department was duty bound to act swiftly in respect of all such illegalities and corrupt activities. The inaction of the Commissioner for long duration and allowing these illegalities and corrupt activities to continue was also to be deprecated, the judge added.
The judge said Special government pleader M.Maharaja stated that the Commissioner has initiated suitable actions to conduct enquiries in respect of the illegalities and dereliction of duty against the officials. “The properties were donated/gifted by some great souls. Their valuable earnings were contributed for the benefit of public at large. Thus, the Commissioner is duty bound to maintain the same and protect the properties, as the department is the custodian and trustee of all the properties belong to the temple and religious institutions under the provisions of the Act,” the judge added....