Chennai: In an attempt to retrieve the temple properties across the state, the Madras high court has directed authorities to identify the temple properties and shops, under illegal occupation and remove them within 6 months.
A division bench comprising Justices M.V. Muralidaran and T. Krishnavalli said, “The commissioner, HR & CE, is directed to take stringent action against encroachers of the temple properties and see to that they should be evicted without giving any room for them to once again grab the property of the temples. Further the illegal occupants of the shops of the HR & CE temples in all over Tamil Nadu should be thrown out immediately without showing any leniency to them. The properties, vacant lands and buildings of the HR & CE temples in all over Tamil Nadu should not be allowed to swallow by the illegal occupants for their personal enrichment. If any of the temple officials are found in collusion with the illegal occupants/encroachers of the temple properties, stringent disciplinary action should be taken against them”.
While passing interim orders on a PIL from R.S. Kalyanaraman relating to the administration of a temple in Tiruchendur, the bench had on July 27 directed the district judges in the state to submit reports about the prevailing conditions of the temples coming under the HR & CE department in their respective jurisdiction, as per the earlier directions of the Supreme Court.
Accordingly, the district judges filed their reports. After perusing the reports, the bench gave as many as 21 directions and directed the commissioner, HR & CE to comply with the same and file an interim compliance report on January 22, 2019.
The bench said it was needless to say that recent recovery of idols and even temple pillars from all over TN alarms the necessity of installation of CCTV cameras in temples to prevent exploitation of temple properties and theft of idols of deities as well other architecture work. The HR & CE commissioner shall submit a temple wise report under HR & CE control and the number of CCTV cameras required for complete surveillance as and where required in the temple premises and the said report shall be filed on January 22, 2019. He should also report as to the feasibility to set up a common control room at state level to keep surveillance over temples, the bench added.
Slew of directions
Among other directions, the bench directed the HR & CE Commissioner to issue suitable directions to the executive officers of the temples under the control of the HR & CE in TN to ensure that all the poojas were performed only by the legally appointed poojaris of the temples. The HR & CE commissioner was directed to ensure that all devotees were to be equally treated by the temple authorities without any differences between the poor and rich since all were equal before the Lord Almighty and he should direct the respective executive officers in all the temples to monitor the same daily, the bench added.
The bench said the free darsan line should be available in all the temples and it should not be reduced or restricted to promote the pay darsan lines. The poor people should not be discriminated in terms of money. The pay darsan lines were only to be permitted to the limited extent of improving revenue to the temple. The unnecessary VIP culture should be curtailed in future, the bench added.
The bench directed the HR & CE commissioner to issue suitable directions to all the executive officers of all the temples in the state to install biometric device for the entries of the staff including legally appointed Iyers/Poojaris into the temples. He was also directed to issue suitable directions to warn the legally appointed poojaris that they should not demand more money from the devotees for special poojas, the bench added.
The bench also directed the HR & CE to provide toilet and drinking water facilities in all the temples.
Pointing out insufficient staff available to man the temples across the state, the bench directed the HR & CE commissioner to furnish the district level figure as to the existing vacancies in all kinds of temples on the next hearing date.