Madras HC stays TN governments order to give away temple lands to squatters
   22-Nov-2019

 
In August, the Tamil Nadu government had issued an order permitting registering the Hindu temple lands to those who had occupied it illegally. The move had caused a huge furore in the state. Members of Temple Worshippers Society had gone to High Court and questioned the government's order and rationale. Today, in a setback to the Tamil Nadu government, the Madras high court has put a stay on the part of the government order which permitted regularization of encroachments by squatters on temple lands across the state.
 
A division bench of Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice N Seshasayee passed the interim order on the plea moved by A Radhakrishnan challenging the August 30 government order. The HC in its order stayed the part of the GO relating to temple encroachments and Commissioner sending the proposals to Govt to give patta lands to squatters.
 
Organiser had covered the issue of TN government's move to give away temple lands to squatters and how Hindu temples stand to lose thousands of acres of patta lands from this order. The Dravidian parties which have ruled the state for last several decades have always eyed the temple lands as the golden egg but never believed in any of the temple practices.
 
TN Government left red-faced
 
In September, while admitting the plea against the GO, the HC had bench censured the state for passing such a GO and wondered what message was the state was trying to send when such encroachments were already rampant. The TN government in its reply had submitted that the GO was not a blanket order and that the encroachments in the temple lands are being taken up temple-wise and based on the availability of temple land, after getting concurrence of the Hindu religious and charitable endowments department.
 
Further the government said that it decided to grant patta land to eligible poor families residing on temple lands for a considerable period of time and the land which are no longer required for the temple, but only after compensating the department.
 
This was ironic as the HR&CE department comes under the same government and is not autonomous on any count. Getting concurrence from its own department for sale of temple lands or regularization of illegally occupied lands is not a big deal, say Hindu leaders. The government has not done any detailed survey of temples and the land they require and this pre-conclusion says that the government was hell bent on using temple lands for its politics.
 
Many have asked, if the TN government is so concerned about the poor, why cant it give away Mosque and Church lands which are unused. The yardstick applicable to residential encroachments in objectionable and non-objectionable public lands is not adopted for temple lands.