The case pertains to Venkatachalapathi Perumal temple at Palayamkottai Thimmarajapuram village in Tirunelveli which is under the administration of HR and CE. The temple has properties of more than 150 acres. Anti-social elements have encroached on the lands belonging to the temple and some even got pattas by submitting forged documents.
Squatters have illegally occupied lands belonging to the Venkatachalapathi Perumal temple at Palayamkottai Thimmarajapuram village in Tirunelveli
Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) has petitioned the District Collector asking him not to issue new pattas and has also urged him to cancel the pattas already given to illegal squatters of Tirunelveli Thimmarajapuram Perumal temple lands over 120 acres (worth 150 crores) which are under illegal occupation.
Grabbing temple properties, particularly under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) by politicians, people from other religions, is a concern for Hindu devotees. The HR and CE , mandated to protect the temple properties, is, allegedly, more keen to loot the income and work in glove with the idol smugglers and encroachers. TR Ramesh, president of the Temple Worshippers Society, in a tweet said, “What nonsensical reply by TN govt. to my @indicocollective writ petition. Govt also conceded in their reply that they misappropriated temple funds. Time to put such govt servants in JAIL.”.
He was referring to the counter affidavit filed by the HR and CE before the Madras High Court in a batch of cases filed by Indic Collective Trust. It stated that the government, despite being secular in nature, was entitled to administer temples through department since article 25(2) of the Constitution empowers the state to enact laws for regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity associated with religious practice. The affidavit said most of the temples in TN were constructed by erstwhile Kings who had also endowed them with several properties. The kings administered temples by appointing officials and that’s exactly what the present day government was doing through the HR and CE. It also stated that there were 38,449 religious institutions under HR and CE control. Of them 56 were mathas, 57 were temples attached to mutts, 1,721 were specific endowments and 3,479 were temples with hereditary trustees. Non-hereditary trustees had to be appointed to 16,783 temples which are now being looked after by Fit Persons on a temporary basis. It denied that vehicles are used by officials for their personal use.
Contrary to the contents of the affidavit, HR and CE, allegedly, responsible for the sorry state of affairs. Several thousand crores of temple properties were encroached by politicians, land mafia in collusion with its officials. Several temples are in a dilapidated condition and could get income even for a single day, pooja and lit lamps. Priests were not getting salaries for years together.
Petition submitted by VHP to the District Collector after which some illegal occupants were cleared out of the temple land
The case in hand pertains to Venkatachalapathi Perumal temple at Palayamkottai Thimmarajapuram village in Tirunelveli. It is also under the administration of HR and CE. It has properties of more than 150 acres. E Armuga gani, VHP Tirunelveli district secretary, told Organiser Weekly that some anti-social elements encroached on the lands belonging to the temple. Some even got pattas by submitting forged documents. This was possible as the HR and CE failed to maintain records of lands and properties of the temples under its control. We have already lodged complaints in this connection with District police officials but no action was taken till day. We came to know that illegal squatters led by all party delegation were to meet the revenue officials seeking pattas in their favour.
In a pre-emptive move, we met the district collector before them on 21st September morning. We requested the authorities to direct the revenue department not give fresh pattas to the illegal occupants of temple properties and cancel the pattas issued earlier based on forged documents. We also brought to their attention that there were attempts to register temple properties in their favour. We requested the district administration take steps as directed by the HC to redeem the properties from the encroachers. In the district over 1000 acres of lands were under illegal occupation.
In Thimmarajapuram perumal koil properties worth over 150 crores have been encroached. In that pucca concrete buildings were constructed. Now a new township with residential quarters were raised on the encroached lands under the ‘watchful eyes’ of the HR and CE. The revenue department should confiscate the properties from the encroachers, survey them and give the possession to the temple. If no action was taken, we, the VHP and with the cooperation of devotees would launch series protests to get back the temple lands”.
Arumuga gani has urged the authorities to take severe action under HR and CE act sec.77(1) 77(1)34, 78(1), 78(2), 78(2)(i) 78(3) and 79(1),79(2),79(3), 79(A)(i), 79(A)(ii), 79(A)(iii), and 79(B) (i), 79 (B) (ii), 79(B) (iii) and 79 (E) , 80(1), 80(2),80(),80(4) and 81,82(1).
He recalled that a division bench headed by Justice M M Sundresh and Justice Hemalatha had restrained authorities from registering or issuing fresh pattas to temple lands on September 5th. “As per the orders of the HC ( 2020-4 MLJ-625) even if in possession of temple lands for over 80 years, none can claim ownership for the same and the squatters have to return the properties to the authorities”, he pointed out.
In a related development, encroachments around the Palayamkottai Sivan temple were demolished on 16th of this month. It was possible after an 11 years legal battle. Revenue authorities removed the 27 houses built on the temple land. After hearing the news, the squatters seized the District collector office demanding to issue pattas or give alternative lands.