Now yet another scandal involving temple land belonging to Kandaswamy Temple in Chennai’s Parry suburb has come to light. The temple’s land worth Rs 100 crores is being sold with forged documents.
Muthukumaraswamy Devasthanam also known as Kandakkottam Kandaswamy koil is located very near to seat of judicial administration namely the Madras High Court. Devotees throng to this temple to have a darshan of lord Muruga. It is believed to over 500 years old. Erstwhile Zamindars, devotees without heirs and philanthropists donated movable and immovable assets. Some of them are in Manavazhagar street, Kandaswamy Temple Street, Anna Salai and Erukkancherry. It's worth is estimated to be around 500 crores.
Hindu Munnani sources say, “They were under tenancy. Tenants and stopped paying rent to the temple administration. The local politicians misled them that as per the rule of adverse possession i.e those who are in possession of the property for a longer period become its owners. Moreover TN government’s directive, “properties under tenancy, the tenants become its owners by virtue of possession. Court have held that this would not apply to the temple and trust properties. Hiding this fact, the politicians, land mafia cheat them by getting registered in the tenants name with forged documents. These fraudsters changed the survey number of the properties and have got it registered at the Madhavaram sub- register’s office by fraudulent means. In these way, properties, it is learnt, have been sold to various persons. Also they shown the temple properties as ‘Village Natham’. In this manners, over 60 properties were sold and construction works are full swing in some of them. The HR and CE officials who are the custodian of temple properties always remain mute spectators”.
Devotees of the temple allege that, “Absence of proper index of temple properties, registers, callous attitude of management is the sole reason for such irregularities and going into the hands of squatters. This has been brought to notice of the Kandaswamy temple managers”. The temple has not taken any steps to retrieve the lands that are sold illegally, they say. Devotees suspect some in the temple management are hand in glove with these elements.
In the similar way, Chennai Corporation is trying to usurp two acres of temple tank land out of four acres. Originally the temple tank was spread across 10 acres.
Hindu Munnani sources said “the temple tank was part of the Sriniva perumal with consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi temple at Chettiar Agaram near Porur. The tank never went dry, even during drought in the city. It helped to maintain ground water level sufficiently. It is being used mainly for irrigation and drinking water purposes which is now under brink of existence. Court has ordered to take steps to retrieve the encroached lands from the squatters, survey should be done to redraft its boundaries. But instead of taking action against the court order, the corporation is building concrete structures in the middle of the tank and plans to construct shops, commercial buildings and park. This is against the court direction”.
Madras High Court while hearing a petition filed by Srirangam Rangarajan Narasimhan and another petitioner, on 22nd September directed the HR and CE to submit a report on the action taken to retrieve the temple properties which were under illegal occupation.
The Madras High Court Judge R Mahadevan two years ago came down heavily on the HR and CE for not protecting the temple properties continuously. He had directed them to take efforts to recover more than 50,000 acres of encroached temple land. Citing a recent survey that 5.25 lakh acres of temples land on record a few years ago, only 4.78 lakh acres existed now. He directed authorities to inform people to surrender temple lands voluntarily to avoid penal action. Another division bench comprising justice M Sathyanarayanan and justice N Seshasyaee parcels of temple lands in the state worth thousand crores will continue to remain in God’s passion while staying the GO that sought to regularize non-objectionable temple land encroached by squatters for more than five years.
Tamil Nadu government has embarked on a project to create a database as per the HC orders. Officials, who are involved in the pilot project, are uploading details of all five prominent temple lands, idols, jewels on line using the software designed by NIC (National Informatics Centre). It is now being extended to all temples in the state. But devotees are apprehensive about the HR and CE move. They say “merely creating a database and uploading them online won’t do wonders in checking the illegal activities”. They expect some bold actions to retrieve them from encroachers and protect the remaining properties that are with the HR and CE. They point out that parent documents were unavailable for a large number of properties.
“Officials should prepare the parent documents after getting the self-attestation from the concerned temple EO and should get it registered as a document at the registrar’s office. Such properties should be given patta, chitta and encumbrance certificates. For this a GO has to be issued. Encumbrance certificate for 12 years should be obtained to know its present status” Devotees list out measures that included appointment of special Tehsildars in all districts to look after the temple related case. Each 11 zones of HR and CE one DRO level officials would be posted. The retrieve the temple lands an IAS officer should be assigned exclusively”.
They recall “way back, District Revenue Official level officer was appointed to find out the available temple lands and properties, buildings that are under encroachment, their place and its present value and every year a report should be submitted to the government in 1970. But there was no development”.
Devotees urge the government to set up special courts exclusively to hear the temple related cases. “To take action against Registration, Revenue, Fire Services, building approval department officials who help the squatters of temple, a special vigilance team should be set up’ devotees suggest.