The Madras High Court Chief justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the observation in a contempt petition against the HR & CE department of the Tamil Nadu Government.
The Madras High Court warned the Tamil Nadu Government of strict action if the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments of the Tamil Nadu Government did not take steps to recover temple properties.
The court was hearing a contempt petition against the senior officers of the HR & CE for taking any action in the Agatheshwarar Temple case.
The court had passed an order on February 19, 2019 to recover the land of the Agatheshwarar Temple, which was illegally sold by the erstwhile trustees of the temple.
Petitioner J Mohanraj had requested the court to take action against HR & CE officials for not acting on the court’s order.
The court observed, “We note that in most cases pertaining to temples under the HR & CE Department, the officials concerned have been negligent in resuming temple properties that had been transferred to others unauthorisedly. Unless immediate measures are taken by the Department, more drastic measures may be called for.”
The court directed the HR & CE officials to file a status report in three weeks.
The counsel for the petitioner, P. T. Perumal, submitted in the court that a souvenir brought out by the temple authorities in 1988 had mentioned that the temple owned 340 grounds of land.
Subsequent RTIs revealed that the temple owned 307 grounds of land. But, a status report filed by the HR & CE Department mentions only 93 grounds of land. The report also talks about the illegal sale of 107 grounds of land.
Bringing the inconsistencies in the numbers of lands mentioned in different records, Perumal requested the court to ask for an explanation from the senior officials of the HR & CE Department.