The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) department to conduct a comprehensive survey or audit of the temple properties around Tiruchendur Subramaniya Swamy temple to ascertain if there were any encroachments.
A Bench of justices R Mahadevan and J Sathya Narayana Prasad further added that in case of encroachments, the properties have to be retrieved, irrespective of whether any civil suit is pending in connection with them. The directions were issued on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by T Velmurugan in 2015, to protect and maintain the properties belonging to the aforesaid temple. Though the petitioner died during the pendency of the petition, the court, in view of the larger public interest, continued to consider the petition.
The judges said, “Temples in Tamil Nadu are not only a source of identification of the ancient culture, but also a testimony of knowledge and talent in the field of arts, science and sculpture and a conduit for spiritual activities as well. The properties of the religious institutions, more particularly, that of the temples, have to be maintained properly in order to derive more income to spend for their betterment.”
Hence, the HR and CE commissioner is duty bound to ensure that the temples and its properties are properly administered and their income is utilised in the right manner, the judges added and issued the above direction.
Passing orders on another PIL filed by P Markandan seeking direction to restore the properties of Dharmapuram Adheenam, the judges directed the joint commissioner concerned to take immediate action under Section 78 of HR and CE Act to remove the encroachments in the properties and hand them over to the Adheenam within three months. The properties, measuring around 3.53 acre, are situated in Tiruchendur. As per an inspection conducted by HR and CE officials, 12 lodges, 58 houses and 14 shops are situated encroaching the properties