The Madras High Court has advised the Tamil Nadu government not to exploit temple properties by selling or leasing out to individuals or commercial establishments.
The court was disposing of a writ petition from city-based Mermaid Properties Private Limited on December 1.
The petition sought to quash a March 30, 2017 order of the state Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) department and consequently direct it to grant on lease 22 cents out of 31 cents belonging to Sri Nithya Kalyana Perumal Temple in Tiruvidanthai village in Kancheepuram district.
“The state government must be slow in taking any decision to exploit the temple properties towards the progress of any individual, company, firm or industrial houses etc., as the economic progress of the state, though is important, however, not at the cost of the properties of the God,” Justice R Suresh Kumar observed.
The petitioner had developed his own land for constructing a gated community behind the temple on the East Coast Road. To have direct access to his property, he approached the temple and the HR&CE department, which by an order passed in June, 2007 had granted permission to give the land on lease to the petitioner.
When the petitioner approached the authorities again for renewal of the lease, the department, after taking note of the objections raised by the temple, had permitted to execute the lease in favour of the petitioner only in respect of 400 sq.ft for the purpose of or use of approach road to their land by fixing a monthly rent of Rs 7,000 for three years with various other conditions. Aggrieved over this, the petitioner filed the present petition.
Disposing it, Justice Suresh Kumar said there is absolutely no plausible reason for the petitioner to challenge the order. In fact, the department ought not to have passed the impugned order giving on lease even 400 sq ft of land despite the objections raised by the temple, who is none other than the owner of the land concerned.
Citing the orders of a division bench passed in June this year in another case, the judge said that even for public purpose, the temple lands cannot be exploited, as the same would be required to be used for some other larger interest of the community people of the religious denomination for which those temples had been dedicated. This mandate of the bench should be taken into account by the government, while deciding any application being made by any third party like the petitioner seeking right over temple properties by way of rent or lease for any private interest or industrial or economic or commercial growth, the judge added and directed the department not to give effect to the order passed in March 2017.
Instead, it will be open to the petitioner to approach the government afresh. The government should consider the objections of the temple. It also should be slow in taking any decision to exploit the temple properties towards the progress of any individual, company, firm or industrial houses, the judge said.
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