Court asks HR&CE Department if it has collected biometric details of temple land encroachers

NEWS STATES TAMIL NADU
TAMIL NADU
Court asks HR&CE Department if it has collected biometric details of temple land encroachers
Legal Correspondent
CHENNAI 22 SEPTEMBER 2020 14:16 IST
UPDATED: 22 SEPTEMBER 2020 14:16 IST

The issue cropped up during the hearing of a batch of cases filed by Indic Collective Trust and others, for the protection of temple properties and other assets
The Madras High Court has asked if the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department had commenced obtaining biometric details of all those who had encroached upon several acres of temple properties across the State.

Justices M.M. Sundresh and R. Hemalatha on Monday directed the department to file a report in that regard by September 24. They pointed out that another Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and N. Seshsayee had insisted upon collection of such biometric details on November 22.

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The issue cropped up during the hearing of a batch of cases filed by Indic Collective Trust (ICT), its president T.R. Ramesh, Srirangam-based activist Rangarajan Narasimhan and another individual, R. Venkataraman, for the protection of temple properties and other assets.

During the course of arguments, advocate Niranjan Rajagopal, representing ICT, informed the court about an interim stay granted by the Bench led by Justice Sathyanarayanan to a government order issued on August 30, 2019 for granting ‘patta’ to encroachers of temple lands.

While staying the operation of the GO, the Bench said that even if the intention of the government was to purchase temple lands, under encroachment by the landless poor for long, from the HR&CE Department, such an exercise could not be carried out without a biometric assessment. The observation was made since the petitioners before the court feared that in the guise of transferring ownership of temple lands to the landless poor, the officials might end up giving away valuable temple properties to wealthy encroachers after a paltry sum was paid to the temples.

Taking note of the observation made by that Bench, Justice Sundresh on Monday wanted to know whether such biometric assessment had been completed or was yet to begin. He also said that final hearing on the batch of cases before his Bench should commence from September 24.

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