HR&CE Department will give impetus to temple land identification exercise

HR&CE Department will give impetus to temple land identification exercise
Legal Correspondent
UPDATED: 24 OCTOBER 2020 01:07 IST
Commissioner is upset at the lack of major progress in the last two years
The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department has decided to give an impetus to a court-initiated exercise that commenced in February 2018 for identifying immovable properties owned by every temple under its control, ascertaining the extent of properties alienated illegally so far, the lands that were under encroachment and those for which paltry amounts were being paid as rent or lease.

HR&CE Commissioner S. Prabhakar has expressed disappointment over the lack of any major progress in the last two years and summoned all district-level Assistant Commissioners to his office for submission of the details, along with statistics. In a communication to regional and district officials, he deplored the practice of officials providing contradictory statistics to the Department.

The communication recalled that Justice R. Mahadevan of the Madras High Court had, on February 12, 2018, directed the Department to form individual committees to identify all temple land and free them of encroachment and illegal occupation within six weeks.

The judge also ordered that the property details of every temple be hosted on the Department’s website, and action be initiated against officials who had failed to protect the lands.

Committees formed

Immediately thereafter, the Department ordered constitution of property identification committees in every temple.

District-level review committees, comprising the Assistant Commissioners, were also formed. The committees were directed to submit their monthly reports in an appropriate format to the HR&CE Commissioner. However, when their performance was reviewed recently, it was found to be unsatisfactory.

The review revealed that only 90% of the temples had constituted the property identification committees so far and even those committees had completed only 25% of the work. Further, just 10% of the temples had submitted their final reports. Expressing displeasure over contradictory reports filed by some officials, the HR&CE Commissioner said such an act does not bode well for the administration of the Department.

T.R. Ramesh of the Indic Collective Trust, which had filed several cases in the High Court for protecting temple properties, alleged that the HR&CE Commissioner began to crack the whip only after a Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha recently warned that he would have to appear in person before the court if no proper progress was shown on the issue of alienation of lands.

He said the Department was expected to report progress to the Division Bench on December 1 when the Division Bench would hear the issue once again.

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