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'Show Cause Why Immediate Action Should Not Be Taken For Disrespecting Court': Madras HC Raps HR&CE Joint Commissioner For Cavalier Affidavit On Encroached Temple Land

Aaratrika Bhaumik
23 Sep 2021 8:54 AM GMT
Show Cause Why Immediate Action Should Not Be Taken For Disrespecting Court: Madras HC Raps HR&CE Joint Commissioner For Cavalier Affidavit On Encroached Temple Land
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The Madras High Court on Wednesday came down heavily on a Joint Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department for filing a reply in a "cavalier manner" to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed against the encroachment of almost 400 acres of land belonging to the Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple at Tirukannamangai in Tiruvarur district. The Court...

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The Madras High Court on Wednesday came down heavily on a Joint Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department for filing a reply in a "cavalier manner" to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed against the encroachment of almost 400 acres of land belonging to the Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple at Tirukannamangai in Tiruvarur district. The Court had earlier called for a status report from the State in the matter.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and PD Audikesavalu expressed strong reservations against the 'cavalier manner' in which the counter affidavit by the Joint Commissioner had been filed.

Even though the Joint Commissioner had acknowledged that some encroachers were in possession of the temple land, he had submitted that the procedure enumerated under the HR&CE Act of 1959, was cumbersome and that he could not commit any time limit for ensuring such eviction.

"The cavalier manner in which the counter-affidavit has been prepared cries out for immediate action to be taken against the Joint Commissioner, including for contempt. Indeed, the arrogance of the Joint Commissioner knows no bounds as he suggests in the last paragraph of the affidavit that the procedure contemplated in the HR & CE Act, 1959, "is cumbersome and therefore time-limit may not be fixed", the Court observed with anguish.

Further, the absence of details regarding the encroached land further drew the Court's ire.

"The next sentence is shocking:

'Major part of the lands were leased out to tenants and some encroachers are also in possession.'

There is no indication as to who could have leased out temple land to any tenant and as to how many encroachers are in possession and what part of the temple land has been let out and what part encroached," the Court remarked.

The Bench further directed that the HR&CE Secretary must caution other government servants in the department to ensure that "such complete lack of accountability" is more of an exception than the rule.

Thus, the Court passed the following direction to the Joint Commissioner, Tanjavur,

"The concerned Joint Commissioner, Thennarasu, son of Ganesan, should file an affidavit to show-cause why immediate appropriate action should not be taken against such person, inter alia, for the disrespect shown to the court in the manner in which the affidavit has been drafted and for dereliction of duty in not paying attention to any detail or seeking to furnish the same to court. Such explanation should also be available when the matter appears next."

The Secretary in the HR & CE Department was further ordered to submit an affidavit within 2 weeks detailing the extent of the land which is owned by this temple, the measures that have been taken to retrieve the land, the particulars of the tenants to whom parcels of land may have been let out, the accounts pertaining to the lease rents that may have been tendered and the steps taken to rid the land of the encroachers.

The matter is slated to be heard next on October 20.

Case Title: Elephant G Rajendran v. The Secretary and Ors

Click Here To Read/Download Order 




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