Temple Land Cannot Be Used To Bury Dead Bodies: Madras High Court Slams Authorities For 'Callous Attitude'
Hearing a plea seeking measures against use of temple land as a burial ground, the Madras High Court observed that while the right to be cremated or buried is an essential part of fundamental right to practise one's religion, the same cannot be allowed on the land belonging to temples.
"At the same time, it cannot be allowed to bury dead bodies in the land belonging to the temple. This court has time and again retierated that the lands belonging to the temples are used only for religious purposes and the activities connected therein"
The bench of Justice R Mahadevan and Justice J Sathya Narayana Prasad said that the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) department, being the custodian of temples, should take all possible steps to remove encroachments and unauthorised occupation.
"...the HR & CE Department is the custodian of the temples and its properties, and the authorities should take all effective measures to safeguard the same from encroachment / unauthorised occupation."
The court made the observations while hearing a plea filed by SP Narayanan, who sells hats in the pathway of Arulmigu Subramaniya Swamy Temple at Thiruchendur. According to the petitioner, a lot of devotees visit the temple during festive times and find it difficult to find space to take rest.
He submitted that land measuring around 30 acres, which was earlier being used by devotees for parking purposes and to take rest, is being used for burial and other illegal activities in the night time. Though representation was sent to the Collector and the temple authorities in 2017 calling on them to take action, the court was told no action has been taken.
The Executive Officer of the temple submitted that a communication in this regard had already been sent to the Revenue Divisional Officer requesting to prevent third parties from using the temple land as a burial ground. The temple authorities had also requested the RDO to allocate an alternate land for this purpose, the court was told.
The government counsel submitted that the authorities will look into the matter based on these representations within a time frame set by the court.
Highlighting the religious significance of the temple and taking note of the fact that huge crows visit it for darshan, the court said it is obvious that the public and devotees would be put to much hardship in getting through the day, if adequate basic amenities are not available near the temple.
Observing that even authorities accept that the land belonging to the temple was being used for burying the dead, the court said, "Despite the same, no steps have been taken by the revenue officials, till date. Such a callous attitude on the part of the respondent authorities cannot be countenanced by this court".
Thus, the court directed the respondent authorities to consider the representation of the petitioner within a period of three months of the order. It also said that the District Collector shall consider allocating an alternative site for burial.
Case Title: SP Narayanan v District Collector, Thoothukudi
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 485
Case No: WP (MD) No.8310 of 2018