The Madras High Court on Monday reserved its order on an appeal for interim stay against the implementation of a government order (GO) regularising encroachments of temple lands across Tamil Nadu. A Division Bench of Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice N Seshasayee said it would first pass orders on the miscellaneous petition seeking the stay against the August 30 order and then decide on the main petition.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) of A Radhakrishnan challenging the state government decision to issue patta to encroachers of temple lands.
When the plea came up for hearing, the bench wondered how the GO would be implemented without having the details or statistics of encroachments of land owned by 38,000 temples under the control of the Hindu religious and charitable endowments department.
Referring to the government decision to buy such land from the temples and then issue patta to squatters, the bench asked the government counsel as to whether the price of the lands would be fixed as per the Fair Compensation Act.
In September last, while admitting the plea, the bench censured the state for passing such an order and wondered what signal the state was trying to send when such encroachments were already rampant.
Responding to the plea, the state submitted that the GO was not a blanket order and that the encroachments of the lands would be taken up temple-wise, based on the availability of temple lands and after getting concurrence of the Hindu religious and charitable endowments department.
The government has decided to grant patta for eligible poor families residing on temple lands for a considerable period of time and the land which is no longer required for the temple, but only after compensating the department, it added.
The yardstick applicable to residential encroachments of objectionable and non-objectionable public land is not adopted for temple lands.
In respect of such encroachments of temple lands, necessary action would be taken to purchase the land from the department for which proposals would be sent to the government from temple-wise through HR and CE commissioner, the affidavit said.
It was further submitted that to safeguard the interest of the temples and to derive income from such lands, it was decided to pay compensation as per the prevailing rules in force.