Madras High Court Directs Tamil Nadu Government to Protect Hindu Temples

The Madras High Court, on Monday, directed government officials to compile a list of encroachments over temple lands and recover them without delay from encroachers and defaulters. The Court had set aside a time period of 6 weeks for preparing the list and uploading the details on the website.

It noted that the authorities must take necessary steps for the recovery of rent arrears, prevent illegal construction and encroachment of temple lands. The Court warned that appropriate action would be taken against the HR&CE Department officials for failing to remove encroachments within 8 weeks.

The matter came up before a two-Judges Bench of Justices PD Audikesavalu and R Mahadevan. The Court noted, “the custodians of grand and antique temples and ancient monuments are least concerned, and the conservation of our valuable heritage is deteriorating not due to any natural calamity or catastrophe, but due to reckless administration and maintenance under the guise of renovation.”

In a 224-page judgment, issued a set of 75 directions to the Tamil Nadu government for the maintenance and protection of historical monuments and ancient temples. The suo motu case was initiated by the then Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan based on a reader’s letter called ‘The Silent Burial’ published in The Hindu newspaper.

The Bench also slammed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments and the Archaeology Department for its failure in safeguarding antique idols, and temples. The Madras High Court observed that 2000-year-old temples in the state are in ruins, which has facilitated miscreants to ‘lay their hands on the idols.’ The Court’s directions can bring about legislative reform Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act (HR&CE Act).

The High Court also emphasised that temple funds must first be used in the maintenance of temples, conducting festivals, and making payment to the staff. “In case of surplus funds, the same shall be utilized for attending the repair and maintenance of other temples in the state as specified under the HR&CE Act and the Rules framed there under and for propaganda of the tenets of all or any of the religious institutions under the HR&CE Act,” the Court added.