Tuesday, December 13, 2011

News Article: Tamil Nadu:HC criticises collector for 'supporting' encroacher

Mohamed Imranullah S.
Wednesday, Feb 16, 2011

Bench quashes orders passed by Land Administration Commissioner, Collector
‘Contention that the temple is not in need of the land cannot be accepted'

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here on Tuesday criticised the Commissioner of Land Administration as well as Thanjavur Collector for “supporting” an individual who had encroached upon 1,250 sq.ft., of land belonging to Karpaga Vinayagar temple at Vanakkara street in Maharnombu Chavadi for the last 72 years and built a toilet on the property thereby demeaning the sanctity of the place.

Allowing a writ petition filed by one of the temple trustees, a Division Bench comprising Justice N.Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice R.Subbiah directed the encroacher to hand over the land to the district administration within eight weeks. The Collector, in turn, was ordered to give away the possession of the property to the temple authorities within two weeks thereafter.

The Bench also quashed orders passed by the Land Administration Commissioner as well as the Thanjavur Collector on December 20, 2007 and April 25, 2005 respectively. In those orders, the officials had held that the individual, who was in occupation of the temple land for more than seven decades, need not be evicted for the present as the temple was not in urgent need of that piece of land.

The judges wondered how the two officers could take such a view when Board of Revenue as well as the civil courts had given categorical findings against the encroacher. “In the case on hand, the encroacher is promoting his private interest, which is also unfortunately supported by the Collector and the Commissioner who are bound to protect the interest of the temple than supporting the cause of an individual,” they said.

Writing the judgement, Mr.Justice Vasanthakumar also said: “The contention of the District Collector and the Commissioner that the temple is not in need of the land cannot be accepted. The temple lands and the land appurtenant thereto are to be enjoyed by the devotees/worshippers of the temple and it cannot be used by any encroacher, that too, for constructing a toilet.”

In his affidavit, the petitioner, T.K. Saminathan, said that 27 cents of land in Maharnombu Chavadi of Thanjavur town was classified as ‘temple poromboke' during settlement operations when the area was taken over under the Tamil Nadu Estates Abolition and Conversion of Ryotwari Act, 1948. Then, Veerapillai, a bus driver, encroached upon 1,250 sq.ft., of that land.

The matter was taken up with the Tahsildar, Revenue Divisional Officer and the District Revenue Officer. It ultimately culminated in an order passed by the Revenue Board on April 25, 1976 against the encroacher. Subsequently, the Thiruvaiyaru District Munsif Court dismissed a civil suit filed by the encroacher in 1983. An appeal was also dismissed by the Thanjavur Sub-Court in 1986. The High Court too, in 1999, dismissed a second appeal filed by the encroacher. Thereafter, disposing of a writ petition filed by the temple trustee in 2004, the High Court directed the Collector to initiate necessary action on basis of the civil court decrees.


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