Detain temple land encroachers under Goondas Act, Madras HC directs Tamil Nadu government

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The Court also ordered constitution of a special cell to retrieve the encroached temple properties.
The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department to issue a public notification calling upon encroachers of temple properties spread across the State to voluntarily surrender the lands within a stipulated time failing which criminal proceedings would be initiated against them including detention under the Goondas Act. The court also ordered constitution of a special cell to retrieve the encroached temple properties.

Justice S.M. Subramaniam said only officers, known for their integrity and devotion to duty, should be made part of the special cell whose phone numbers should be displayed in all temples in the State and on notice boards of HR&CE Department offices so that people interested in protecting temple lands could lodge complaints. He also directed the Director General of Police (DGP) to provide protection to the officials engaged in retrieving the encroached properties from land sharks.

Making it clear that action should be initiated either under the HR&CE Act of 1959 or the criminal laws or the Goondas Act as per the facts of the encroachment concerned, the judge wrote: "The respondents (State government, HR&CE Department and DGP) shall not hesitate to invoke the provisions of the Goondas Act against such professional land grabbers and persons involved in encroachment and illegal activities in respect of the temple properties at large for personal and unjust gains."

The judge said, fraudulent and illegal encroachment of temple properties was a crime against the society at large. Misappropriation of temple funds was also undoubtedly an offence and all such offences must be…
Mohamed Imranullah S.
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