Temples are in disuse, you are least bothered: Madras HC to Tamil Nadu govt

10th June 2021

10th June 2021

Image: Courtesy RepublicWorld

Observing that temples in Tamil Nadu are not only a source of identification of the ancient culture but also a testimony of pride and knowledge, Madras High Court calls the Tamil Nadu government out and issued 75 directions for maintenance and protection of historical monuments and ancient temples. 

“The custodians of grand and antique temples and ancient monuments are least bothered 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,” the two-division bench of Justices PD Audikesavalu and R Mahadevan noted in their order. 

The Madras High Court further slammed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department, which is the custodian of the temple properties, for its failure in protecting antique idols.

"It is startling to find that the HR&CE department with all its income from major temples has not been able to maintain historical temples and safeguard the idols, which in the market, have antique value based on their age. Some temples in the state have also been recognized by UNESCO as a heritage sites. “

Ordering the immediate removal of encroachments from temple lands, the Court asked the HR&CE department to prepare the list of encroachments and upload the details on the website with six weeks. 

The two-judge bench asked them to take action in retrieving the lands by removing all the encroachments, prevent illegal construction and take necessary steps for the recovery of rent arrears. 

The Court further emphasized that temple lands must always remain with temples and the State Government or HR&CE Department should not alienate or give away such lands contrary to the wish of the donors.

Stating that there’s a “dire need to manage and conserve our ancient cultural heritage,” the court asked the  HR&CE department to include all the details including the number of stolen idols, the number of idols retrieved, and the status of probe in theft cases.

A special tribunal shall be formed to exclusively deal with disputes over temple lands, tradition, culture, lease, rent arrears, and illegal encroachment.

The bench directed that the state should constitute a 17-member heritage commission within two months, and declared that no structural alteration or renovation can be done without its approval. 

“The Heritage Commission shall identify all the structures, monuments, temples, antiques with historical/archaeological importance within the state of Tamil Nadu, formulate a list with age of such monuments by categorising them within their period group, issue appropriate notification, render periodical advice to the State, supervise the restoration, repair works etc., and maintain the same,” the Bench concluded.


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