The Madras High Court on Monday saved 7.76 acres of temple land worth about ₹ 100 crore at Naganallur village in Alandur taluk here from being usurped by a group of individuals.
The court declared as null and void an exparte civil court decree through which they had got a sale deed registered in their names in 2004.
Justice R. Mahadevan also directed the State government to initiate departmental action against a former Kancheepuram Collector who had failed to contest another suit filed by the individuals in 2005 to restrain government authorities from interfering with their possession of the property. This suit had also got decreed exparte in 2007.
Though the properties belonged to Pidari Pachiamman Temple, which was established for private worship before 1933, the judge held that now it should be considered only as a public temple since it had been subsequently opened to public worship and the people of the locality had been worshipping the deity for decades.
“Therefore, it is a public temple and hence, Section 34 of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act comes into operation. No property belonging to a religious institution can be sold without the permission of the Commissioner. Hence, the alleged sale even based on a decree is a nullity,” the judge ordered.
He pointed out that the temple had originally beeen established by one Vijayarangan Pillai and Mohanarangan Pillai. Subsequently, they sold the land to Duraisamy Pillai in 1933. After his death, his descendants were not able to devote full attention towards maintenance and so they formed an association in 1983.
The association reportedly entered into a sale agreement with one Pandian in 1992 and fixed the consideration at ₹ 7 lakh. Though advance money was paid, Pandian died before the sale could be concluded. Hence, his family members filed a suit in 2001 for specific performance of the sale agreement and obtained an ex-parte decree in 2003.
Accordingly, a sale deed was registered in 2004. However, the property remained to be described as temple property in revenue records. All their efforts for mutation of revenue records ended futile. In the meantime, they filed another suit in 2005 to restrain the Collector from interfering with the possession and obtained another exparte decree.
Holding all such decrees as null and void and pointing out that the petitioners had not produced any other to prove their title over the property, the judge directed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to take possession of the property. He also directed the Sub-Registrar concerned to desist from registering any sale deed with respect to it.
Criticising the trial court too for decreeing the suit for specific performance in 2003, Justice Mahadevan said: “It is made clear that a decree passed on the basis of a false and frivolous suit is not a nullity but an injustice to the society... The trial court cannot simply pass a two-line judgement... without analysing the records.
“It is a duty cast upon the trial court to verify the basic and required facts for deciding the issue. Even in this writ petition, none of those title documents have been enclosed in the typed set of papers... All these would go to show that the petitioners are not consistent in any aspect of the matter and they have come to this court with unclean hands.”