Madras High Court orders demolition of Vilayattu Vinayagar Temple at Ranganathan Street junction in Chennai

The Court directed the temple management to relocate the deities within 15 days, without causing any damage to them; if the temple management failed to follow the court’s order, the railway administration could take necessary action, the judges said

Published - November 01, 2023 03:30 pm IST - CHENNAI

The skywalk connecting the T. Nagar bus terminus and Mambalam railway station 

The skywalk connecting the T. Nagar bus terminus and Mambalam railway station  | Photo Credit: KARUNAKARAN M

The Madras High Court has permitted the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) and Southern Railway to demolish the Vilayattu Vinayagar Temple at the Ranganathan Street junction of Railways Border Road in T. Nagar. It has ordered that the temple can be demolished after moving the idols to another location within 15 days.

The Second Division Bench of Justices S. Vaidyanathan and K. Rajasekar found that the temple had no title over the land on which it had been constructed. Since the entries in the revenue records proved that it was situated on government land classified as a public road, the judges held it to be a clear case of encroachment.

“When there is an encroachment, the same has got to be removed in the considered opinion of this court. A direction is issued to the temple authorities to shift the deities to another place within 15 days from the date of receipt of a copy of this order without causing any damage to them,” the Division Bench wrote.

If the temple management fails to act in accordance with the court orders, the railway administration could take necessary action, the judges told standing counsel P.T. Ramkumar. They also made it clear that the idols could be installed, by following the customary procedures, after reconstructing the temple at a proper place.

The orders were passed while dismissing two writ petitions filed in 2018 by the temple and its four tenants against steps taken by the GCC to evict them and 22 other encroachers. The GCC took this step in order to build a skywalk connecting a railway footover bridge to the T. Nagar bus terminus, apart from constructing a staircase and an escalator.

“Though it is a fit case to impose costs on the temple authorities and their tenants for their venture to squat on the government property, thereby curtailing implementation of a public welfare scheme to come into effect, we refrain to do so for the present,” the judges said while dismissing the writ petitions pending for the last five years.

The temple had claimed that its four tenants had been paying rent to it for the last 30 years and that one of them had even approached a civil court and obtained a decree that they were lawful tenants in the suit property belonging to the temple. However, the Division Bench refused to give any credence to the civil suit.

“The suit appears to be a collusive one between the temple and the tenants. Therefore, we are not inclined to accept the same. Since the temple itself has been ordered to be removed, there is no other option for the tenants, who, under the guise of paying rents to the temple, are taking shelter in occupying government land illegally, which is nothing but an attempt to encroach upon government land,” the Bench wrote.

It went on to state: “Once the temple itself has no title or valid documents, the claim of tenancy and receipt of rents by the temple can merely be construed as an absurdity and wisecrack.”

Authoring the judgement, Justice Vaidyanathan also refused to accept the temple’s argument that the Corporation would have no authority over government property. “It is a fact that there is encroachment and no one has any right to squat on a property which is a busy thoroughfare. We are of the view that the encroachment needs to be removed. Though it has been vehemently contended on behalf of the temple that the respondent corporation has not given any opportunity to submit an explanation, we are not inclined to accept the same,” the Bench concluded.

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