Tamil Nadu

Govt. can present tax-free budget if temple land and revenue arrears are recovered in full: judge

The Tamil Nadu government can present a tax-free budget if the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) succeeds in recovering thousands of crores of rupees in rental arrears from those occupying temple land, besides retrieving several lakh acres under illegal occupation and putting these properties to good use, Justice R. Mahadevan of the Madras High Court said on Friday.

“The government need not give any freebies at all to people if the HR&CE Department retrieves the temple lands and recovers the rental arrears. Until that goal is achieved, we [the court] will also not leave the issue,” the senior judge told Special Government Pleader N.R.R. Arun Natarajan, while presiding over a special Division Bench, along with Justice P.D. Audikesavalu, to hear a batch of temple-related cases.

“You must make your officials understand that the service in this department is divine in nature. Advise them to recover every inch of temple land under unauthorised occupation and cancel all lease deeds executed in violation of the law. You must also appoint qualified chartered accountants to audit the temple funds. The work should not be carried out by engaging the services of some lower-level staff,” the judge said.

Also stating that some private trusts and individuals appeared to be involved in collecting donations, through online crowd- funding, for renovating some temples, Justice Mahadevan said, “Those websites must be banned. No private person or trust can be allowed to collect money in the guise of renovating temples. An action taken report must be filed in this regard during the next hearing date.”

Earlier, Mr. Natarajan said the religious institutions under the HR&CE Department own 2.04 lakh acres of wetland and 2.53 lakh acres of dryland. Out of 3,66,019 temple properties, only 99,077 were fetching income. Therefore, the officials of the Department had been instructed to bring the rest of 2,66,942 properties, too, under the income-fetching category. He also said 1.23 lakh leaseholders were cultivating temple land.

The government had constituted 10 Revenue Courts and 3 camping Revenue Courts with Special Deputy Collectors to file cases for collection of arrears of land lease revenue, fix fair rent for agricultural land and evict the defaulting lessees. Stating that the land of religious institutions was reconciled with the Revenue Department’s Tamil Nilam database, the Special Government Pleader said 5,82,023.89 acres in total tallied with the database.

Giving a break-down, he said the details of 3.39 lakh acres fully matched with the title documents, ‘Patta’, ‘Chitta’ and ‘Adangal’, whereas the details of 1.73 lakh acres matched partially. Further, 68,219 acres had been identified as new properties and action had been taken to claim them. The Special Government Pleader also apprised the court of proceedings having been initiated to recover over 16,527 acres of temple land.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2022 12:33:58 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/govt-can-present-tax-free-budget-if-temple-land-and-revenue-arrears-are-recovered-in-full-judge/article65589857.ece