Govt mulls stern steps to check encroachment of temple lands

The State government is working out modalities to bring out stringent legislations governing endowment lands so that temple lands under encroachment can be resumed and steps can be taken to prevent future encroachments.

In addition to incorporating provisions to safeguard these lands from encroachments, the government is learnt to be studying a recent judgment of the Madras High Court directing the State government to detain encroachers of temple lands under Goondas Act. The court, in its September 15 judgment, ruled that persons involved in encroachment activities, fraudulent transactions, illegal documents in respect of the temple properties were liable to be prosecuted.

“In some cases, actions may be required under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act and in other cases, serious actions under the criminal law are required. In extreme cases, the provisions of the Goondas Act is to be invoked by the police on facts to facts basis,” the court said.

Following the resolve of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to protect temple lands as well as Waqf properties, the officials concerned are said to be studying the judgment in detail so that parts of the judgment could be incorporated in the orders that would be issued forthwith. The development follows revelations that over 20,000 acres of temple lands, out of the total 87,235 acres possessed by the charitable and Hindu religious institutions, are under encroachment.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India, in its report observed that absence of proper mechanism to protect temple land increased the risk of encroachments with attendant risk of increasing land disputes. “Of the 20,124 acre land encroached, the assistant commissioners of Endowments department filed cases with Endowments Tribunals to an extent of only 3,488 acres,” the CAG said in the report.

Majority of these lands is in rural and urban areas while parts are located in the forest too. According to officials, encroachments occurred as the lessees were taking the temple lands at throwaway prices and in turn, giving them on sub-lease at market prices resulting in huge revenue loss to the Endowments department.

Endowments Minister A. Indrakaran Reddy, at a recent review meeting, directed the officials to deal sternly with those who gave the endowments lands on sub-lease. Officials concerned are said to be ascertaining the actual rental value of their lands and reviewing the prices to earn better revenue.

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Printable version | May 14, 2022 1:06:17 am |