Temple-church dispute: HC sends team

December 20, 2014 12:00 am | Updated 05:55 am IST - MADURAI:

The Madras High Court Bench here on Friday constituted a team of four advocates to resolve a dispute between groups of Hindus and Christians at Sendamaram in Sankarankovil taluk of Tirunelveli district over alleged conversion of an ancient temple into a church.

Justices V. Dhanapalan and V.M. Velumani asked Assistant Solicitor General G.R. Swaminathan, Special Government Pleader A.K. Bhaskarapandian and advocates T. Lajapathi Roy and K. Mahendran to visit the spot, preferably on Sunday, and hold discussions with the warring groups. The judges also directed the Tirunelveli Collector, District Revenue Officer, Revenue Divisional Officer and the Tahsildar to be present at the time of discussions, the result of which should be informed to the court through a report, to be filed jointly by the advocates, on December 23.

The orders were passed on a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by a local resident, S. Arumugam (42), seeking a direction to the Archaeology Department to declare Sarveswaran Temple in the village as an ancient monument and protect it from destruction.

Appearing for the petitioner, Mr. Roy alleged that Rev. Fr. C. Antony Viyagappan, Parish priest of St. Peter and Paul Church, had destroyed many ancient idols and artefacts belonging to the temple believed to have been constructed somewhere between the 11{+t}{+h}century and the 14{+t}{+h}century.

Mr. Mahendran, representing the Parish priest, contended that the church had been in existence for more than three centuries. It had purchased lands in the village in 1894 and had been running a school for the benefit of the local people.

Disapproving of the “unwarranted fight” between the parties, Mr. Justice Dhanapalan said petty differences between a few individuals should not lead to communal disharmony. “It is unfortunate that the dispute continues even after several decades,” he added.

Since efforts taken by the revenue officials to broker peace had failed, the judge directed the lawyers to make an attempt. “If necessary, this court would not hesitate to direct the Director General of Police to visit the spot and arrest the miscreants,” he said during the course of arguments.

‘Petty differences between a few individuals should not lead to communal disharmony’

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