Madras HC Asks Shop Owners To Vacate Temple Premises

Madras High Court - Sakshi Post

Chennai: The Madras high court on Monday made it clear that there was no illegality on the part of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment department in issuing eviction notices to shop owners occupying premises of various shrines in Tamil Nadu. However, it granted time till December 31 for the owners to find out alternative sites.

Justice V. Bharathidasan of the Madurai Bench delivered the judgment on a batch of over 200 petitions challenging the eviction notices issued to various petty shop owners in and around various temples. “..This court is of the view that the petitioners should be given some breathing time enabling them to find out suitable alternative place to carry on their business,” Justice V. Bharathidasan said.

Petitioners shall be permitted to occupy their respective leasehold premises until December 31, the judge said.

Following the fire accident in Arulmigu Meenakshi Amman Temple at Madurai in February this year in which several shops were gutted, the state government had taken a policy decision to protect temples, more particularly historic shrines and to conserve their architectural heritage.

As part of the decision, the Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department (HR&CE) had issued guidelines to Executive Officers of temples to take precautionary measures to protect the shrines from any fire accident.

Following this, the EOs issued eviction notices directing the lessees to vacate the shops and hand over the possession to temples immediately. The court is of the view that the authorities were right in issuing notice to the petitioners for eviction irrespective of the fact whether the lessees carry on their business, either inside or outside the temple, the judge said.

It does not find any illegality or irregularity on the matter, Justice Bharathidasan said. “No doubt the impugned notices of eviction would cause some difficulty to the petitioners. But at the same time considering the larger public interests in protecting the interest of the temples, the private interest of the petitioners cannot be placed above the public interest,” the judge said.

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