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Madras High Court stays construction on Kapali temple land

The Madras High Court wondered how the minister of Hindu

Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) could announce

the construction of a cultural center on land belonging to

Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore and stayed further

construction of the cultural center in the land.

A vacation bench of Justice GR Swaminathan and Justice PB

Balaji heard a petition moved by TR Ramesh, seeking to quash

the government order (GO) announcing to construction of a

cultural center on land belonging to Kapaleeswarar temple.

The petitioner contended that the issued G.O. is without

jurisdiction and is in contravention of the scheme and

provisions of the Tamil Nadu HR&CE Act, 1959.

The State cannot supplant the powers and duties of the

trustees and take any decision with regard to the management

and administration of the religious institutions including the

utilization of its funds and properties

As per rule 14 of the functioning board of trustees rules, all

administrative decisions can only be taken by the board of

trustees and no outside persons including the government and

HR & CE.

The construction of the cultural center would cause revenue

loss to the tune of Rs.10 Crore as annual rental income and

Rs.2.5 Crore as annual interest income, said the petitioner.

“How can a minister suo motu make the announcement? Can a

minister announce in the Assembly on how the temple fund can

be spent?” asked Justice Swaminathan.

Referring to the submissions of advocate Niranjan Rajagopalan

appearing for the petitioner TR Ramesh, the judge said the

temple fund can be utilized based on the decisions of the

trustees and ‘it can’t come top-down’.

Replying to the queries, the AG said, “The minister can make

the announcement in the public interest.” However, he noted

that such an announcement by the minister in the Assembly is

immaterial to the present case since the newly-elected trustees

passed a resolution for establishing the cultural centre in 2023

and the GO was issued subsequently.

When around 22 grounds (1.2 acres) of land is lying unutilized,

it can be tapped for public interest and developed for raising

the cultural centre which would generate income through

rentals, he added.

The bench again questioned whether someone would be

allowed to hold a “jeba koottam” (prayer gathering by

Christians) if they paid the rent at the proposed facility

The AG replied that only Hindu religious functions would be

allowed to be held in the cultural centre. Raman representing

the State had submitted that no construction will proceed

without proper permission.

After PS Raman submitted that the construction of the centre

would be put off till the PIL is disposed of, a vacation bench

headed by Justice GR Swaminathan and Justice PB Balaji

adjourned the hearing to the third week of June.

On Sept 4, 2023, the Tourism, Cultural and Religious

Endowment department released an order stating that a

cultural center will be constructed to showcase the traditions of

Tamil Nadu and hold religious events on a 22.80 ground extent

of land belonging to Kapaleeswarar temple at Greenways Road,

Raja Annamalai Puram. The government order also stated that

Rs. 28.76 Crores of the temple funds will be used to construct

the cultural center.

Recording the submission of the AG that the construction

activities would be put on hold till the PIL is disposed of the

bench adjourned the hearing to the third week of June.

The petitioner flagged violations of the provisions of the HR&CE

Act and the Rules in setting up the proposed cultural centre in

the land of Kapaleeswarar temple. Contending that temple

funds cannot be utilized for other purposes, he said the project

would result in the draining of the coffers of the temple.


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