The ‘arrogance’ of the officer knows no bounds: HC
The Madras High Court on Wednesday came down heavily on a Joint Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department for filing a reply in a “cavalier manner” to a public interest litigation petition which had complained of encroachment of a major portion of over 400 acres of land belonging to the Bhaktavatsala Perumal temple at Tirukannamangai in Tiruvarur district.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu were irked over the Joint Commissioner G. Thennarasu having told the court that although some encroachers were in possession of the temple land, the procedure contemplated for evicting the encroachers, under the HR&CE Act of 1959, was cumbersome and he could not commit any time limit within which the encroachers could be evicted.
The judges pointed out that the Joint Commissioner had reported that some parts of the temple land had been leased out and some were under encroachment. However, the official had not provided the exact extent of the properties that had been leased out and the extent that was under encroachment. The officer had not stated as to who had leased out the temple lands and the number of encroachers.
“The cavalier manner in which the counter-affidavit has been prepared cries out for immediate action to be taken against the Joint Commissioner, including for contempt. Indeed, the arrogance of the Joint Commissioner knows no bounds as he suggests in the last paragraph of the affidavit that the procedure contemplated in the HR & CE Act, 1959, is cumbersome and therefore the time limit may not be fixed,” the Bench said.
After directing the Joint Commissioner to file an affidavit to show cause why action should not be taken against him for the disrespect shown to the court in the manner in which the counter affidavit had been drafted and for dereliction of duty in not paying attention to any detail or seeking to furnish the same to court, the judges ordered that the HR&CE secretary should file all those details by October 20.
The interim orders were passed on the PIL filed by activist advocate ‘Elephant’ G. Rajendran complaining about lack of will to retrieve the encroached temple property. “The Secretary would do well to enthuse government servants in the department so that such complete lack of accountability as is revealed from the counter-affidavit filed by the Joint Commissioner here is more the exception than the rule,” the order read.
The judges made it clear that the Secretary should furnish full details regarding the extent of land owned by the temple, the measures taken to retrieve the lands under encroachment, particulars of tenants to whom the temple lands had been let out and the accounts pertaining to the rent that might have been tendered. The details must be made available when the case gets listed next month, they ordered.
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