In the matter T Thantoni v Executive Officer a group of arguments submitted by 20 petitioners, all of whom claimed to be agricultural producers, contesting the eviction process the respondent temple started against them. The petitioners belonged to an organisation of agricultural cooperatives, which in turn had signed a lease with the temple in 1969. According to the agreement, the members of the society were to cultivate crops on the temple grounds. Even though the lease expired in 1981, the petitioners continued to use the property and fell behind on their rent obligations to society. Following the liquidation of the society, a local tax court issued an eviction judgement against the petitioners in 2012. Additionally, the revenue court ordered them to pay the rent arrears, which are currently worth more than 50 lakh rupees.
Contention from Parties
The petitioners contested the eviction decision and the accompanying legal actions, contending before the High Court that they had not received a fair hearing as required by the Tamil Nadu Public Trust Act, 1961.
The respondent counsel contended that because the subject property belonged to the temple and there was no agreement between the temple and the petitioners, the petitioners lacked locus standi to use the Public Trust Act’s provisions against the temple.
Analysis of Court Order
The Madras High Court’s Single Judge Bench declared that Justice SM Subramaniam the land speculators’ attempts to trespass upon temple property and to seek commercial benefits therefrom were intolerable and required immediate attention. Any litigious occupation of temple property that is more expensive and costs the temple money must be handled properly and without delay. A Deity’s right would be violated if time was lost because he or she is a lesser Deity.
The High Court observed that the majority of the petitioners had long since stopped cultivating agricultural products on the aforementioned land and that they were now subleasing the property to third parties and profiting financially from it. This court is of the considered view that the circumstances at hand are classic situations, where the writ petitioners are endeavouring to remain in the temple property without any authority and in the absence of any rental agreement while pretending to be members of the third respondent-Society. The farming tasks are not being completed either. Even according to the temple of the respondent, the petitioners have begun subletting the property for profit, which is unfair and against the law.
The Madras High Court’s bench instructed local officials to remove encroachers from a temple property in the Kancheepuram district, stating that the temple deity should be regarded as a minor and that any delay would constitute a violation of the minor deity’s rights. It also instructed the Kancheepuram District Collector to carry out the revenue court’s 2012 eviction decision.