Kapaleeshwarar Temple- Tenants Cheat with DMK Help

LAND THAT DOES NOT PAY

OVER 3 LAKH TENANTS OCCUPY PRIME TEMPLE LANDS IN CHENNAI.A DISPUTE IS BREWING OVER RENT

R Vasundara | TNN

Chennai: The black-and-white photograph above of the Mylapore Kapaleeswarar temple in the early 1900s shows the temple flanked by just a few coconut palms,with a bare,muddy road in the foreground.Today,the same spot is barely recognisable,cluttered with shops and buildings.
Over 100 years ago,most of the land surrounding the temple was either covered with undergrowth or cultivated by the temple.Gradually,the temple started leasing out its land for residential and commercial purposes to earn from its vast assets.Today,every available inch of land has been occupied by tenants who have been paying nominal rents for decades.The situation is similar at most temples in and around Chennai.
In 2004,the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board,which manages temples in the state,revised rents to meet market values.Tenants immediately protested and went to court saying the new rates were arbitrary and beyond their means.Further,the HR&CE board calculated arrears from 1998,which amounted to between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 80 lakh.Several tenants petitioned the government recently,following which the chief minister,on Sunday,said he would appoint a sub-committee to look into the matter and tenants would not be evicted until the committee submitted its report.
The disputed temple lands were once given as gifts by zamindars,says T Satyamurthy,retired superintendent,ASI Chennai circle.In 1000 AD,they lands were gifted to the Brahmin community.They cultivated it and gave part of the produce to the temple.
During the Chola period,ownership was transferred from individuals to the temple administration.The temples still delegated cultivation to individuals and lived off the produce, says Satyamurthy.Things changed when the British arrived.They started issuing pattas (title deeds) and even temple lands were not exempt from tax.
Thats when it became difficult for temples to enforce the old system.It was hard for individuals to pay both the temple in kind and the British in taxes, he explains.As transparency was introduced in administration,temples could no longer auction the produce at highest price.In order to derive some income,they began leasing land to settlers from villages, he says.
Most lessees settled on land thick with undergrowth.B Ravikumar,51,whose family has been living on land belonging to Agathiswarar Venkateswara Perumal temple near Nungambakkam police station for 100 years,recollects how undeveloped the area was when his family moved there.At that time,Nungambakkam was deserted, he says.When my grandfather built his house,there wasnt even a road.A small rivulet ran in front of our house,where bullocks drew water for irrigating fields nearby.During my fathers childhood,there were peacocks in the area.
According to NL Sridharan,advisor,Temple Lands Tenants Federation,There are more than three lakh tenants on temple lands in 100 areas in Chennai.
Today,temple lands are a source of loss for the authorities.Satyamurthy says that after the Land Reforms Act was introduced in 1957,temples had little power to collect dues.Until 2004,most tenants paid rent ranging from Rs 10 to Rs 30,despite living in prime areas like Mylapore,Triplicane,Nungambakkam,Mambalam and T Nagar.
Ravikumar says,We paid Rs 30 as rent to the temple for about 1,200 sq ft until 2004 when the rent was revised.We cannot afford to pay the new rent of Rs 3,700 or even the arrears amount of Rs 2,34,000.
A trustee of a large temple said,We are unable to collect the rent due to the temple from most tenants.The temples income is decreasing.
Most houses have been sublet.V Raghupathy,an advocate who represents temple tenants,says,When the leases were signed 80 to 100 years ago,the law allowed sub-letting.The rent is fixed for the land,and the superstructure belongs to the lessees.While laws on subletting have changed since 1961,the lease contract clearly allows sub-letting and that contract is still binding.

Kapali temple gets peanuts for plot on Greenways Road

B Sivakumar | TNN

Chennai: The Kapaleeswarar temple is one of the oldest and richest in the city,owning huge tracts of land in and around Mylapore,and right up to Puzhal,several kilometres away.
However,the temple loses lakhs of rupees every month as many tenants default on rent.The temple rents have not been revised for years,and many tenants pay peanuts for acres of land.
Three days ago,a delegation of tenants occupying temple lands met the chief minister alleging that the temple authorities were harassing them for arrears.Temple officials,however,say they are merely demanding their due.
An official says the temple,managed by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board,has leased seven grounds (one ground is 2,400 sq ft) on Greenways Road,Adyar,to Rajaraman & Co,a peanut candy manufacturer,for Rs 1,250 a month.We asked the company to pay more rent but the owner has taken the issue to court.Look at the rate at which land is let out there and what we get from the company, rues the temple official.Commercial rents in the area are between Rs 40 and Rs 60 a sq ft.
The case has been in court for 10 years.Rajaraman & Co has an annual turnover of Rs two to three crore.A Rajaraman,the owner,says,I have not paid the old rent for the past 10 years.The temple authorities have not sent any written communication enhancing the rent.It is not possible to pay the market rent.I will be able to pay only 25% of what is demanded as fair rent by the temple.
The Mylapore Club on Luz Church Road is also sitting on roughly 40 grounds belonging to the temple.The 99-year lease ended in 1999.Until then,the club was paying a nominal rent,says a temple official.A new lease agreement was signed with a fair rent.But the club has gone to court and the issue is currently pending in the Madras high court, says the official.
A senior office-bearer of the club refuses to elaborate on the issue saying the matter is sub-judice.
The temple,which owns a total of about 100 grounds on Greenways Road,is constructing a marriage hall there.The foundation stone will be laid on June 4.Another piece of land on the road was leased to a hotel chain and is back with the temple after a long struggle.We have appointed a security guard and the land is in our custody, the official said.
sivakumar.b@timesgroup.com

Govt cuts dues of temple land tenants

Arrears Have Mounted Over The Years As Several Litigations Held Up Payment Of Rent

B Sivakumar & R Vasundara | TNN

Chennai: In a concession to tenants who have occupied swathes of temple lands in Tamil Nadu,the government on Thursday announced in the assembly that rent arrears up to 2007 would have to be paid based on the level fixed in 2001.The dues post-2007 would have to be paid as per rent fixed in a government order on November 9,2007.The decision comes in the wake of a recent representations to the chief minister urging him to look into the temple.
Replying to the debate on the demands for grants to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE ) department,minister KR Periakaruppan said a government order incorporating the changes would be issued.He said the concession had been granted following representations from tenants to the CM.According to a policy note,as on March 31,2010,33,347 cases were filed by tenants in revenue courts relating to arrears amounting to Rs 33.31 crore.
According to a senior HR&CE official,A committee consisting of a HR&CE joint commissioner,registrar,temple executive officer and a temple trustee,fix the rent after taking into consideration the guideline value,market value and development of the area.
An official said,the concession announced by the minister is a huge loss to the temple as huge arrears pending have to be waived off.Also the revision in 2004 is nullified.
Over the years,tenants
have appealed
against revision of rent either to the HR&CE joint commissioner or civil courts.An official said,it is difficult to recover arrears.The department is not in a position to take strong action against tenants following their representations before several authorities including the CM and governor.There are instances even in Mylapore where tenants pay Rs 50 for occupying a 1,500 sq ft area. Many cases filed by the tenants have been disposed off by various courts favouring the HR&CE department,the official said.
However,the lessees in Chennai are not satisfied with the HR & CEs latest decision.K Lokanathan,general secretary of Temple Land Tenants Federation,who lives on temple land in Pattankulam,felt that the new announcement was only an eyewash.Nothing has changed, he declared.We still continue to pay rents based on the 2007 rate and this will increase every three years.Only the arrears have been reduced slightly,but it still becomes a burden for us.To top it all,officials calculate the rent for residential area using commercial establishment rates.
The temple lands leased out to tenants are spread across the city and comprise around three lakh lessees.They live in prime areas like Mylapore,Triplicane,Nungambakkam,Vadapalani and Mambalam,where rents were fixed at Rs 10-40 until recently.
However,most tenants who were expecting government to allow sale of the land to lessees said they were disappointed by the order.V Raghupathy,an advocate representing several tenants,said,We were expecting that the land would be sold to us.Most of the lessees have been living on these lands for 80-100 years.So it becomes a burden to keep paying rent for such a long period.If the temple puts the proceeds from the sale into a fixed deposit,it can still earn interest from it. 

AND THE DISPUTE CONTINUES…

4,78,545,99 acres are owned by religious institutions in TN Most of it was land gifted by zamindars to temples.When the British introduced patta (title deeds) and made temple lands taxable,the temples leased out the lands to settlers and for commercial ventures Govt took over these lands after the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act was introduced in 1951.Based on the report of a committee headed by a retired Madras HC judge in 1942,the state decided direct administration of these lands would be beneficial to it Most lands were leased out on a 99-year lease with a rent of Rs 1-10 in the early 1900s.The settlers have been living here for 80-100 years At the end of the 99-year lease period in 1998,the settlers were still paying a rent of Rs 20-40.The ventures by temples were by now incurring losses worth several crores.So a revised rent slab was introduced in 1999 against which lessees protested.The rent rates were revised in 2001,2004 and 2007 with a 15% increase each time.In 2007,the CM announced that lessees will have to pay arrears based on the 2007 rent slab,but calculated since 1998,triggering a fresh uproar Several cases filed by the lessees are still pending in lower courts.Since the cases have been filed,collection of rent has mostly ceased.On May 9,2010,the CM announced that a subcommittee would be appointed to look into the matter and no lessee would be evicted until the govt received the report On May 13,the HR & CE minister announced that lessees have to pay arrears up to 2007 based on the 2001 slab.Rents and arrears after 2007 will continue on the updated rate with a concession of 0.1%.The new rate will be fixed by the sub-committee

COURTS UPHOLD ACT AMENDMENTS
Amendments to HR&CE Act should help govt pursue cases

A Subramani | TNN

Chennai: While thousands of temple lands-related cases are pending before various courts,the Madras high court is seized of only a handful of such cases right now.
Much of the litigation involved issues such as rent revision,arrears and lease/ownership claims,and they too were disposed of in batches.They all went in favour of the government, said a law officer.Most of the cases may be pending in civil courts or before the quasi-judicial system within the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, he added.
Now that key amendments to the HR&CE Act brought about in 1996 and 2003 have all been upheld by the HC and the SC,the department should pursue pending cases,another law officer said,adding that the judicial stamp for the amendments had made the job of the government easy.
Laws concerning temples and its properties are to be understood from the legal view that a temple is represented by its idol,which is a minor.So,those in charge of temple properties and courts have to protect the interests of an idol.
It is by invoking the spirit behind the legal status of an idol that courts have passed judgments holding that authorities cannot register any document if the owner (the idol or temple administration) lodges a protest and claims ownership.In the S r i r a n g a m Temple case,justice K Chandru rejected the claims of third parties and ruled.The idol is the owner of the property.When the owner objects to the transfer of the property,officials cannot register it.
When the shopkeepers near the Kapaleeswarar Temple came to court questioning the increase in rents,it refused to intervene,saying the relationship between the shop-owners and the temple was in the nature of tenant and landlord.
When,in 2003,the state government came out with some more amendments,at least 11 citybased personalities,including Carnatic singer M Balamuralikrishna and legislator Peter Alphonse,as also shopowners occupying temple lands on the foothills of Palani challenged the provisions.
While the amended Section 78 of the Act empowered the joint commissioner to serve notice on the encroacher,Section 79(3) said no civil court should stay the operation of the officials orders.The amended Section 109 erased any period of limitation to take back immovable property from encroachers.A single judge of the HC upheld the provisions,and appeals are pending before a division bench.
As on date,if an occupier of a temple land is a trespasser,the government need not go to a civil court.Instead,a joint commissioner is the competent officer to declare whether an occupier is a trespasser or not.If the occupier has a lease which is terminated,he is eligible for compensation for the super structure.If the compensation is inadequate it can be questioned within the quasi-judicial frame work of the HR&CE Act.Both these categories cannot go to civil court at all.The third category concerns those who claim ownership over the lands.Such occupiers can approach the civil court,but the courts cannot pass any injunction orders.
As these amended provisions have been upheld by courts,the government is fully armed to remove tenants /lessees and encroachers.

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4 Responses to Kapaleeshwarar Temple- Tenants Cheat with DMK Help

  1. Aanandan says:

    If Tamilnadu government cannot get the market rent for properties Government control must be thrown out.

  2. The commissioner HR&CE did communicate to the field units to prepare the arrears in the proforma for the temple lands rented out in as early as 2010. The content is that the tenant should pay the rent from 1998 to June 2007 at the old rates and from July 2007, revised rate at 0.1% of the guideline value.This is to be upward revised at the rate of 15% of the rent fixed in this way. The point is that there is haphazard working of the field units. Since the guide line values are different for the land on main streets and by lanes, the staff should get the guideline value first and prepare the outstanding. There is absolute chaos. Absolute laziness on the part of the staff caused accumulation of arrears running into thousands and even lakhs but the authorities are harassing the land tenent with arbitrary sums. The department has a maze of rules into which it is bound. It is funny to note that the government, in its policy for 14-15 has asked for donation of 10 months rent. The land rent by the guide line value is terribly high compared to an adjacent TNHB owned colony where the rent for flat (land plus bldgs) is just one third. There is something wrong with our government and its non thinking departments. The temples got the land free but what about exorbitant rents claimed when the deity is given diamond crowns and even the tower is coated with gold. The zamindars usurped the land of poor and offered to god free of cost. Now the poor are asked to pay exorbitant rent for the occupation. What a paradox. HR&CE claims the pound of flesh without any commitment to the property tax, taxes for water and sewage and ULT. The kings who constructed the temples made enough resources for the maintenance, flowers, watch and ward, naivedyam, and also wages for the employees in the form of land (whose land?)

  3. shreerama chandran says:

    when devotees are offering so much of flowers and eatables every day for at least 10 htaours, does the god want to eat still and more. after all god is given convenient shelter to live, a large real estate,rent free. why should god own lands when there are millions of devotees struggling to have a roof for each of them. The action of DMK is absolutely correct and the fact is such fake devotees crying are real Hippocrates trying to grab the land for themselves. Is the land divided between hindus, christians and islamists and named so. Let us heed to the cries of wolves.

    • Hindus must unite and get temples protected

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