Restoration of temple land: HC tells Collector to file report

via www.newindpress.com published on March 5, 2008

KOCHI: Prima facie holding that the 10,000-acre land originally belonging to Kallekkulangara Emoor Bhagavathy Temple, Akathethara, Palakkad, is liable to be restored to the government or the devaswom, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the Palakkad District Collector to inspect the land with the assistance of the Custodian and Conservator of Vested Forests, the Divisional Forest Officer of the area, and the person now incharge of the devaswom, and file a detailed report.

The report should be filed before April 7, 2008, with details about the land such as its location, nature of the land – whether it is a forest, developed or cultivated or is in possession of some persons or it is a plantation.

Since restoration of land to the government or the devaswom is under the consideration of the court, direction not to allow any cutting of trees from the property and also to prevent any fresh encroachment of the property, has also been issued by the Bench, consisting of Justice C N Ramachandran Nair and Justice T R Ramachandran Nair, while considering a public interest writ petition filed by Nature Lovers’ Movement, Thiruvamkulam, praying to direct the government to take over the land.

Even though, prima facie, the prayer in the writ petition is to be considered favourably, it will not be considered favourably, as it will not be proper for the court to issue orders without getting details about the property such as its location, present condition, the persons in possession etc., the Bench said.

If there is any effective occupation of the land by anybody through cultivation, the details about such persons should be furnished, including their names and addresses.

The Custodian and Conservator of Vested Forests and the Divisional Forest Officer and the person incharge of the devaswom, have been directed to submit the details pertaining to the land in question.

The forest officials through the District Collector should inform the court about the steps, if any taken or proposed, for restoration of possession of the land under Kerala Private Forest (Vesting and Assignment) Act or under the Kerala Forest Vesting and Management of Ecologically Fragile Land Act.

The devaswom had leased out the land to some persons. But the lease deeds were cancelled by the government. Challenge against the same by the leasees was dismissed both by the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court.

However, the government had not taken any steps to take possession of the land, though the devaswom had initiated some suits before civil courts for restoration of the possession of land.

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