Kerala Kaumudi Online
Tuesday, 16 July 2024 8.35 AM IST

Government faces hurdles in implementing HC order to demolish illegally built places of worship on encroached land


THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The High Court order of May 30 to demolish the places of worship built illegally by encroaching on government land and submit a report within one year has come to a screeching halt for the government. The Chief Secretary has been directed to submit a report to the Registrar General of the High Court.

There are two difficulties in implementing the order. The first challenge is that those who have built places of worship include various caste and religious organizations. The second challenge is the order issued by the state revenue department on January 29, 2020 to transfer land existing in the name of places of worship without adequate documents.

In 1999, the Supreme Court had ordered that state chief secretaries should find and demolish illegally encroached places of worship and provide a list of them. That order was not strictly followed. Encroachments were calculated at the taluk level. But the evacuation did not take place. The revenue department has not kept proper records in this regard. It is in this situation that the revenue department issued an order to hand over the land held without sufficient documents under the guise of the places of worship of various religious groups.

The order was based on the receipt of several petitions demanding that the land occupied and encroached by places of worship, crematoriums, various art and cultural organizations, libraries and charitable organizations be deeded. The concerned officials are asking how the occupiers can be evicted while this order includes specific conditions. The order states that the minimum amount of land required to meet the respective needs can be allotted on such land. It has been ordered that if there is land used for commercial purposes, it should be excluded and the maximum land that can be allotted is one acre.

Important conditions of the 2020 order

1. Shrines and cemeteries should be ones existing currently.

2. Accurate income and expenditure accounts should be maintained.

3. 10% of the current fair value may be charged if there is a document showing that it has been in possession since before independence.

4. If held after independence and before formation of Kerala, 25% of the fair value may be credited and if held after formation of Kerala and before January 1, 1990, fair value may be charged.

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