The Madras High Court recently called on the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) authorities to ensure that rent fixation or re-fixation or enhancement exercises are done once in three years for temple properties in Tamil Nadu, as required under Section 34A of the HR&CE Act. (Kongu Vellalar Matric Higher Secondary School v. The Commissioner and ors).Expressing concern that the Department has not been fixing rent in the manner prescribed under the HR&CE Act, the Court said:."It is not as if the Executives can deal with the temple in a lackadaisical or casual manner ... The Authorities who all are the guardian and the controller of the administration of the temple are expected to act prudently and diligently in order to protect the property belongs to the temple and in order to honor the wishes of the donors, who have donated their valuable properties to do services to the temple and the devotees.".Justice SM Subramaniam made the observations in a case wherein certain temple property was leased out to a school which was later found to have not been paying rent in respect of certain additional encroached land. .Commenting on the need to ensure that all temple property is accounted for, the Judge said:."Great souls of this great nation who have faith in religion and religious institutions donated their valuable and hard earned money/property for the interest of the temple and to serve the temple. Those properties are donated with specific purposes and object and to do services to the temple and devotees worshiping the temple. If the wishes of those great souls are not honoured, the persons accountable and responsible are not only committing sin, but they are violating the provisions of law.".The judge emphasised that the temple trustees and authorities should ensure that the temple deity, being in the position of a minor, must be protected. Temple property should be dealt with prudently, vigilantly and in the manner known to law.."If any such Trustee or Administrator leaves the Idol in lurch, this Court is duty bound to step in and initiate appropriate actions to restore the position of the temple and its properties. The properties in illegal occupation are to be retrieved and must be put on use as per the wishes of the donor and for the benefit of the temple," the Court added..Among other directions, the Court ultimately directed the HR&CE Commissioner to issue a circular to all subordinate authorities to fix rent for all properties belonging to religious institutions in Tamil Nadu strictly in accordance with the procedure under Section 34A (fixation of lease rent in accordance with market rental value) of the HR&CE Act. .The Court added:"The first respondent/Commissioner is directed to ensure that fair rent fixation / re-fixation / enhancement of rent, as the case may be, are being done once in three years in respect of all the properties of the religious institutions across the State of Tamil Nadu by following the procedures as contemplated under Section 34-A of the Act."