Madras High Court passes interim order asking BJP MLAs to return temple land alleged to have been acquired illegally

The Court also asked the MLAs - A John Kumar and his son Richards John Kumar - to subject themselves to the ongoing probe into allegations of land grabbing.
Madras High Court
Madras High Court

The Madras High Court recently directed two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs from Puducherry and four of their family members to return a temple property which they were accused of having grabbed illegally.

BJP legislator A John Kumar and his son Vivilian Richards John Kumar, who is also a BJP MLA, as well as their family members, have been accused of having illegally secured ownership of land parcels belonging to the Kamatchiamman Temple in Puducherry.

In an interim order passed on Tuesday, Justice SM Subramaniam directed them to return the land until the probe is complete and the authorities determine who the rightful owners of the land are.

The Court was hearing a petition filed by the temple trust claiming that it was the owner of the properties in question since 1935 and was in continuous possession of the same for more than 80 years.

It was alleged that over the years, the properties belonging to the temple were grabbed by creating certain fraudulent documents, since it remained as a vacant land. The counsel for the temple alleged a nexus between bureaucrats from the Puducherry administration and politicos.

At the stage of admission of the plea, the Court had impleaded the Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department of Puducherry and directed him to conduct an investigation into the allegations of criminality raised against the two sitting MLAs as well as their family members.

After going through the investigation reports, the Court said that certain "shocking revelations" were found regarding the documents executed and the manner in which the government officials acted.

The accused claimed before the Court that they had had no role to play in the alleged instance of land grabbing and that they were merely “innocent purchasers.”

They also told the Court they were willing to return the land to the temple authorities if the latter could prove their ownership.

The Court, however, directed the Puducherry administration to take possession of the entire temple land and hand over the same to the temple administration until further orders.

"The people's representatives involving in such nature of criminal allegations, cannot be tolerated and the MLAs have taken oath under the Constitution. Therefore, they are expected to be the truthful and trustworthy Public Servants and thrive hard for the upliftment of the people residing within their Constituency and to upheld the constitutional principles of law. They are the parens patriae of the people of their Constituency and in respect of the grievance of the people and they are constitutionally obligated to represent them in the manner contemplated," the order stated.

Justice Subramaniam also said that considering that the father-son duo held public posts and were expected to be truthful, they must subject themselves to the probe being conducted into the issue by the Puducherry CB-CID.

The matter was directed to be listed after six weeks following the completion of the investigation.

[Read Order]

Sri Kamatchi Amman Devasthanam v Department.pdf
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