Cuttack: A fresh PIL filed in Orissa High Court has brought into focus again the alleged inaction of the state government towards recovery of the land of Lord Jagannath of the Puri temple that had been encroached upon.
The bid for judicial intervention to prevent valuable patches of land of Lord Jagannath from being acquired by squatter comes eight months after the high court took up a similar plea. The petition, filed on November 13, has sought direction to the state government to submit details of the landed and encroached properties of the lord.
It is yet to be taken up for hearing.
On March 15, the high court had registered a PIL taking cognisance of a letter petition which had appealed to the chief justice to take judicial measure to prevent valuable immovable properties of Lord Jagannath from being “acquired by land grabbers in different parts of Odisha and in other parts of the country”.
Susil Kumar Mohapatra, the author of Puri Jagannath Temple Manual, who is also an advocate of the high court, had filed the letter petition. The court had then issued notices to the state government seeking a reply to the PIL. But the case has since languished.
Lord Jagannath of the 12th century temple in Puri is listed as a landlord in the Odisha government’s revenue records. According to official records, he owns 56,000 acres, of which at least 25,711 acres is registered in the name of “Sri Jagannath Mahaprabhu Bije, Puri” in the state’s land revenue records.
The temple’s managing committee, headed by the Puri King, manages the land on behalf of the deity. The patches of land are spread over 23 of the 30 districts in the state as well as other states, such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. But more than 20 per cent of the land had been reportedly encroached upon by land mafia and influential persons.
Revenue officials said the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954, prohibits transfer of immovable property recorded in the name of Lord Jagannath of Puri to the name of any person or institution. As per the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954, the provisions of the Odisha Hindu Religious Endowments Act are not applicable to the Puri Jagannath Temple for such transfers.
“But the encroachers were managing to hold on to Lord Jagannath’s land taking the plea of authorisation by the endowment commissioner under the Odisha Hindu Religious Endowments Act,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity.
Official sources said the last major drive to clear encroachment from Puri Lord Jagannath’s land in the state was undertaken in 2013.
The temple administration cleared 250 acres in Jatni near Khurda and Delang in Puri district. The value of the recovered land was estimated at Rs 500 crores. Rice processing mill, housing society, market complex and several dhabas had come up on Lord Jagannath’s land in these two areas.