The Madras High Court has said that those occupying temple properties without valid lease deed are to be treated as encroachers.

Observing that the executive officer (EO) of a temple in Tirunelveli had acted in a manner “unbecoming of a public servant,” Justice S M Subramaniam in a recent order directed the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE) to oversee the activities of executive officers (EOs) in all shrines.

The judge made the observation while dismissing petitions filed by A Shahul Hameed and A Abdul Kareem challenging the eviction orders passed by the Tirunelveli joint commissioner and confirmed by the HR&CE commissioner.

“The very object and purpose of the HR&CE Act is to ensure that every lease and license granted in respect of the temple properties must be direct and the competent authorities alone have to execute such lease deeds or grant permission or lease.

“In the absence of any such valid document, all the persons who are in occupation of the temple lands are to be treated as encroachers,” the judge said.