Holds it is a public shrine
MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has resolved a 23-year-old dispute over the nature — public or private — of Chiriya Arachalai Vinayagar Temple at Theroor village in Agasteeswaram taluk of Kanyakumari district.
Dismissing an appeal suit filed in Principal seat of the High Court at Chennai in 1998 and transferred to Madurai Bench in 2004, Justice M.M. Sundresh held that the hereditary trustee had failed to prove that it was a private temple.
“In the State of Tamil Nadu, there is a presumption that all temples are public temples. This presumption being a rebuttable presumption, the onus is on the appellant to prove that the temple in question is a private temple,” he said.
He recalled that the High Court in the Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department Vs. R. Velayutham Nair (2001) had held that the presumption regarding a public temple must be rebutted by clinching testimony.
In the instant case, M. Sankarasubramania Pillai (since dead) had initially filed an application before the HR and CE Department to declare him as the hereditary trustee of the temple on the premise that it was a public temple.
His application was considered favourably and he was declared as the hereditary trustee.
However, his subsequent application to declare the temple as a private temple was rejected by the HR and CE Commissioner on February 14, 1989.
The trustee filed a civil suit in 1990 challenging the Commissioner’s order. A subordinate judge in Nagercoil dismissed the suit on November 28, 1997 leading to the present appeal suit before the High Court.
Pending adjudication of the appeal suit for the last 10 years, Sankarasubramania Pillai died and his son S. Ganesan was brought on record in his capacity as the legal heir to carry the case forward.
Mr. Justice Sundresh pointed out that there was no evidence to prove that the temple was built by the appellant’s ancestor Neeragara Ambalathaduvar. Further, the temple land stands in the name of the deity and not of any individual.
The appellant had also accepted before the lower court that there was no evidence to prove his case, the Judge said and added: “It is well settled principle of law that the admission made by the parties is the best form of evidence until and unless it is proved otherwise.”