Asking the authorities as to why they need to be reminded repeatedly that endowment land is not government land and that they need to take prior permission from the high court before giving away endowment land to third parties, on Tuesday the Hyderabad high court directed to AP state and its authorities to pay at Rs 24 lakh per acre along with 24% interest per annum for the four-acre land they took away from Sri Amareswara Swamy Temple in Amaravathy village of Guntur district 16 years ago without paying a single rupee so far.
Describing as chaotic the action of the district collector in delivering possession of the land to the social welfare department for raising a girls’ hostel without adequately compensating the temple, the bench of acting chief justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice J Uma Devi upheld a single judge order that earlier ordered the authorities to compensate the temple first. The bench dismissed the appeal filed by the AP social welfare residential schools society which argued against the single judge order and contended that the government has the power to allow endowment land to public purposes.
The bench said that the bench made it clear that any such alienation of an endowment land should be done only if it furthers the cause of the endowment. “You have wrongly learned that all endowment lands, be it temple land or waqf land, are government lands. You have to unlearn it first. Remember the order of this high court issued a decade ago making it compulsory for the state to obtain the nod of the high court to alienate endowment lands. Endowments commissioner has to accord permission for such alienation and it should be done only by way of a public auction and it should be done only if it helps the endowment,” the bench told the authorities. If the state wants to acquire the land under 2013 land acquisition Act it can do so, it said. If money is not paid to the temple within two months, then the state should take disciplinary action against the concerned authorities.