Madras high court upholds order on Yanam temple facelift

Chennai: The Madras high court has upheld an order of a single judge, which dismissed a petition, challenging the order of department of Hindu religious institutions, Puducherry, to demolish a temple, built about 600 years ago by Chalukya kings of Rajamahendravaram during 15th century, which is in a dilapidated condition posing a big threat to the devotees, for reconstruction.

 A division bench comprising Justices Vineet Kothari and C.V.Karthikeyan dismissed the appeal filed by Sunkara Karthik, challenging an order of the single judge dated April 26, 2019.

 Originally, the petitioner filed a petition to quash the demolition order dated August 8, 2013, passed by the commissioner, department of Hindu religious institutions, Puducherry, and also to direct authorities to conserve the heritage building Sri Alimelu Manga Sametha Sri Venkateswara Swami Temple at Yanam in its original archaeological structure.

 Dismissing the petition, a single judge had examined the facts thoroughly and had also examined the report of the authorities from Industrial Consultancy Services, Department of Civil Engineering, University College of Engineering (Autonomous), Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Kakinada, which after inspection, advised to go for new construction taking due precaution and maintaining the sanctity of the pilgrim place adopting procedures stipulated by endowments for reconstruction.

 S.Duraisami, counsel for the appellant, submitted that the temple was an ancestral temple and consequently deserves to be preserved. If the deity has to be shifted, the authorities were free to construct another temple at another place and relocate the deity. The act of demolition would effectively destroy the ancient quality of the temple. It being an ancient monument, necessary permission from the Archaeological Survey of India should be obtained, he added.

 M.Ravi, counsel for the temple, submitted that all necessary steps have been taken to renovate and reconstruct the temple in its original place with sufficient elevation in order to prevent inundation of water mixed with sewerage into the sanctum sanctorum of the pre-existing deity.

 Government pleader Mala submitted that the temple has become very dilapidated and it posed a danger to life and the government was under an obligation to reconstruct the temple, she added.

 Dismissing the appeal, the bench said even though the temple was an ancient temple, it was not a notified temple under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. As seen from the status report additional facilities were sought to be provided. The authorities were taking every effort to ensure that the sanctity of the temple was maintained. This court cannot sit in judgment over the reasons provided. A team of experts has been appointed to go into the entire issue.

The government of Puducherry had also sanctioned a sum of Rs 5.45 crore towards providing facilities for the temple, apart from Rs 3.10 crore for renovation. "It is also seen that the Yanam Planning Authority had also granted approval of the proposal for the construction/reconstruction to the temple. It is thus seen that the authorities have taken all effective steps to preserve the sanctity of the temple and have also kept in mind the necessity to bring about a permanent solution to get rid of water logging and water/drainage
stagnation and poor sanitation to provide better facilities to the devotees and also for greater stability and longevity of the temple,"  the bench added.

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