MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday directed shopkeepers at the premises of the Meenakshi Temple to vacate before Friday noon. Passing interim orders on a petition filed by the president of Sri Meenakshi Sundareswarar Koil Kadaikarargal Sangam, S Rajunagalu, Justice V Bharathidasan directed the shopkeepers to vacate based on the notice issued by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE).
The Judge also directed the HR&CE and the Madurai Municipal Corporation authorities to provide an alternative place to the shopkeepers within three weeks.
Further, the High Court Bench also directed the HR&CE department officials to provide a cloak room facility for the shopkeepers to store their things till they get the new place to do business.
On Thursday morning, Rajunagalu approached the court praying for an injunction for bearing the authorities from evicting the shops situated inside the temple premises, contending that they were not encroaches and the shops were allotted by the HR&CE department and that they have been paying the rent as fixed by the temple authorities without any default.
Further, he said that they were running the shops for several years, generation after generation, inside the temple premises and were engaged in selling manjal, kumkum, pooja articles, religious books and the temple authorities were receiving `2,00,000 as rent from 115 shops a month.
He also submitted that during the day of fire accident, electricity could not be disconnected and the accident was only due to the mismanagement of the temple authorities and in order to evade their responsibility and liability, the HR&CE is trying to evict them without following the due process.
Countering the argument, the government advocate, appearing on behalf of the HR&CE, submitted that the Vasantharayar Mandapam which was affected by the recent fire accident could be renovated only if all shops were vacated from the premises and in order to avoid similar incident, the decision to vacate was taken, he argued.
Panel begins inspection
The 12-member expert committee commenced their inspection on Thursday. The committee is headed by retired PWD Chief Engineer V Balasubramaniam. The members of the committee includes the Thakkar of Meenakshi Amman Temple Karumuttu T Kannan, retired archaeological superintendent T Sathyamoorthy, Assistant Professor, Structural Engineering Laboratory, IIT Chennai, Arun Menon, Joint Commissioner of Meenakshi Amman Temple, Executive Engineer of PWD, retired executive engineer (PWD, executive engineer, HR &CE, the assistant zonal engineer of Meenakshi Temple, Zonal Sthapathi of HR&CE, another Sthapathi K Thatchinamoorthi, and sculptor V Kumar. Addressing the media, Arun Menon said that this was the first meeting conducted by the committee to check the condition of the structures and to identify critical structures where fire broke out.