After three-day marathon debate, the state assembly on Saturday passed the Odisha Hindu Religious Endowments (Amendment) Bill 2012, which gives first preference to the state government to buy immovable properties from Hindu religious institutions.
As per the amendment in the Odisha Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1951, any proposal to dispose of immovable property of any Hindu religious institutions, the first sale offer will go to the State government. If the State Government refused to buy the endowment property, the property will be put to public sale with permission from the Endowments Commissioner, Law Minister Raghunath Mohanty told the Assembly.
Opposition BJP and Congress had sought withdrawal of the Bill saying it was hastily introduced keeping in mind some ulterior motive. Allaying any apprehension, law minister Raghunath Mohanty said it would help government buy such land in important places for larger public good. Currently, land of these institutions is being purchased by private parties, preventing the government from using those for public purpose such as expansion of office, court building and roads.
The amendment to the original Act was required as the power to grant permission for sale of immovable property, mostly land of Hindu religious institutions, was vested with the Endowments Commissioner. The State Government has little scope to know about sale or mortgage of endowments property except when dispute arises over the property and the parties involved in the dispute went for appeal. Secretary of Law Department is the first appellate authority for hearing the appeal.
The Minister said there are many religious institutions, managed by either hereditary trustee or non-hereditary Trust Board constituted under the provisions of the Endowments Act, are not financially sound. In many cases, immovable properties of such institutions are located in areas where development is taking place at a rapid pace.
In view of the huge price rise of real estate, the middle class, lower middle class and economically weaker sections are not able to participate in the auction of endowments land in important localities. Only higher income groups and people in real estate business are taking advantage of the sale of endowments properties.
Mohanty said in many cases properties of such institutions were located in important urban localities where development was fast taking place. But whenever the institutions decide to sell those, only rich people were able to but those. The state has over 16000 temples and over 450 mutts.
The State Government will intimate its decision whether to purchase the land or not to the Trustee or the person-in-charge of the endowments property within 45 days which may be extended by another 30 days, the Minister said