Karnataka Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot refuses to Sign Temple Tax Bill

Other religious institutions should also be included in such measures, the Governor suggested
Karnataka Governor - Thaawarchand Gehlot - Karnataka Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot - TAXSCAN

Karnataka Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot has declined to approve the contentious temple tax legislation, citing concerns over its fairness. Governor Gehlot questioned the rationale behind singling out temples for taxation, suggesting that other religious institutions should also be included in such measures.

The Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments ( Amendment ) Bill, 2024, was initially proposed by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government on February 21. It was later passed in the Vidhan Sabha but faced opposition in the upper house on February 23, where it was rejected by a majority vote due to the opposition’s strength.

The bill, which was subsequently reevaluated and passed on March 1 in both the Assembly and the Legislative Council, proposes a levy ranging from 5% to 10% on temples based on their annual income. Temples earning between ₹10 lakh and less than ₹1 crore annually would face a 5% charge, while those exceeding ₹1 crore in income would be subject to a 10% levy by the state government. These funds would contribute to a Common Pool Fund managed by the ‘Rajya Dharmika Parishath.’

The primary aim of this fund is to support approximately 40,000 priest families and other temple staff by providing insurance coverage, relief funds in case of death, and scholarships for their children. Additionally, it aims to assist ‘C’ category temples ( state-controlled ) with annual incomes below ₹5 lakh to ensure their upkeep and maintenance.

Critics, including opposition parties like the Bhartiya Janata Party ( BJP ) and Janata Dal ( Secular ), have labeled the bill as anti-Hindu, alleging that the Congress government intends to use temple funds to bolster its financial resources. They express concerns that this move may lead to the diversion of temple revenues to other religions.

Unlike the Karnataka model, where the Department of Religious and Charitable Endowments manages Hindu religious institutions, states like Kerala oversee temples through state-managed Devaswom Boards. In a contrasting move, the Uttarakhand government relinquished control over 51 temples and shrines in 2021, such as Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri.

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