Karnataka’s Temple Tax Bill defeated in state legislative council amid opposition from BJP

On Friday (23rd February), the Karnataka State Legislative Council rejected the Hindu Religious Institutions & Charitable Endowment (Amendment) Bill, 2024 which was passed in the state’s Legislative Assembly on Wednesday. This bill gives the government the right to collect more tax from temples. According to this bill, if the revenue of a Hindu temple is 1 crore rupees, then the government can take a 10 per cent tax from the temple, and if the temple’s revenue is less than 1 crore but more than Rs 10 lakh, then the government can take 5 per cent tax from the temple. Bharatiya Janata Party, in opposition in the state, had opposed this bill.

The bill faced opposition in the Legislative Council where the BJP-JD(S) alliance holds a majority, despite Congress ensuring its smooth passage in the Assembly where it holds the majority. Deputy Chairperson M K Parnesh conducted a voice vote, resulting in majority members opposing the bill. In the 75-member council, BJP holds 35 seats, including the chairperson, JD(S) has eight, and Congress has 29 members along with an independent member. Currently, two seats are vacant.

The government contended that once the bill is enacted into law, it would allow for the redistribution of revenues from temples with higher earnings to those with lower earnings. Kot Srinivas Poojari, LoP in the council, said, “It is a blatant exhibition of an anti-Hindu stand by Congress. It wants to take away money from temples, while it is generous enough to allocate lavishly to Waqf Board.”

After the passage of this bill in the Karnataka state legislative assembly, the BJP leaders of the state strongly opposed it. Karnataka BJP President Vijayendra Yeddyurappa said that the Congress government wants to fill its empty exchequers by adopting anti-Hindu policies. In an X post, he said, “The government will charge 10% income tax to temples earning more than 1 crore. The money offered by the devotees to the deity should be used for the convenience of the temple and devotees. If it is allocated for any other purpose, it will be violence and fraud against the people.”

Yeddyurappa wondered why the Karnataka government was targeting only Hindu temples and not other religions. The government had claimed that the funds collected would be used for “Dharmik Parishad” purposes, improving the economic condition of priests, improving C-grade temples or temples which are in very bad condition, and giving quality education to the children of temple priests.

While the current regulations permit the government to reintroduce the bill in the assembly, sources within the Congress indicated that the legislation might be postponed until after the Lok Sabha polls. It is likely to be revisited during the monsoon session scheduled for June.

Source: OpIndia

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