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Karnataka’s temple tax bill in limbo after defeat in council

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Karnataka's temple tax bill in limbo after defeat in council

In the 75-member legislative council, BJP has 35 members, and JD(S) 8. Congress has 29 members, while 1 is independent; 2 seats are vacant

BENGALURU: Two days after Karnataka assembly passed the Hindu Religious Institutions & Charitable Endowment (Amendment) Bill, 2024, which rejigged existing matrix to collect more taxes from earnings of state-owned temples, the contentious

bill

fell through in legislative

council

Friday, with BJP and JD(S) joining forces to

defeat

it in a potential display of solidarity ahead of Lok Sabha elections.

Congress had ensured smooth passage of the bill in the assembly as it has a majority in Lower House. However, BJP-JD(S) combine, taking advantage of their majority in the Upper House, threw a spanner in the works of govt and thwarted the proposal. The bill was rejected by a voice vote conducted by deputy chairperson M K Parnesh.

In the 75-member legislative council, BJP has 35 members, including the chairperson, while JD(S) has eight. Congress has 29 members, besides an independent. Two seats are currently vacant.

Though existing rules allow govt to reintroduce a bill in assembly, Congress sources suggested the legislation could be pushed to backburner until after LS polls, and taken up again during the monsoon session in June.
While govt reasoned that the bill, once enacted into a law, would enable it to take a portion of revenues from temples with higher earnings and reallocate the funds to those with lower earnings, BJP-JD(S) combine termed the move “anti-Hindu” and a ploy to seize a significant portion of temple revenues.

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.”
Under the existing law, temples are divided into three categories based on revenues they generate. Temples earning more than Rs 25 lakh are classified as Grade A, those earning between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 25 lakh fall in Grade B while the ones with earnings below Rs 5 lakh are designated as Grade C. The state has approximately 34,000 Grade C temples, besides 250 Grade B, and 67 Grade A temples.
Currently, govt is allowed to allocate 5% of Grade B revenues and 10% of Grade A revenues to Grade C temples for their upkeep. The new legislation mandates muzrai temples with annual revenues of over Rs 1 crore to contribute 10% of their income to the common pool (Dharmik Parishad) and 5% to be paid by shrines with revenues of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore, & redistribute it among Grade C temples.

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