‘Donating to CM’s relief fund not compulsory for temples’

After the High Court of Karnataka questioned how the State government can issue an order asking select temples to “compulsorily donate” specified amount from the temple funds to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, the government on Friday issued a new notification indicating that the temples can make “voluntary donations” to the relief fund.

After the government submitted the modified notification making donation to the fund “voluntary” for the temples, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Budihal R.B. disposed of a public interest litigation petition questioning the August 21, 2018 notification directing the executive officers of these 81 temples to transfer a total of Rs. 12.3 crore to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

When the counsel for the petitioners pointed out that Rs. 12.3 crore from the 81 temples were already transferred and the government has to return this amount to the temple fund, the Bench said any one aggrieved in this regard could approach an appropriate legal forum.

The petitioners, Hema Naidu and V.R. Samapath, both residents of Bengaluru, had questioned the legality of the notification issued by the government compelling 81 notified temples to transfer, by way of “donation”, a specified amount from their available funds to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. The petitioners had contended that diversion of temple fund to the relief fund is a violation of the provisions of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institution and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997, which does not allow use of temple funds for purposes other than the specified religious purposes.

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