The Andhra Pradesh High Court has directed the State government to consider the grant of exemption to temples having an annual income of less than Rs.5 lakhs from the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act, 1987 including the requirement to pay the mandatory contributions.
The Bench of Justice R. Raghunandan Rao issued this order while dealing with a plea moved by Sri Alaparthamma temple's (Alaparru village of Nagaram) founder family member, Allaparthi Venkata Chalapathi Rao.
It was his plea that the temple fetches an income of about Rs.1 lakh per annum and since it is registered under the AP Endowments Act, 1987, there are various liabilities cast on the temple, by way of making payments to the Endowments Department, which are effectively taking away the income of the temple.
The petitioner, relying upon the observations of the Supreme Court in A.S.Narayana Deekshithulu vs. State of A.P and Others (1996) 9 SCC 548 and Sri Divi Kodandarama Sarma and others vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and others (1997) 6 SCC 189, contended that temples which have an income of less than Rs.5 lakhs are exempt from all the regulations set out in the Endowments Act including the payment of various contributions to the Endowments Department and also salaries to the Executive Officer.
On the basis of these contentions, the petitioner sought a Writ of Mandamus declaring the inaction of the State Government in notifying and publishing in the Official Gazette, orders of exemption, under Section 154 of the Act, 1987 in relation to all temples whose annual income is less than Rs. 5 lakhs in the State of Andhra Pradesh.
On the other hand, the Government Pleader submitted that the figure of Rs.5 lakhs is a typographical error, in the judgment, and it is only temples that have an income of less than Rs.50,000/-, have to be granted such an exemption and presently, the state government has given an exemption to temples that have less than 2 Lakhs income.
At the outset, the Court opined that it can't interpret the judgment of the Supreme Court to hold that there was a typographical error as any such finding would amount to a modification of the order of the Supreme Court.
To understand the problems being faced by temples having an income of 2 lakhs or more, the Court took the case of a temple, as an example, having an annual income of Rs. 2,00,001/-.
The Court noted that such a temple would have to pay Rs. 37,000/- to the endowments department and consequently, an amount of Rs. 1, 63,000/- would remain in the hands of the Temple to defray its entire annual expenditure.
"The minimum staff needed for a temple would be an Archaka, a watchman and a sweeper/cleaning person. Apart from this the expenditure for Dhupa, Deepa Naivedyam would also have to be met. In today's world, such an amount is clearly inadequate," the Court further added as it stressed that there is every need to reduce the burden on temples having an income of less than Rs. 5 lakhs
Accordingly, the Writ Petition was disposed of with a direction to the State government to consider the grant of exemption to temples having an annual income of less than Rs.5 lakhs from the provisions of the Act including the requirement to pay the mandatory contributions in the light of the directions of the top court in Sri Divi Kodandarama Sarma and others vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and others.
The Court directed that this exercise be conducted within a period of four months from the date of receipt of the order.
Case title - Allaparthi Venkata Chalapathi Rao v. The State of Andhra Pradesh and others [W.P.No.21805 of 2021]