The Karnataka High Court has held that a temple employee in the state will be entitled to gratuity benefits under the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Act, which is a special law enacted in the state and not under the Payments of Gratuity Act, which is a general law.
A full bench comprising of Justice B V Nagarathna, Justice K N Phaneendra and Justice B A Patil, also ruled that temple is not a 'commercial establishment' under the Karnataka Shops and Establishment Act. It said neither the Union Government nor the state government has notified temples as an 'establishment' under the Acts.
The full bench was constituted following an order of reference made by a division bench of the court to consider and determine whether a temple is a commercial establishment and whether law declared by the division bench of this court in the case of Management of Venkataramana Swamy Temple, that a clerk in a temple is entitled to claim the benefit of gratuity on attaining the age of superannuation under the provisions of the Payment of Gratuity Act, stands in conformity with the State law.
Shri Mookambika Temple, Kollur had challenged the orders, passed by labour authorities in 2011, directing it to pay gratuity of Rs 2.91 lakh with 10 percent interest under the Payment of Gratuity Act, to its employee Raviraja Shetty, who was relieved in 2005.
The bench after going through provisions of both the laws held that "Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Act, is a Code by itself, which would prevail over that general enactment, as it has been a specific provision with regard to the payment of terminal benefits, which also includes gratuity." The court directed the temple to pay gratuity to the employee within four weeks.
The full bench set aside the division bench order which held that a clerk in a temple is entitled to claim benefit under the PG Act, relying on the judgment passed by Orissa High Court in the case of Sri Jagannatha Temple.
It said "Orissa courts verdict is not applicable to Karnataka as Orissa's law on Shops and Establishments included a 'temple trust' under 'establishment'. The judgment is not in conformity with the provisions of law applicable in the state. The judgment of the division bench in Sri Venkatramana temple is held to be no longer good law and hence, is over-ruled."
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