BENGALURU: The state government is taking steps to include Jain temples as well as many prestigious mutts across the state under the Department of Muzrai. A newly proposed Act aims to place these houses of worship under the ambit of the Muzrai department along with other temples.

In Karnataka, there are 34,559 temples under the Muzrai Department. Of these, 175 temples are Class A (annual revenue is above `25 lakh), 163 are Class B (annual income is between `5 lakh and `25 lakh) and the remaining are Class C temples (with annual income less than `5 lakh). According to a senior official from Muzrai Department, there are more than 1.2 lakh priests working at these temples.

In November 2017, under the chairmanship of Karnataka Rajya Dharmika Parishad member and senior advocate N K Jagannivas Rao, a committee was formed to study the inclusion of mutts and other worship places. The committee has met more than 12 times so far with stakeholders, including priests and officials. They were studying the pros and cons of inclusion.

The committee members even studied the Muzrai Act in Tamil Nadu and Kerala where more number of temples are located in South India. Based on their findings, the draft report is ready and expected to be submitted to the State government by March.

Sources from the Muzrai Department explained that in 2012,  a division bench of the High Court had struck down the Karnataka Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment ) Act, 2011, terming it discriminatory and a violation of Constitutional rights. The bench had said that the Act should bring in a uniform law for all Hindu religious institutions in the State and hence the exclusion of mutt, temples managed by mutts, from the purview of the Act was discriminatory.

“The bench even observed that earlier, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists were Hindus. Their worship places were under the then Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act. Now, exclusion of Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs from the definition of the expression “Hindu” is a violation of  Article 14 of the Constitution (Right to Equality),’’ a source said.

Basavamurthy Madara Chenniah Swamiji from Madara Guru Peetha, Chitradurga, said they did not welcome this proposal. All these years, temples were under the Muzrai department. Only in the recent years, some of the mutts were given grants by State. Otherwise, the devotees helped. These mutts do social works including providing education and meals. He also said if they want to take mutts to their ambit, why only Hindu mutts, let them take churches and mosques too.

Speaking to TNIE, Muzrai Department Minister Rudrappa Manappa Lamani said they were only following Court orders.

“It is not that we want to have a direct hold on all mutts. Whenever there is a dispute in a mutt, we will intervene. There was no provision for this all these years, which we want to bring by introducing the new Act. Now that the Commitee is working on the draft, it will be placed before a team of advocates for finalising it,’’ he said.

When asked why nothing was done in the last couple of years after Court directions, he said they were busy making other changes.

You can also give your suggestions

Now, the Department has issued public notification at all the temples where they are inviting public to give their feedback and suggestions for inclusion of these places under their act ambit. “In the next 15 days, they can send mail to the Muzarai Department Commissioner, Malai Mahadeshwara Bhavan, Minto Anjaneya Building, Chamarajpet,’’ an official said.

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