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Religious Buildings Taxable: Court on Parish Petition
Kochi: Kerala High Court has ruled that buildings constructed by religious groups would be taxable if used for commercial purposes.
The ruling came on a petition filed by St. John the Baptist Church at Kanjirathanam in Kottayam, Kerala.
“Using such buildings occasionally for religious purposes won't help the groups in availing themselves of the building tax exemption provided under Kerala Building Tax Act of 1976,” it said.
The church had constructed a centenary hall utilizing contributions from parishioners. The demand for a building tax of 142,000 by the village officer was opposed by the church, contending that the hall is mainly used for religious purposes.
Higher government officials, to whom the dispute was referred to, also asked the church to pay the building tax, following which the church approached the high court.
After conducting an inspection of the hall and enquiries with the local people, it was reported that the hall is given on rent for marriages and other functions.
The church's contention was that the hall is given free of charges for marriage receptions hosted by those who contributed for its construction.
Besides, the hall is used for religious classes on Sundays and for prayer services and other religious programs on other days.
Dismissing the church's arguments, the court held that in Christian marriages, religious ceremonies in connection with the solemnization of marriage are held in churches.
Receptions, which have nothing spiritual, cannot be recognized as religious functions.
As far as the contention that the auditorium is used for Sunday classes is concerned, such occasional use of the auditorium will not qualify as its principal use, the court ruled.
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