MUMBAI: Lord Shiva, Hanuman and goddess Durga do not represent any
particular religion but are regarded as supernatural powers of the universe,
the Nagpur income tax appellate tribunal has said.
The observation came when the tribunal was hearing an appeal by Nagpur-based
Shiv Mandir Devstan Panch Committee Sanstan against an income tax
commissioner's order denying it tax exemption on grounds that more than 5%
of its expenditure was incurred on religious activities.
The I-T act stipulates that for the purpose of tax exemption, an institution
or trust must not be for the benefit of any particular religious community
Differing with the I-T commissioner's order, the tribunal said, "Expenses on
worshipping of Lord Shiva, Hanuman, Goddess Durga and on maintenance of the
temple cannot be regarded as having been incurred for religious purposes."
The tribunal went on to say that Hinduism was neither a religion nor a
community. It consisted of a number of communities having different gods
worshipped in different ways. Even the worship of god wasn't not essential
for a person who had adopted the Hindu way of life, it said.
"Hinduism holds within its fold men of divergent views and traditions who
have very little in common except a vague faith in what may be called as the
fundamentals of Hinduism," the tribunal observed.
According to it, the word 'community' meant people living in the same place,
under the same laws and regulations and who have common rights and
privileges. This may apply to Christianity or Islam but not to Hinduism.
"Technically, Hinduism is neither a religion nor a community," the tribunal
In 2008, the sanstan had spent Rs 82,977 on maintenance of its building,
providing free food, festival prayers, training people in tailoring and
yoga, and free distribution of spectacles. The I-T commissioner had said
that expenses for building maintenance, providing free food, festival
prayers and daily expenses related to 'religious purposes'. This added up to
more than 5% of the organization's expenditure. Only Rs 6,700 was spent on
non-religious activities, the taxman said.
The sanstan had countered this, saying its temple was open to everybody,
irrespective of caste and creed. "The temple does not belong to a particular
religion. Installing idols is not a religious activity," the counsel for the
The I-T tribunal's accountant member K Bansal and judicial member D T
Garasia agreed. They said the word 'religion' meant belief in, and worship
of, a "superhuman controlling power", a particular system of faith and
"It means the trust should not be for the benefit of any particular group of
persons having common belief in worshipping of superhuman controlling power
or having common system of faith and worship. If the trust is for the
benefit of any particular religious community, it would include the
advancement, support or propagation of a religion," they said, adding that
no evidence or material had been placed on record to prove that the sanstan
was promoting a particular religion.
Raghubhai Surat Vadodara Vibhag Pracharak