1. The point which arises for decision in this case is whether Section 101, Clause (a) of the Madras City Municipal Act applies to this case. The appellant claimed exemption from taxation under Section 101(a) in respect of a building which is admittedly set apart for public worship, being a bhajana mandiram, that is a place where a number of people gather and sing devotional songs in chorus. Occasionally this building was given to other persons for performing marriages and a small sum was collected from the marriage parties and the sum so collected was utilised for meeting the expenses of the bhajana mandiram. The lower Court held that Section 101 (a) did not apply on the ground that though the building was a place set apart for public purpose it could not be said that it was either actually so used or used for no other purpose. The present appeal is filed by the Official Trustee of Madras who is in charge of the bhajana mandiram and the argument is advanced that the exemption claimed ought to have been upheld.
2. Section 101 (a) runs thus:
The following buildings and lands shall be exempt from the property tax:(a) (places) set apart for public worship and either actually so used or used for no other purpose.
Section 83, Clause (1) (a) of the District Municipalities Act, so far as the point under consideration is concerned, is word for word the same. That section runs thus:
The following buildings and lands shall be exempt from the property tax:(a) places set apart for public worship and either actually so used or used for no other purpose.
It is not alleged that during the time when the marriages were being celebrated in the building bhajana or public worship was actually going on. Nor can it be said that the building was used for no other purpose. It was used for a purpose other than that of public worship. In my view this question is really concluded by the decision in the Municipal Council, Palni v. Sri Dhandayuthapani Devasthanam (1936) M.W.N. 1088. In that case the Palni devasthanam built a power house and installed an electric plant at the foot of the hill belonging to it. The entire hill had been admittedly set apart for public worship. The devasthanam utilised the electric energy from the power house for lighting the temple and the approaches to it and also supplied it at profitable rates to persons who kept shops and a hotel on the hill. Exemption was claimed on behalf of the devasthanam and it was contended that it was a place set apart for public worship and used for that purpose. The learned Judges held that the property tax was properly levied under Section 83 (1) of the Madras District Municipalities Act and that exemption is allowed for places set apart for public worship and used for that purpose and for places set apart for public worship but not actually in use. If therefore a place is used for a purpose other than public worship, it does not fall within the exemption. They added that as the power house was used for commercial purposes as well as purposes of public worship, the conditions of the exemption were not fulfilled. They dissented from an earlier decision of a single Judge of this Court in Municipal Council, Srirangam v. Srirangam Devasthanam (1936) M.W.N. 1088. As Mr. Venuugopalachari, the learned advocate for the appellant, rightly urges, the element of profit is not the guiding factor. The only point to be considered is whether the expression 'used for no other purpose ' can be applied to a case like the present where though the building was admittedly set apart for public worship, it was actually being used occasionally for marriages being performed in it. Performance of marriages cannot in any sense of the term be said to be part of public worship. Private individuals perform the marriage and pay some amount for being allowed the use of this building for performing the marriage. There is no question of public worship during the time. Therefore it is not a case where it could be said that the place was actually used for public worship, nor can it be said that it was not used for any purpose other than public worship. Mr. Venugopalachari relies upon the decision in Municipal Council of Tirupathi v. Sree Mahant Prayag Dasjee Varu : AIR1915Mad594 . There the question was whether a certain building used for stabling devasthanam coaches and horses which were employed in carrying drums in temple processions or allowed for the use of respectable pilgrims to whom such honour was shown by the Mahant was exempt from property tax. In so far as the buildings were used for stabling the devasthanam horses which were employed in processions of the deity there could be no question of taxation. The user was admittedly part of public worship, namely, temple processions. Then the next point was whether in so far as the horses were allowed for the use of pilgrims to whom honour was shown by the Mahant it was user which took it out of the exemption. Rightly or wrongly the learned Judges held that that also came within the first portion of Section 83. Though the learned Judges used the words 'public purpose,' we have to take it that really what was meant was that that was also part of public worship. At any rate the section is clear that exemption can be claimed only where a building was used not only for public worship, but was actually so used or used for no other purpose. Whether the interpretation put upon the expression ' public worship ' in the decision is right or wrong, we have the later decision of a Bench of this Court in Municipal Council, Palni v. Sri Dhandayuthapani Devasthanam : AIR1941Mad185 .
3. The result is that the appeal is dismissed with costs.