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Supreme Court Favours nun struggle for Tax exemption in Kerala

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SUPREME COURT LAW INSIDER IN

Soni Satti

Supreme Court has ended the long-running litigation of a congregation of nuns against the Kerala government by ruling that Catholic Nuns are eligible for exemption from building tax under Section 3(1)(b) of Kerala Building Tax Act, 1975 (Government of Kerala v. Mother Superior Adoration Convent).

The dispute began after a revenue officer refused to grant tax exemption to a newly built convent in Thodupuzha town in Idukki district and accepted the nuns’ argument that they are exempted from paying building tax according to the Kerala Building Tax Act of 1975.

When the higher officials of the state revenue department and the Kerala government refused to agree to tax exemptions, the nuns then moved the Supreme Court resulting in the present verdict.

The Supreme Court verdict asked the state to follow the spirit of the law.

“If nuns are living in a neighbouring building to a convent so that they may receive religious instruction there, or if students are living in a hostel close to the school or college in which they are imparted instruction, it is obvious that the purpose of such residence is not to earn profit but residence that is integrally connected with the religious or educational activity,” the court noted.

The order benefits not only us but also other religious congregations in the state,” said Sister Grace Kochupaliyathil, the congregation’s Idukki provincial superior.

The ruling exempts 35,000 nuns in Kerala from paying building tax for their residential buildings attached to schools.

“It was a very long legal battle and finally God blessed us and we won the case,” said Sister Kochupaliyathil.