Madras HC says online crowdfunding may not be healthy

The High Court was hearing a petition by Youtuber Karthik Gopinath seeking to allow the transfer of Rs 30.77 lakh, which he collected via fundraising platform Milaap, to a Sthapathi for restoring damaged temple idols.
Madras High Court
Madras High Court
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The Madras High Court observed on Monday, November 28, that crowdfunding through an online fundraiser for temple renovation works may not be healthy. Justice PD Audikesavalu was hearing a petition by Youtuber Karthik Gopinath, who had sought to direct the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department to recognise him as a donor and allow the transfer of Rs 30.77 lakh — which he collected via Milaap — to a Sthapathi for restoring damaged temple idols.

Karthik had claimed that he collected the money to renovate the damaged idols in Siruvachur Mathura Kaliamman temple and a few others. However, the HR&CE department, which manages the temples, alleged in response that Karthik had done so without obtaining permission from it. A case in this regard was filed, following which he was arrested and later released on bail.

The judge had earlier sent a notice to fundraising platform Milaap asking for details of the donors who sent money. Milaap’s counsel, on Monday, sought two weeks of time to submit the details and added that the account concerned has been frozen. The judge later directed the registry to tag the writ petition of Karthik along with another petition pending before a special Division Bench of HC.

Meanwhile, Karthik’s counsel V Raghavachari pointed out that Karthik, as the temple management has stated in its counter affidavit, had sought permission to donate money for renovation, but no rejection order was served. Advocate Karthikeyan, arguing for the temple, said that there was no rejection, instead his plea for donation was simply ‘not accepted’.

When the judge questioned the temple’s counsel about the criteria for the selection of a donor, Karthikeyan said that the donor must donate to the temple from their own funds and not collect money from others using the temple's name. “Any contribution should have been made in a personal capacity,” he argued.

However, Karthik’s counsel contended that every penny collected was accounted for because the entire transaction took place through Milaap, that is via bank transaction. The judge, saying that the money should be taken away from Milaap to criminal court, adjourned the hearing of the case.

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