A PIL filed in the Bombay High Court has opposed the Maharashtra Charity Commissioner’s move to collect Rs 30 crore per annum from five lakh charitable trusts in the state towards administration fund to meet expenses, saying there was enough money lying with it in the form of fixed deposits.
The petitioners told the high court on March 5 that an RTI had revealed that enough funds were at the disposal of the Charity Commissioner to meet the administration expenses and hence there were no need to collect money for “Public Trusts Administration Fund”.
Citing information received through the RTI, the petitioners contended that the Charity Commissioner’s office had fixed deposits to the tune of Rs 431 crore, lying in various banks as on September 30, 2012, petitioner’s lawyer Prafulla Shah argued.
He said that total income earned by the office of Charity Commissioner from interest on fixed deposits was Rs 27.98 crore and from other sources the income was Rs 241 crore as on March 31, 2012.
The figures show that enough money was available with the Charity Commissioner’s office to manage expenses and hence there was no need to maintain a separate Administration Fund which was sought to be created, the PIL, filed by Devendra Shah, Trustee of Jain Shwetamber Trust and others, contended.
The high court had in 2009 granted a stay on the collection of money for Administration Fund set up by the Charity Commissioner.
Recently, the Charity Commissioner moved the high court seeking to vacate the stay.
The Charity commissioner contended that many trusts were ready to voluntarily contribute towards this Fund and they may be allowed to pay money to this fund during the pendency of the petition.
The charity commissioner claimed that there were a large number of trusts who had dutifully paid the amounts due and payable by them towards the Administration Fund.
However, there are also other trusts who follow dubious ways and methods to evade the payment of the Fund.
Unless the high court order was modified, it would amount to giving a bonus or dividend to such errant trusts who failed to make payments, the regulator argued.
However, the petitioners countered this saying there were enough funds at the disposal of the charity commissioner as on September 30, 2012 and hence no need to collect funds even for periods prior to September 25, 2009 when the stay was granted by the high court.
There was no need to allow the charity commissioner to recover past dues and this issue may be dealt with at the time of passing final orders, it was contended.
The Charity Commissioner had justified collecting the Administration Fund to meet its expenses, amounting to Rs 12 crore per annum towards salaries to staff, pension, electricity charges, telephone expenses and petrol charges for office vehicles, besides Rs 97 crore required for renovation or repairs of office premises.
Maharashtra government submitted that they had received proposals from the office of the charity commissioner that Rs 103 crore was required for construction of office building, purchase of vehicles and computerisation.
As the high court said it was not inclined to vacate the stay granted earlier on collection of money in the Administration Fund, the charity commissioner withdrew its petition in which it had prayed to allow it to collect the funds for the purpose.
As the stay granted by the high court continues, the five lakh public trusts would not be required to contribute to Administration Fund, according to the lawyer Prafulla Shah.