High Court Of Madras
New Life In Christ Evangelistic Association (NLC) vs. CIT
V.S. Sirpurkar, J.
W.P. No. 11700 of 1989
4th August, 1998
T.V. Ramanathan, for the Petitioner : S.V. Subramaniam, for the Respondent
V. S. Sirpurkar, J.:
The petitioner herein, which is a society registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975, has filed this petition for a writ of mandamus to the first respondent herein directing it to register the petitioner under s. 12A of the IT Act, 1961 (âthe Actâ).
2. The factual panorama is as under : The petitionerâs claim is that the petitioner is the society for religious and charitable purposes. Its objects are running of orphanages and institutions to train orphans, widows and unemployed. Besides these charitable objects, there are some religious objects also such as establishment of churches and it is claimed that the objects are non-political and non-racial. The society is said to have been formed on 31st Aug., 1985 and was registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act on 15th Nov., 1985 and it was on 1st Oct., 1986 that the present application was made under s. 12A of the IT Act for registration thereunder. It was informed to the society by the respondent that the application was belated but besides this, it was suggested by the first respondent that the objects of the society should be amended.
3. The objection raised by the first respondent seems to be reflected in the communication by the first respondent dt. 1st Dec., 1986. The letter suggests that the memorandum of association/byelaws should be suitably amended and it is only thereafter that the application for registration under s. 12A of the Act would be considered. The objections pointed out were that the application for registration was belated; there were clauses in the trust deed/memorandum of association/byelaws which make the trust/society/association a religious one and, hence, not eligible for exemption under s. 80G of the Act; that there was no clear provision that the funds of the society would be invested in the modes specified under the provisions of s. 13(1)(d) of the Act, r/w s. 11 (5) of the ITAct. It was also suggested that the memorandum of association did not specify the mode of disbursement of assets of the society in the event of dissolution. It was also pointed out that the memorandum should clearly state that itsbenefits would be open to all irrespective of caste, creed or religion; and the last suggestion made was that there should be a specific clause that any amendment to the memorandum would be carried out only with the approval of the CIT. In pursuance of this, it seems that the petitioner made an unsuccessful effort to get his bye-laws amended and ultimately it was intimated to the petitioner by a letter dt. 12th Dec., 1988 that the application can be taken up for consideration only after carrying out the suggestions made in the earlier letter. In short, the application for registration was not granted at this stage. It is by this action that the petitioner is aggrieved and comes before this Court for a direction as mentioned above. The learned counsel for the petitioner painstakingly invited my attention to the provisions of s. 12A of the IT Act and contended that the suggestions made by the petitioner were all in the nature of considering whether the income of the said trust would be liable to be exempted under ss. 11 and 12, and more particularly, s. 80G of the Act. The view taken by the CIT, according to the learned counsel, was that because the society was of religious nature, such income would not be exempt under those sections and could not claim registration under s. 12A. According to the learned counsel, such a view was clearly impermissible considering the language of s. 12A.
The learned counsel avers that s. 12A is only procedural in nature and while considering the application under s. 12A of the Act, the consideration as to whether the society is for religious purposes or not, etc., would beirrelevant. According to the learned counsel, there were only two conditions for registration under s. 12A, they being, making an application within time and secondly, the accounts being maintained in a particular manner and they being audited annually. On the other hand, the learned counsel for the Department suggests that the enquiry as to the nature of the society would be very much relevant because the very purpose of the grant of registration is to enable the society to claim exemptions under ss. 11 and 12 of the Act. If that be so, before the registration is granted, it has to be shown that the petitioner could claim the exemptions under ss. 11 and 12 as also s. 80G of the Act. It will have to be considered, therefore, as to whether the CIT was right in law in insisting upon the society to change its bye-laws and to exclude the religious aspect from the said bye-laws as a pre-condition for grant of registration under s. 12A. Sec. 12A of the Act is as under: “Conditions as to registration of trusts, etc.âThe provisions of s. 11 and s. 12 shall not apply in relation to the income of any trust or institution unless the following conditions are fulfilled, namely: (a) the person in receipt of the income has made an application for registration of the trust or institution in the prescribed form and in the prescribed manner to the Chief CIT or CIT before the 1st day of July, 1973, or before the expiry of a period of one year from the date of the creation of the trust or the establishment of the institution, whichever is later and such trust or institution is registered under s. 12AA: Provided that where an application for registration of the trust or institution is made after the expiry of the period aforesaid, the provisions of ss. 11 and 12 shall apply in relation to the income of such trust or institution,â (i) from the date of the creation of the trust or the establishment of the institution if the Chief CIT or CIT is, for reasons to be recorded in writing, satisfied that the person in receipt of the income was prevented from making the application before the expiry of the period aforesaid for sufficient reasons; (ii) from the 1st day of the financial year in which the application is made, if the Chief CIT or CIT is not so satisfied; (b) where the total income of the trust or institution as computed under this Act without giving effect to the provisions of s. 11 and s. 12 exceeds fifty thousand rupees in any previous year, the accounts of the trust or institution for that year have been audited by an accountant as defined in the Explanation below sub-s. (2) of s. 288 and the person in receipt of the income furnishes along with the return of income for the relevant assessment year the report of such audit in the prescribed form duly signed and verified by such accountant and setting forth such particulars as may be prescribed.”
7. A cursory glance through the provisions of s. 12A would show that unless a society or trust, as the case may be, is registered under s. 12A, it would not be entitled to claim the benefits under ss. 11 and 12. The caption of the section says âConditions as to the registration of the trusts.â The two conditions which are provided are, firstly, that the person concerned should have made an application for registration in the prescribed form and in the prescribed manner to the authorities named in that section before the first day of July, 1973 or before the expiry of the period of one year from the date of creation of the trust or establishment of the institution. The second condition provides for the keeping of the accounts in a particular manner and further that such accounts should be audited. The language of the section does not show that in order to be able to get registration under s. 12A of the Act, there is necessity of first establishing as to how the concerned institution or, as the case may be, the society would be able to claim the exemptions under s. 11 or 12 of the Act. There is nothing in the language to suggest that an institution of a religious nature is precluded from getting registration under s. 12A of the Act. The question of exemptions under ss. 11 and 12 of the Act or, as the case may be, under s. 80G of the Act, would come only when the said exemptions are claimed by the society at the time when it is assessed to tax. To consider whether the said society would be entitled to the benefits under ss. 11 and 12 of the Act or, as the case may be, under s. 80G would be pre- judging the issues before the grant of certificate. At the stage of grant of certificate under s. 12A of the Act, the only enquiry which could possibly be made would be whether the society has actually made an application in time and whether the accounts of the society are maintained in the manner as suggested by the said section. Beyond that, the scope of enquiry would not go. In insisting upon the society in changing or amending its bye-laws and in refusing to consider the application on the ground that those bye-laws have not been changed so as to exclude the religious aspect from those bye-laws, the CIT has clearly over-stepped his limits. The said question came up before the consideration of the Allahabad High Court in a reported decision in Fifth Generation Education Society vs. CIT (1990) 87 CTR (All) 169 : (1990) 185 ITR 634 (All) : TC 23R.1466, by Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy (as he thenwas) who has taken a view in the following words: “It is evident that, at this stage, the CIT is not to examine the application of income. All that he may examine is whether the application is made in accordance with the requirements of s. 12A r/w r. 17A and whether Form No. 10A has been properly filled up. He may also seewhether the objects of the trust are charitable or not. At this stage, it is not proper to examine the application of income.” The precedent applies on all fours to the present case.
In the present case also, there is no question of considering as to how the income of the present society would be applied. The view of the CIT that unless the religious aspect of the society is removed from the bye-laws, the application could not be taken for consideration, is clearly erroneous. Merely because the society is of a religious nature, it is not disentitled from claiming a certificate under s. 12A of the Act. The question whether it is entitled to exemptions under ss. 11 and 12 of the Act or, as the case may be, or under s. 80G would be decided at a much later stage. The only purpose for which the registration is required is for establishing its identity as an institution for being able to claim the benefits under ss. 11 and 12 of the Act. Therefore, at this stage of enquiry, the CIT could not insist upon the society to show that its income was not going to be spent for religious purpose. In that view of the matter, the petition succeeds. It is seen that the CIT has refused to pass an order unless the society has complied with the objections. As has already been seen, the objections raised besides the question of delay relate to the aspect of the religious nature of the institution or the society, as the case may be. The objections, vide point Nos. 3, 4, 6 and 8 pertain to the religious aspect only. It will not be necessary for the petitioner to comply with those objections. As for delay, the learned standing counsel very fairly stated that the question of delay would not come in the way of the petitioner. As regards the other objections, which are of technical nature, they may be complied with. In that view of the matter, it will not be necessary for the petitioner to comply with the objections and/or suggestions made by the first respondent as a pre-condition for consideration of the application. The first respondent is, therefore, directed to pass an order in the light of the observations made above. The application shall be disposed of within one month from today. The writ petition shall stand allowed, rule is made absolute in the terms stated above without any order as to costs.
[Citation :246 ITR 532]