1. These four appeals have been filed by the State of Gujarat against the orders of acquittal passed in four different cases filed by the office of the Charity Commissioner, Gujarat, by the learned Judicial Magistrate, F.E., Patan. The four respondents in each of these four appeals are the same individuals. The cases for the offences alleged to have been committed by the trustees of that particular charitable trust under Sections 32, 33 read with Section 67 of the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950, read with Rules 17 and 21 of the Bombay Public Trusts Rules (Gujarat), were filed in respect of four different years by the officer concerned from the Charity Commissioner's Office. The respondents are original accused nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5. The allegations against these trustees were that for four different years, viz., 1962-63, 1963-64. 1964-65 and 1965-66, the trustees had not got the accounts audited as required by Section 33 of the Act. Under Rule 17 read with Rule 21 of the Bombay Public Trusts Rules, it was obligatory for the trustees to get the accounts audited within the period of six months because under Section 33 of the Act, the accounts have to be balanced each year on 31st March or such other days, as may be fixed by the Charity Commissioner; and they have to be audited annually in such manner as may be prescribed and by a person who is chartered accountant within the meaning of the Chartered Accountants Act 1949 or by persons as may be authorised in this behalf by the State Government. The second accused in each of the Court cases was the Managing Trustee and a the trial he pleaded guilty and on the plea of guilty, he was convicted by the learned Magistrate of the offences with which al the five accused were changed and the managing trustee in each of the four cases was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs.20/- the learned Magistrate held that as the Managing Trustee of the Trust was accused No.2 and the Managing Trustee was dealing with the correspondence with the Charity Commissioner's office and the rest were dormant trustees, accused No.2 alone was respondent, and , therefore, he held accused Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 not guilty of the offences as charged. He, therefore, acquitted them.
2. In these appeals against acquittal I have to see the provisions of Section 33 which is the main section which imposes an obligation to get the accounts audited. Section 32 provides that every trustee of a public trust shall keep accounts in such form as may be approved by the Charity commissioner and shall contain such particulars as may be prescribed. Rule 17 of the Rules lays down the manner in which the audit is to be carried out and provides that every trustee of a public trust shall keep regular accounts of all receipts and movable and immovable property etc., and the trustee shall get the account audited annually in the manner prescribed; and Rule 21 provides that the trustee shall get and accounts audited within six months of the date of balancing the accounts and the auditor shall forward a copy of the balance-sheet and the income and expenditure account along with his audit report to the Deputy or Assistant charity commissioner within a fortnight of the audit. The Deputy or Assistant Charity Commissioner may, however for sufficient reason grant extension of time.
3. It is nobodys' case that the trustees had asked for extension of time in the instant case as the accounts for these four years were not got audited till 1968. In any event, it is clear that during the six years of the closing of each of the four financial years, the accounts were not got audited. It is clear from Section 32 that it is the duty of every trustee that the accounts are properly maintained. That duty cannot be shifted merely to the Managing Trustee and it is the duty of all the trustees in the light of Rule 17 to see that the accounts maintained by them are audited as required by the rules. It is obvious that in this connection the trustees failed in their duty. As has been held by the Supreme Court in Swaminarayan Temple's case from Ahmedabad, the doctrine of mens rea has no scope in offences like the present one and it is the absolute duty of all the trustees to get the accounts audited.
Under these circumstances, the learned Magistrate with respect to him was in error when he came to the conclusion that accused Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5 were not guilty of any of the offences with which they were charged. I, therefore, allow the State appeal in each of these four case and sentence each of the accused to pay a fine of Rs.20/- (Twenty) in each case; in default R.I. for seven days.
4. Appeal allowed.