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Commissioner of Income-tax, Tamil Nadu-v Vs. Workshop Trust - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberTax Case No. 815 of 1977 (Reference No. 553 of 1977)
Judge
Reported in[1983]142ITR26(Mad)
ActsIncome Tax Act, 1961 - Sections 11
AppellantCommissioner of Income-tax, Tamil Nadu-v
RespondentWorkshop Trust
Appellant AdvocateJ. Jayaraman, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateT.S. Ramu, Adv.
Excerpt:
.....trust - section 11 of income tax act, 1961 - whether in view of provisions of declaration of trust objects of 'aurobindo ashram' trust to be taken as objects of assessee trust - 'ashram' is different entity from workshop trust - objects of trusts must be spelled out only from deed of trust subscribed to by its founder - trust deed do not speak that workshop is very embodiment of objects for which 'ashram' had come into being - deed does not say that workshop, its properties and its income are to be held for aims and objects which 'ashram' avows for itself - nothing in trust deed to support tribunal's view that object of trust are identifiable with 'ashram's' objects. - - but it is held under a trust called the 'workshop trust'.ved prakash is the founder as well as the trustee..........every rupee of the income earned during the year was tax exempt. he refunded to the terms of the trust deed and urged that the trust existed in this world only for the aurobindo ashram and for nothing else, the tribunal were quite impressed by this circumstance. they felt convinced that all the ideals of the ashram must be attributed to ved prakash trust as well, since the ashram was the sole beneficiary of the property and income of the workshop. the tribunal, however, were hesitant to proceed straightway and grant relief, for, the ashram's objectives were not on record in the case and the tribunal considered that those aims and objects will have to be first ascertained, they, accordingly sent then case back to the aac. 3. the order of the tribunal was thus one of remand. but the.....
Judgment:

Balasubrahman, J.

1. Ved Prakash, son of Lala Daulatram is an inmate of the Pondichery Ashram. He is a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. In 1968, he started a carpentry workshop with borrowed money from the very start the workshop is run on a commercial scale. But it is held under a trust called the 'Workshop trust'. Ved Prakash is the founder as well as the trustee of the trust. As founder of the trust, he has committed in writing what the terms trust are in a deed dated June 24,1968. The deed says that Ved Prakash has no manner of personal interest either in the corpus or in the income of the trust. He holds everything in trust for the Ashram. Every pie the workshop earns is for the Ashram. Ved Prakash keep nothing for himself, he takes nothing for himself.

2. In the year ended March, 31, 1971, the workshop showed a profit of Rs. 10, 600 Ved Prakash as trustee claimed that the income was exempt from income tax. He claimed that the trust was exempt from income tax He claimed that the trust was a charitable trust. The ITO held that it was nothing of the kind. He was, however prepared to treat a part of the workshop income actually turned over to the Ashram as a donation exempt under s. 80G of the I.T. Act. But the exemption came to only Rs. 617 Ved Prakash was not satisfied. He took the matter in appeal. He insisted that every rupee of the income earned during the year was tax exempt. He refunded to the terms of the trust deed and urged that the trust existed in this world only for the Aurobindo Ashram and for nothing else, The Tribunal were quite impressed by this circumstance. They felt convinced that all the ideals of the Ashram must be attributed to Ved Prakash Trust as well, since the Ashram was the sole beneficiary of the property and income of the workshop. The Tribunal, however, were hesitant to proceed straightway and grant relief, for, the Ashram's objectives were not on record in the case and the Tribunal considered that those aims and objects will have to be first ascertained, They, accordingly sent then case back to the AAC.

3. The order of the Tribunal was thus one of remand. But the remand itself was based on the conviction that the objects of the workshop Trust must be identified with the objects of the Aurobindo Trust. It is this determination of the Tribunal which the I.T. Dept. challenges in the present reference, The question of law referred to us at their instance brings out the point at issue as under :

'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, and in view of the provisions of the declaration of trust dated June 24, 1968, the objects of Shri Aurobindo Ashram Trust are to be taken as the objects of the assessees trust ?'

4. We may point out that no question is before us as to the propriety of the Tribunal remand. All the same, we cannot help observing that the remand might well have been saved. We say so because the Ashram's objectives and their charitable nature were never in issue between the parties so far as this case is concerned,. They were, on the contrary, a non-issue. For we cannot otherwise explain the grant by the ITO of relief under s 80G as respects the amounts paid over by the trustee to the Ashram. We therefore, deem it quite proper to ignore the remain and address ourselves to the question on the footing that our judgment in this reference will effectively conclude the case one way or the other.

5. Mr. Jayaraman, learned standing counsel for the Revenues urged that the Ashram is a different entity from the workshop Trust. He accordingly, urged that the objects of this trust must be spelled out only from the deed of trust subscribed to by its founder, Ved Prakash, In this context, he said the high mind and purpose of the Aurobindo Ashram are wholly beside the point.

6. We uphold these submission without hesitation The trust deed is a plain-speaking document. Ved Prakash explains in the deed what made him found the trust and what makes the workshop tick. We do not find him saying that the workshop is very embodiment of the objects for which the Ashram had come into being. The deed does not say that the workshop, its properties, and its income are to be held for the self-same aims and objects which the Ashram avows for itself. As a matter of construction, therefrom we find nothing in the trust deed to support the Tribunals view that the object of the trust are indentifiable with the Ashram's own objects, whatever they might be.

7. The Tribunal in their order have laid stress on the circumstance that the sole beneficiary of the trust is the Aurobindo Ashram. This is quite true. The trust deed says so, But that does not carry us any far. We know of no law of charitable trusts which says that the objects avowed by the beneficiaries are at one the objects of the trust itself. But then, this Workshop Trust does have an object of its own What is it As Mr. Jayaraman pointed out, we only have to read the trust deed to find what it is for Ved Prakash who subscribed to that document knew about the trust more than anybody else. And this is how he himself describes its objects in the instrument :

'Whereas I am a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and am desirous of benefiting the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, financially and whereas for the said purpose I have raised money for starting a workshop at Pondicherry ....'

8. It is clear that the trust is not cluttered up with a plurality of objectives. There is one goal set for the trust, constantly to be reached, and that is to benefit the Ashram financially. 'Benefiting the Ashram financially', we take it, is a nice way of saying that the trust is for ever interested in adding to the bank balance of the Aurobindo Ashram. This is the be-all and end-all of the trust. The question is : Does it make the trust a charitable trust

9. The answer is too plain to need elaboration. Ever since the celebrated English case of Pemsel [1891] 3 T C 53 charitable purpose are usually analysed as falling under four distinct heads namely relief of the poor, education, medical relief and any other object of general public utility. That is the way they are defined under out I.T. Act too Ved Prakash Trust does not fit in with any of these accepted heads charity. The workshop is not intended for anybody's education, not even as center of vocational training in carpentry. Medical relief is far and away beyond the contemplation of the deed. So too is the idea of affording relief to those who are stricken by poverty. It is sure that the workshop is to be run, not for Ved Prakash's profit, but entirely and exclusively for the Ashram. But that only shows how selfless the founder can be. Self-denial, however, has no positive purpose. Charity, on the other hand involves affirmative action, and is by no means a negative virtue. To be charitable, one must aim at reliving the poor from poverty, relieving the disabled from suffering, and spreading education among the unenlightened. Supreme acts of self-sacrifice are good in their own way, but they are not charitable acts. It might look odd that the virtues of self-abnegation and self-effacement should be regarded as non-charitable, while hospitable and schools run on affluent lines should pass muster as charitable bodies. That, however, must be understood as the low, both under the statute and on the authorities.

10. Mr. Ramu, learned counsel for the trust, urged that the whole tenor of the trust deed points to the trust being an inextricable to the Aurobindo Ashram. He even described it as a mini-Aurobindo Trust. We do not think this is an apt description. The trust, in our judgment, is by no means a branch or an outpost of the Aurobindo complex. The Ashram has no doubt a locus standi under trust deed. But it is that of beneficiary under the trust. And we hold that the Ashram's position as a beneficiary separates the trust and the Ashram as two distinct entities.

11. The result is that we must answer the question in this reference in the negative and in favour of the Department. We only wish to add that, conformable to this judgment, the Tribunal will have to set aside their order of remand, and proceed to dispose of the case in the light of our answer to the question of law. No costs.


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