|COURT:||Delhi High Court|
|CORAM:||S. Muralidhar J, Vibhu Bakhru J|
|CATCH WORDS:||Charitable purpose, exemption|
|COUNSEL:||C. S. Aggarwal|
|DATE:||July 27, 2015 (Date of pronouncement)|
|DATE:||August 27, 2015 (Date of publication)|
|FILE:||Click here to download the file in pdf format|
|S. 11: A charity is not entitled to exemption if it carries out activities not as per the objects. The fact that such ultra vires objects are also charitable is not relevant. Fact that CIT has granted registration u/s 12A does not preclude AO from examining compliance with s. 11. Incidental objects to attain the main object, even if significant in value, are permissible. Under principles of consistency, AO is not permitted to change view in the absence of a change in facts|
The Assessee contended that it was a charitable institution engaged in running a hospital (both Allopathic and Ayurvedic) and the same constituted a charitable purpose within the meaning of Section 2(15) of the Act. It was urged that as the Assessee had applied its income for charitable purposes, the same was exempt under Section 11 and 12 of the Act. The Assessee further contended that it had been granted registration under Section 12A of the Act after considering the nature of its activities and, therefore, it was not open for the AO to deny the exemption under Section 11 of the Act. The CIT(A) accepted the contentions. However, the Tribunal held that the Assessee’s activities relating to Allopathic system of medicine had more or less supplanted the activities relating to Ayurvedic system of medicine and concluded that pre-dominant part of the Assessee’s activities exceeded the powers conferred on the trustees and the objects of the Assessee Trust were not being followed. The Tribunal held that whilst the activities of the Assessee relating to providing medical relief by the Ayurvedic system of medicine were intra vires its objects, the activities of providing medical reliefs through Allopathic system of medicine was ultra vires its objects. Consequently, the Assessee was not entitled to exemption under Section 11 of the Act in respect of income from the hospital run by the Assessee, which offered medical relief through Allopathic system of medicine. Accordingly, the Tribunal directed that the income and expenditure of the Assessee from the activities relating to the two disciplines of medicine, namely Ayurveda and Allopathy, be segregated. On appeal by the assessee to the High Court HELD:
(i) The expression “such purposes” in s. 11 clearly refers to the purposes for which the property is held in Trust. Both the conditions i.e. the income should be derived from the property held in Trust for charitable or religious purposes and the condition that the income is applied for such purposes, are cumulative. The contention of the assessee that the expression “such purposes” would mean any charitable or religious purpose, even if the said purpose is not the purpose for which the property is held in Trust is not acceptable. The contention that as long as the Assessee applies the income from a property held in Trust for charitable or religious purpose, to any charitable or religious purpose, the exemption under Section 11(1)(a) of the Act would be available, notwithstanding that the purpose for which the income is applied is not the purpose for which the property is held in Trust, cannot be sustained as the same would be contrary to the plain language of Section 11(1)(a) of the Act. In order for any income to be excluded from the scope of total income, the same must be derived from a property held in Trust for a charitable or religious purpose and must also be applied for that purpose (Commissioner of Income Tax, Ujjain v. Dawoodi Bohara Jamat: (2014) 364 ITR 31 (SC) referred).
(ii) There is also no merit in the contention that the AO is not entitled to inquire whether the income is applied towards the charitable or religious purpose for which the property, from which the income is derived, is held in Trust. It is necessary for the AO to satisfy himself that the conditions for exclusion, as specified under Section 11(1)(a) of the Act, are met and for the said purpose the AO can make such inquiries as necessary. The contention that since the Commissioner, by virtue of Section 12A(3) of the Act, is empowered to cancel the registration granted to an Assessee if it is found that the activities of a Trust or an institution are not genuine or are not being carried out in accordance with the object of the Trust or institution, the AO is precluded from examining whether the Assessee had applied its income for the object of the Trust or institution, is wholly without merit.
(iii) The opening words of Section 12A(1) of the Act clearly indicate that the conditions imposed under that section are in addition to the conditions or exemptions as specified under Section 11 and 12 of the Act. Thus, if the conditions as specified under Section 12A(1) of the Act are not met, then the exemption available under Section 11 of the Act would not be available to the Assessee. This does not mean that if a trust is registered under Section 12A of the Act, exemption under Section 11 and Section 12 of the Act would necessarily follow. The provisions of Section 12 of the Act do not curtail or in any manner dilute the mandatory requirements of Section 11 of the Act. Thus, notwithstanding that an Assessee has been granted a registration under Section 12A of the Act, it would be necessary for the Assessee to comply with the conditions of Section 11 of the Act in order to claim any benefit under the provisions of that Section.
(iv) On facts, the hospital run by the Assessee is an integrated hospital offering treatments under the Ayurvedic system of medicine as well as under the Allopathic system of medicine. The objects do not prohibit running of an Allopathic hospital or drawing from any the other system of medicine for improving the Ayurvedic system of medicine. The Assessee’s endeavour of running a hospital providing modern techniques and treatment which would also be a source for improving Ayurvedic system of medicine would, plainly, be an activity towards the objects as specified. Merely because, running of an Allopathic hospital is not specifically mentioned, it does not necessarily mean that the same would be ultra vires the objects, as establishment of an Allopathic hospital does assist the Assessee in its object of improving the Ayurvedic system and taking assistance from the Allopathic system of medicine. Any activity reasonably incidental to the object would not be ultra vires the objects. Thus, the AO and the Tribunal erred in concluding that the Assessee’s activities were in excess of its objects. Running an integrated hospital would clearly be conducive to the objects of the Assessee. The trustees have carried out the activities of the trust bonafide and in a manner, which according to them best subserved the charitable objects and the intent of the Settlor. Thus the activities of the Assessee cannot be held to be ultra vires its objects. The AO and the Tribunal were unduly influenced by the proportion of the receipts pertaining to the Ayurvedic Research Institute and the hospital. In our view, the fact that the proportion of receipts pertaining to the Ayurvedic Research Institute is significantly lower than that pertaining to the hospital would, in the facts of the present case, not be material. Undisputedly, significant activities are carried out by the Assessee for advancement and improvement of the Ayurvedic system of medicine in the institution established by the Assessee and though the receipts from the Allopathic treatment are larger, the same does not militate against the object for which the institution has been set up and run.
(v) It was not open for the AO to take a view different from the one that has been accepted by the Revenue for the past several decades. It is well established that each year is a separate assessment unit and the principles of res judicata are not applicable. However, in this case, it would be appropriate to note that the activities carried out by the Assessee have been accepted as being amenable to exemption under Section 11 of the Act for the past several decades. In the past period, the Assessee has been granted exemption under Section 11 of the Act and also under Section 10(22)/10(22A) or Section 10(23C) of the Act. Concededly, the exemptions granted to the Assessee for past several decades would not be available if the activities of the Assessee were considered by the concerned AOs/Authorities to be ultra vires its objects. In the circumstances, it would not be apposite to permit the Revenue to challenge a position that has been sustained over several decades without there being any material change. (Radhasoami Satsang v. CIT:(1992) 193 ITR 321 (SC), Commissioner of Income Tax v. Excel Industries Ltd.: (2013) 358 ITR 295 (SC) and Parashuram Pottery Works Co. Ltd. v. ITO: (1977) 106 ITR 1 SC followed)