|CORAM:||A. D. Jain (JM), Pramod Kumar (AM)|
|SECTION(S):||11, 12AA, 2(15)|
|CATCH WORDS:||cancellation of registration, Charitable purpose|
|COUNSEL:||Y. K. Sud|
|DATE:||June 11, 2015 (Date of pronouncement)|
|DATE:||June 15, 2015 (Date of publication)|
|FILE:||Click here to download the file in pdf format|
|S. 11/ 12AA(3): The Proviso to s. 2(15) has no bearing on the grant or denial of registration. The applicability of the proviso has to be evaluated on a year to year basis and it only affects the grant of exemption u/s 11|
(i) The scope of powers of the Commissioner under section 12AA(3) for cancellation of registration already granted is very limited in scope inasmuch as it can only be invoked only when (i) that the activities of the trust are not genuine, and (ii) that the activities of the trust or the institution are not being carried out in accordance with the objects of the trust or the institution. Section 12AA(3) specifically provides that when the CIT “is satisfied that the activities of such trust or institution are not genuine or are not being carried out in accordance with the objects of the trust or institution, as the case may be, he shall pass an order in writing cancelling the registration of such trust or institution”. It is not even the case of the CIT that the activities of the assessee trust are “not genuine” or that the “activities of the assessee are not being carried out in accordance with the objects” of the assessee trust. The case of the CIT rests on the first proviso to Section 2(15) coming into play on the facts of this case but then such a factor cannot warrant or justify the powers under section 12AA(3) being invoked. We, therefore, uphold the grievance of the assessee that the action of the Commissioner, in withdrawing the registration under section 12AA(3), was well beyond the limited scope of the powers conferred on him by the statute.
(ii) There is, however, a much more fundamental reason for the assessee succeeding in this appeal. In our considered view, the considerations with respect to the first proviso to Section 2(15) coming into the play and, for that reason, the objects of an assessee trust or institution being held to be not covered by the definition of ‘charitable purposes’, have no role to play in the matters relating to registration of a trust or institution under section 12A or 12AA- whether in respect of granting or declining of a registration or in respect of cancellation, even if otherwise permissible, of a registration. A closer look at the scheme of the Act would unambiguously show this aspect of the matter;
(iii) The definition of ‘chartable purposes’ is that the rider set out therein, under first proviso to Section 2(15), can only come into play on year to year basis and not in absolute terms. The same activity can be hit by this rider in one year and thus the assessee trust or institution may not qualify to be existing for ‘charitable purposes’, and that very activity of the assessee trust or institution may remain unaffected by the same disabling provision for another year. The reason is that it is not only the nature of the activity but also the level of activity which, taken together, determine whether this disabling clause can come into play. The safeguard against the objects of the trust being vitiated insofar as their character of ‘charitable activities’ is concerned, is inbuilt in the provisions of Section 13(8) which was brought into effect with effect from the same point of time when proviso to Section 2(15) was introduced – i.e. with effect from 1st April 2009;
(iv) The impact of the proviso to Section 2(15) being hit by the assessee will be that, to that extent, the assessee will not be eligible for exemption under section 11 of the Act. The mere fact that the assessee is granted registration under section 12 A or 12AA as a charitable institution will have no bearing on this denial of registration. As a corollary to this legal position, the fact that the objects of the assessee may be hit by the proviso to section 2(15) cannot have any bearing on the grant, denial or withdrawal of the registration under section 12AA;
(v) The scheme of the Act is clear. The status of registration under section 12A or 12AA has no bearing, as recognized in Section 13(8), on the availability of exemption under section 11. To the extent income of the assessee arises from the activities hit by the first proviso to Section 2(15) in any assessment year, the assessee will be disentitled for exemption under section 11 to that extent. It is also important to bear in mind the fact that the disentitlement for exemption under section 11, as a result of the activities of an assessee being held to be not for charitable purposes under section 2(15) read with provisos thereto, is in respect of entire income of the assessee trust or institution but only for the assessment year in respect of which the first proviso to Section 2(15) is triggered.
(vi) If the status of registration is to be declined to an assessee only on the ground that some of the objects may be hit by the first proviso to Section 2(15) but the assessee’s receipts from such activities do not exceed specified threshold in a particular assessment year, the assessee will be subjected to undue hardship in the sense that while the assessee will be disentitled to exemption under section 11 due to denial of registration under section 12 A or 12AA which is sine qua non for admissibility of exemption under section 11. On the other hand, if the status of registration is granted to the assessee even when some of the objects may be hit by the first proviso to Section 2(15) and the assessee’s receipts from such activities do exceed specified threshold, no prejudice will be caused to the legitimate interests of the revenue because, notwithstanding the status of registration and by the virtue of section 13(8), the assessee will not be eligible for exemption under section 11 in respect of such income. It is only elementary that a statutory provision is to be interpreted ut res magis valeat quam pereat, i.e., to make it workable rather than redundant.
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