HIGH COURT OF ALLAHABAD
Commissioner of Income-tax-1
Shri Advait Ashram Society
IT Appeal No. 439 of 2009
November 8, 2012
1. The present appeal has been filed under Section 260 (A) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Act’) against the order dated 13.2.2009 passed by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Agra (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Tribunal’). The Commissioner of Income Tax, Agra has proposed the following substantial question of law said to be arising out of the order of the Tribunal: –
(1) Whether on the facts and circumstances of the case, the Tribunal is justified in law in directing the Commissioner of Income Tax to grant registration to the assessee u/s 12-AA of the Act by completely overlooking the fact that the application for registration was filed by the assessee after 29 years of it being registered under the Society Registration Act, 1960 on 15.12.1978?
(2) Whether the Commissioner of Income Tax rightly rejected the application of the assessee for registration u/s 12-AA of the Act as the assessee was not in a position and unable to furnish the details and documents as sought by the CIT u/s 12-AA (1) (a) of the Act meaning thereby that genuineness of the activities of the assessee could not be proved?
2. Briefly stated, the facts giving rise to the appeal are as follows: –
The respondent assessee is a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. It was registered on 15.12.1978. It’s main objects as mentioned in the order of the Tribunal are as follows: –
(i) To own, collect, preserve, develop and administer the properties movable and immovable, that have been or may hereafter be dedicated to the Ashram or that may have been or hereafter be acquired from the offering or that may be handed over or placed in the charge of the Sant Satguru, the working Committee or any Committees or any individual member, Manager or Agent or that may come in possession of any of them in their official capacity as such vest in the Ashram alone and not in the Sant Satguru or any individual in his official capacity.
(ii) To regulate the conduct of Satsangis and to establish, run and subsidise religious, educational, sanitary and charitable institutions with a view to advance the cause of religious, mental, moral and technical education with the object of doing public good.
(iii) To make provision for relief of poverty and distress, particularly of orphans, widows, old, disabled, needy and indigent persons and for such other charities as the ashram may in its discretion consider proper.
(iv) To open dispensaries of any system or systems of medicine and to treat patients there and give them medicine free of charge.
(v) In case of famine or such other natural calamity caused by Act of God, to render and give such help to the poor and destitute persons as the working Committee may in its entire discretion think proper and expedient.
(vi) To make provision for imparting supreme knowledge of Brahm and instruction in correct and effective way of performing “Jap” “Tap” and worship etc. for the uplift of human soul and ultimate salvation.
(vii) To make arrangement for discourses of mahatmas and other distinguished personalities with a view to infuse the spirit of self-sacrifice for the good of others and encourage the outward expression of pious thoughts in acts as well.
(viii) To encourage, promote and enforce the study of trust, lvoe and non-possession and fostering National unity and teaching of the one-ness of human society.
(ix) To make provision for free and unrestricted access to satsangis and other devotees to worship the deities in temple and pay homage to the Samadhi of Satguru Yoganandji Maharaj.
(x) To take all steps to provide accommodation and to look after the comforts of Satsangis residing in the Ashram or hailing from other parts of the country particularly at the Bhandaras of Satgurus’ birthdays or on the days of their departures or on any other days.
(xi) With a view to propagate, enhance and advance the benefits and spiritual doctrines for the good of the humanity make provision for the publication of literature including books, pamphlets and periodicals and distribute them free of charge and pay out of the Ashram’s funds the cost or expenses incurred in that behalf and necessary to engage persons for the purpose.
For some reasons, it did not apply for registration under the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961 as it appears that it did not want to avail the exemptions on income earned by it. However, it applied on 5.4.2007 for grant of registration in the prescribed form. The CIT, Agra made inquiries and vide order dated 18.10.2007 refused to register the Trust u/s 12-A of the Act. The ground for refusal as given by the Commissioner was that no reasons have been given as to why after more than 29 years, the Trust has made an application for grant of registration u/s 12-A of the Act and further the Trust had not complied with query regarding furnishing of the information of filing the income tax returns and providing proof for the last several years.
3. The Trust feeling aggrieved, preferred an appeal before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. The Tribunal has held that not providing information for the returns since inception is not fatal, because only inquiry which the Commissioner of Income Tax can make while granting registration is regarding genuineness of the Trust and as to whether the objects as mentioned in the Trust Deed are for charitable purpose or not. The matter was remanded by the Tribunal to the Commissioner to grant registration under Section 12-AA of the Act. However, in the penultimate paragraph of the order, the Tribunal has directed the Commissioner to afford an opportunity for filing explanation regarding delay in making the application.
4. We have heard Sri Shambhu Chopra, learned Senior Standing Counsel for the Revenue and have perused the impugned order passed by the Tribunal and the Commissioner and are of the considered opinion that the order passed by the Tribunal does not give rise to any substantial question of law, for the reason, that non-filing of the returns for the last several years cannot be a ground for declining to grant registration as the Commissioner is only enjoined to see as to whether the Trust is genuine and whether the object for which it has been formed is for charitable purpose or not.
5. That being the position, we are of the considered opinion that the order passed by the Tribunal does not suffer from any legal infirmity.
6. The appeal fails and is dismissed.