Tanisha Rana

Published on: October 28, 2022 at 21:25 IST

According to the Kerala High Court on Thursday in Cardinal Mar George Alencheryy vs. State of Kerala, religious and charitable institutions are amassing riches and property under the pretence of charity, and a robust central legislation that applies to all of the country is needed to regulate their activities.

Single-judge P Somarajan urged the Central government to take into account the prospect of enacting a central regulation to control and regulate religious and charitable institutions.

“Now the term ‘charity’ is largely used to accumulate wealth and property under that guise and to give away the same without accounting the same to any responsible authority. Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution of India guarantees the right of all citizen to form association or union..”

“…but that does not mean that it should be without any legal status or legal recognition, when involves acquisition and accumulation of large quantity of wealth and assets under the guise of charity,” the Court observed in its order.

When the State government was earlier asked to investigate whether one of the pieces of land sold by the cardinal was initially government land that was later illegally encroached upon, the Court was considering petitions connected to the 2018 Church Land Scam.

The Court took note of a 2012 study by the Ministry of Statistics & Programme that only considered entities that were registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1816, the Bombay Trust Act, 1950, and companies registered under the Companies Registration Act, 1956.

This study was about the lack of regulation of charitable organisations. The outcome showed that there are 31,74,420 non-profit organisations in India.

The survey also showed that there are many more unregistered organisations than registered or fully registered, which is pertinent since the Court emphasised the necessity for an uniform central legislation.

Following that, it made reference to the Directive Principles of State Policy outlined in Part IV of the Indian Constitution.

As Entry No. 28 in the concurrent list of the 7th Schedule to the Constitution of India lists the subject of charities, charitable institutions, charitable and religious endowments, and religious institutions, the court determined that both the Central and State legislatures have the authority to legislate and regulate charitable organisations.

It further stated that the large number of laws in India makes the legal system governing charitable organisations highly complicated.

“This would show the unavoidable necessity for a central legislation in order to regulate charitable organizations and its working,” the Court noted.

As a result, the Court decided it was necessary to request that the Central government investigate the potential of enacting a central uniform legislation to control how such organisations operate as well as the idea of establishing a central agency for the same purpose.

“I may also request the Central Government to explore the possibility of a uniform central legislation to regulate the functioning of charitable organization/institution and religious institutions listed in entry No.28 of concurrent list of VIIth Schedule of the Constitution of India..”

“…including the constitution of a centralized body to address the issues pertaining to the income, expenditure, acquisition and disposal of assets of such bodies. The possibility of constitution of a centralized force/body for that purpose may be explored by the Central Government,” the order stated.

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