PARSI ZOROASTRIAN ANJUMAN, MHOW vs SUB DIVISIONAL OFFICER/THE REGISTRAR OF PUBLIC TRUSTS
PARSI ZOROASTRIAN ANJUMAN, MHOW vs SUB DIVISIONAL OFFICER/THE REGISTRAR OF PUBLIC TRUSTS - Supreme Court Case / Judgment 2022 -
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO._________/2021
(ARISING OUT OF SLP (C) NO. 1150 OF 2019)
PARSI ZOROASTRIAN ANJUMAN, MHOW ...APPELLANT(S)
THE SUB DIVISIONAL OFFICER/THE REGISTRAR OF PUBLIC TRUSTS &
S. RAVINDRA BHAT, J.
1. Leave granted. This appeal by special leave is directed against the judgment of
a Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court at Indore, dismissing an
. The judgment confirmed an order of the learned Single Judge, who in turn,
had affirmed the rejection of the application filed by the appellant, Parsi Zoroastrian
Anjuman, Mhow (hereafter referred to as “the trust”), seeking sanction for the
disposal of its trust property.
2. The appellant was registered as a public trust on 29.01.1973 under the
provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Public Trusts Act, 1951 (hereafter “the Act”). The
trust’s membership was made up exclusively of members of the Parsi community at
1 Dated 29.09.2018 in W.A. 1325/2018.
Mhow. On 15.05.2011, at the behest of the trust and on its application, a revisited
final scheme in relation to the trust was approved by the District Judge, Mhow2
revisited scheme contained the following clause:
“The Managing Committee members, after getting from a majority of the General
Body Members and a specific concurrence of the FPZAI members, shall be entitled to
liquidate the assets and immovable properties of the Anjuman which have taken
vacant and utilize the proceeds of the objects of the Trust, including the upkeep of the
consecrated holy fire from the Mhow Agiari and the maintenance of a priest to look
after it as also for the benefit of the Parsi and Irani Zoroastrian community, always
giving preferences to those connected with Mhow and after ensuring that event he last
Zoroastrian left in Mhow is duly cared for, if poor or needy.”
3. In a meeting held on 14.12.2014, the members of the trust’s Managing
Committee unanimously agreed that five of its immovable properties should be sold.
This decision was consented to by the individual members of the Managing
Committee which included representatives of the Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman
community, i.e., the apex body of the Parsi community in the country. As a followup, the proposal was placed before a general meeting of all members of the trust on
19.01.2015 in which a majority of members supported the Managing Committee’s
decision to sell the five items of property. The trust had circulated what was termed
as a “Vision Document” which listed the existing income, expenditure, and the likely
projection in the event the properties were sold and the proposed use for which the
funds received from such transaction were to be utilized.
4. As was required of it, the trust applied under Section 14 of the Act to the
Registrar of Public Trusts for previous sanction for the sale of the five said properties.
The application languished before the Registrar, for a while. Resultantly, the trust
approached the M.P. High Court by filing a writ petition3
. This petition was disposed
of by an order4
requiring the Registrar to take a decision preferably within 45 days.
The trust approached the Registrar on 17.07.2017 with a request to dispose of its
2 Order dated 15.05.2011 in Case No.3/2010.
3 W.P. 2903/2017.
4 Dated 10.07.2017.
pending application; it filed relevant documents and a more detailed application in
which it was contended inter alia that:
“7(c) The sale proceeds generated through the proposed sale will be invested only in
scheme approved and permissible for charitable trusts. Such investment will generate
sufficient income for achieving the objectives of the applicant Trust by assisting those
members who are in need of medical, educational and other financial assistance.”
5. The trust contends that the copy of the Vision Document (which was circulated
to its members and formed the basis of majority opinion confirming the sale) was
also filed with the Registrar. The Registrar notified Ms. Pervin Rumi Jehangir, the
second respondent (hereafter referred to as “Ms. Jehangir”), asking her to respond to
the trust’s application seeking previous sanction - apparently in view of her previous
objection to the proposal. Accordingly, detailed objections were filed by Ms. Jehangir
which was provided to the trust. The trust in turn filed its written submissions. It was
pointed out that the details of the status of the properties proposed to be sold were
given - most of them were in a dilapidated condition or required extensive repairs.
The trust also pointed out that the properties would be sold after due and proper
valuation and would be under the supervision of the Court. It was furthermore urged
by the trust that the tenants occupying the premises were paying nominal rent and
that its expenditure had increased to ₹ 26 lakhs per annum. Its income was not
adequate to meet the continuously mounting expenditure.
6. The Registrar, by her order dated 10.11.2017, rejected the trust’s application
for previous sanction under Section 14(1), and noticed that the trust had previously
sold other properties. The Registrar reasoned as follows:
“……if property is continued to be sold for meeting expenses of the Trust, then the
entire property would be exhaustive in that condition. No such plan has been
submitted on behalf of the Trust from the Trust property remains secured and
expenses of the Trust are also met. Information has also been given by the Trust that
Trust expenses are about Rs.26 lacs per annum. In my opinion, it is necessary and
proper to take expert opinion as to what measures can be taken to limit the expenses
of the Trust and augment income of the Trust. For this purpose, services of some
chartered accountant may also be taken. Trust property has become dilapidated. In
this regard, no solid evidence has been produced either. For maintenance and
security of the property also, it is necessary to take appropriate measures.
Trust properties are located at extremely important places of Mhow Town which have
lot of value. It is necessary to take measures for safety of the property while properly
running activities of the Trust. In my opinion, there would be adverse effect from
permission to sell the property on interest of the Trust, Therefore, the application for
sale of property by the Trust is rejected after consideration……..”
7. The trust approached the Indore Bench of the M.P. High Court alleging that the
rejection of its application for previous sanction was unjustified. It contended that the
sale was mooted to augment its income and that it was preceded by a proper Vision
Document which outlined the income likely to be garnered by the sale and the
expenditure to be borne by the trust. The trust highlighted that the Vision Document
clearly showed that the interest accruing from the investment (made with the
expected proceeds of the sale) would be used for the purpose of charity and the
expenses of the trust. A copy of the Vision Document was also filed along with the
8. Ms. Jehangir was arrayed as the second respondent; she resisted the trust’s
petition. The learned Single Judge of the High Court, by his order5 noticed the
judgment of this Court reported as Cyrus Rustom Patel v. Charity Commissioner6
upheld the Registrar’s order rejecting the application under Section 14. The learned
Single Judge reasoned that the record disclosed that the property sought to be sold
were all old and that they had been donated by the members of the Parsi community.
The learned Single Judge observed that:
“in all fairness, the Trust should have made all possible endeavor to repair the
buildings which are Trust properties and to ensure that the rich cultural heritage of
the Parsis which is still alive in the township of Mhow, is not destroyed by selling it to
builders and to other persons at throwaway price and therefore, this Court is of the
considered opinion that the Registrar, Public Trust was certainly justified in rejecting
the application filed by the Trust. No case for interference is made out in the matter.
The present Writ Petition is dismissed.”
The trust appealed, unavailingly, to the Division Bench.
5 Dated 18.07.2018 in W.P. 23231/2017.
(2018) 14 SCC 761.
Contentions of parties
9. It was argued on behalf of the trust by Mr. A.K. Chitale, learned senior
counsel, that the High Court failed to consider that the power of the Registrar to
accept or reject the application was limited. Learned counsel highlighted that unlike
Section 36 of the Bombay Public Trusts Act, which conferred intrusive and pervasive
supervisory powers upon the Registrar in regard to applications seeking approval for
transfer or alienation of immovable property of public trusts, Section 14 of the Act, in
the present instance, conferred extremely limited powers.
10. Mr. Chitale, submitted that Section 14(1) subordinates and conditions the grant
or withholding of approval to “the directions in the interest of Trust” or any direction
given under “this or any other law by any Court”. Necessarily, this meant that the
grant or withholding of approval had to relate to stipulations in the Trust Deed or
instruments creating it or had to be embodied in any enacted law, and in accordance
with directions by a Court. In the absence of any restrictive condition or external
limiting factors located in a statute, the Registrar could not have validly withheld the
sanction. Elaborating further on this, it was submitted that although Section 14(2)
confers a slightly larger power of withholding sanction for any transaction, it is not
unguided and should be based on an assessment of the materials (placed before the
Registrar) that the transfer is prejudicial to its interest.
11. Learned senior counsel emphasised that unlike Section 14, the Bombay Trusts
Act, by Section 36 grants independent powers to the Charity Commissioner to impose
conditions which were thought appropriate “regard being had to the interest, benefit
or protection of the Trust”. Learned senior counsel submitted that the materials
placed on record showed that firstly in the past too, properties had been sold to
augment the trust’s income generating capacity. Secondly, of the 15 immovable
properties owned by the trust, only 5 were proposed to be sold. The trust’s
application was clearly based upon a carefully thought-out plan whereby the likely
consideration expected to be received was proposed to be invested in securities. This
would have resulted in income of ₹ 83 lakhs – considerably more than the existing
annual income level of ₹ 20 lakhs (as was the case when the application was made).
The Vision Document showed how this larger income was to be used for increased
spending on charity, education, aid to senior citizens, maintenance of the trust’s
buildings and increasing the salaries of its employees as also the increased
expenditure towards fulfilling religious obligations created in the trust deed.
Furthermore, the proposal by the trust and the resolution of the general meeting
clearly was to have the properties duly valued and sell them to the highest bidder by
inviting sealed tenders. It was argued that this process was transparent and could not
have given rise to any apprehension that the sale was not for the benefit, let alone that
it was prejudicial to the trust’s interests.
12. It was contended that the second respondent’s objection with respect to the
proposed sale being at the behest of a few members of the Managing Committee was
baseless. Learned counsel sought to highlight that the second respondent’s father was
the President of the trust and during his tenure, sale of immovable properties had
been carried out on previous occasions. Therefore, it could not be said that the trust
had taken an unusual or novel step, and it could not be accused of frittering away its
13. Mr. Huzefa Ahmadi, learned senior counsel appearing for the second
respondent urged this court not to interfere with the findings recorded by the High
Court. It was urged firstly that the Division Bench affirmed the learned Single
Judge’s reasoning which is unexceptionable. Mr. Ahmadi urged that this court rarely
interferes with concurrent findings in the exercise of its discretionary jurisdiction
under Article 136. He highlighted that though leave was granted, nevertheless, the
Court’s residual discretion in confirming the concurring opinion has been recognized
on previous occasions.
14. Mr. Ahmadi next urged that the Registrar’s determination that the trust’s
application for transfer of five immovable properties was prejudicial to its interest
was based upon an independent and objective consideration of the materials placed
before her. It was highlighted that although Section 14 does not expressly outline the
requirements which a trust has to fulfil while seeking sanction, Rule 9 of the M.P.
Trust Rules, 1962 contemplates three relevant considerations that were to be taken
into account - namely whether the trust deed contains a stipulation with respect to
alienation of immovable property; the necessity for the proposed alienation; and
whether the proposed alienation is in the interest of the trust.
15. It was further highlighted that by virtue of Rule 9(2), the Registrar is
empowered to make necessary enquiry and by Rule 9(3), the Registrar may impose
conditions “as he may deem fit”, if (s)he is of the opinion that grant of sanction to the
proposed alienation without imposing such conditions, will be prejudicial to the
interest of the public trust. In the present instance, learned senior counsel stated that
the Registrar was not satisfied with the proposal as it contained vague or little details
with regard to how the property was to be sold, its likely valuation, and details of
how the investments would be made of the consideration received through such sale.
Furthermore, the Registrar was of the opinion that the trust could take other measures
to augment its income and ensure that its properties were maintained properly
without transferring any of them.
16. Mr. Ahmadi further submitted that even though the wording of Section 14 does
not facially confer the kind of power which is given to the Bombay Charity
Commissioner under the Bombay Public Trusts Act, nevertheless, Rule 9(3) clothes
the Registrar with sufficient discretion to act in the best interest of a trust and make
sure that no decision prejudicial to its interest is taken.
17. Learned senior counsel relied upon the decision of this Court in Cyrus (supra).
He also cited other judgments Chenchu Rami Reddy & Anr. v. Govt. of Andhra
Pradesh & Ors.7
; Bhaskar Laxman Jadhav & Ors. v. Karamveer Kakasaheb Wagh8
and Mehrwan Homi Irani & Anr. v. Charity Commissioner Bombay and Ors.9
(1986) 3 SCC 391.
(2013) 11 SCC 531.
(2001) 5 SCC 305.
highlight that the best interests of a public trust are always paramount and are at the
forefront of the concern of statutory authorities and courts. He highlighted that this is
even more so when a proposal for long term alienation such as long-term lease or sale
of trust property is involved. All these relevant considerations were kept in mind by
the Registrar in her rejection order. It was submitted that as a consequence, the
impugned order does not call for any interference by this court.
18. “Public trust” is defined by Section 2 (4) of the M.P. Public Trusts Act as
"public trust" means an express or constructive trust for a public, religious or
charitable purposes and includes a temple, a math, a mosque, a church, a wakf or any
other religious or charitable endowment and a society formed for a religious or
19. By Section 4, every public trust has to apply for registration, when it comes
into existence. Section 14, which is relevant for the present purpose, reads as follows:
“14. Previous sanction of Registrar, in cases of sale, etc., of property belonging to a
public trust. (1) Subject to the directions in the instrument of trust or any direction
given under this or any other law by any Court,-
(a) no sale, mortgage, exchange of gift of any immovable property; and
(b) no lease for a period exceeding seven years in the case of agricultural land or for
a period exceeding three years in the case of non-agricultural land or building;
belonging to a public trust, shall be valid without the previous sanction of the
(2) The Registrar shall not refuse his sanction in respect of any transaction specified
in sub-section (1) unless such transaction will, in his opinion, be prejudicial to the
interests of the public trust.”
Rule 9 of the M.P Trust Rules, 1962 reads as follows:
“9. Applications under Section 14 for sanction of alienations. –
(1) Every application for sanction of an alienation shall contain information inter alia
on the following points,-
(i) whether the instrument of trust contains any directions as to alienation of
(ii) what is the necessity for the proposed alienation;
(iii) how the proposed alienation is in the interest of the public trust; and
(iv) in the case of a proposed lease, the terms of the past leases, if any.
Such application shall be accompanied by a valuation report of an expert.
(2) The Registrar, before according or refusing sanction, may make such inquiry as he
may deem necessary'
(3) In according sanction, the Registrar may impose such conditions, as he may deem
fit, if he is of the opinion that the grant of sanction to the proposed alienation without
imposing such conditions will be prejudicial to the interests of the public trust.”
Analysis and conclusions
20. As can be seen by Section 14 (1), previous sanction of the Registrar of public
trusts is a precondition, for the (a) “sale, mortgage, exchange of gift of any
immovable property” or (b) “lease for a period exceeding seven years in the case of
agricultural land or for a period exceeding three years in the case of nonagricultural land or building.” If Section 14 (1) had stopped there, the embargo on
alienation of the types enumerated in the provision (sale, gift, exchange, mortgage
etc., or long-term lease(s) of agricultural or non-agricultural properties) i.e., obtaining
previous sanction, could well have meant that the Registrar’s role was conceivably
intrusive. However, the provisions of Section 14 (1) and the power conferred on the
Registrar under it, are controlled by Section 14 (2) which states that the Registrar
“shall not refuse his sanction” unless in his opinion the alienation, or transfer is
prejudicial to the interests of the public trust. The clear reference in Section 14 (2) is
to the power exercisable under Section 14 (1). The controlling expression in Section
14 (1) significantly, is that previous sanction in respect of the two situations (i.e.,
alluded in clauses (a) and (b)) is “subject to the directions in the instrument of trust
or any direction given under this or any other law by any Court.” This controlling or,
rather opening words, clearly indicate that the grant or refusal of sanction by the
Registrar have to be based on either “the directions in the instrument of trust”, or
“any direction given under this (i.e., M.P. Public Trusts Act) or any other law by any
court”. The discretion thus, is relatable to directions in the trust document, or any
provision of the Act, or any other law as ordered (or directed) by any court.
Therefore, the Registrar, is not empowered to read into it her own notions of what is
beneficial and what is prejudicial to the trust. The refusal has to be specific to the
requirement of law, wherever such law clearly stipulates so, or any specific provision
of the trust document.
21. On behalf of the second respondent, considerable emphasis was placed on Rule
9, especially Rule 9 (3), to say that the Registrar can – in addition to the stipulations
which condition grant of previous sanction – also: “impose such conditions, as he
may deem fit, if he is of the opinion that the grant of sanction to the proposed
alienation without imposing such conditions will be prejudicial to the interests of the
public trust”. If one recollects that the power to impose conditions is absent in the
main provision of the parent enactment, i.e., Section 14 (1) or (2), clearly, sub-rule
(3) goes beyond enacted law. A plain look at Rules 9 (1) and (2) would show that the
conditions mentioned in those rules, are in conformity with the framework of Section
14. However, if Rule 9 (3) were to be read independently, it can be construed as
conferring additional power to impose conditions. Such a reading would lead to Rule
9 (3) being rendered ultra vires. However, a proper and harmonious reading of Rule 9
(3) would be that the Registrar, in a given case may impose conditions, if the
instrument of public trust, or any law, relating to public trusts, results in a court
direction to such effect. In the absence of these objective factors, the Registrar, in this
court’s opinion, cannot unilaterally impose conditions which in her, or his opinion
would inure to the interest of the public trust.
22. It is now necessary to discuss the case-law cited on behalf of the parties. In
Chenchu Rami Reddy (supra) Section 74 (1) (c) of the Andhra Pradesh Charitable and
Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1966 obliged that public trust property had to be
put to auction by the Commissioner (of trusts). In that case, the property of the trust
was sought to be sold by private negotiation, despite an offer of three times more
consideration, by another party. The Commissioner had approved such private sale.
This court set aside the sale, holding inter alia, that:
“property of such institutions or endowments must be jealously protected. It must be
protected, for, a large segment of the community has beneficial interest in it (that is
the raison d'etre of the Act itself). The authorities exercising the powers under the Act
must not only be most alert and vigilant in such matters but also show awareness of
the ways of the present day world as also the ugly realities of the world of today. They
cannot afford to take things at their face value or make a less than the closest-andbest-attention approach to guard against all pitfalls. The approving authority must be
aware that in such matters the trustees, or persons authorised to sell by private
negotiations, can, in a given case, enter into a secret or invisible under-hand deal or
understanding with the purchasers at the cost of the concerned institution. Those who
are willing to purchase by private negotiations can also bid at a public auction. Why
would they feel shy or be deterred from bidding at a public auction? Why then permit
sale by private negotiations which will not be visible to the public-eye and may even
give rise to public suspicion unless there are special reasons to justify doing so? And
care must be taken to fix a reserve price after ascertaining the market value for the
sake of safeguarding the interest of the endowment. With these words of caution we
close the matter.”
23. Section 36 of the Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950, inter alia, stipulates that:
“(c) if the Charity Commissioner is satisfied that in the interest of any public trust any
immovable property thereof should be disposed of, he may, on application, authorise
any trustee to dispose of such property subject to such conditions as he may think fit to
impose, regard being had to the interest or benefit or protection of the trust.”
In the decision in Mehrwan Homi Irani (supra), the nature of this power, of imposing
conditions having regard to the interest or benefit or protection of the public trust,
“In the best interests of the Trust and its objects, we feel it appropriate that
Respondents 2 to 4 should explore the further possibility of having agreements with
better terms. The objects of the Trust should be accomplished in the best of its
interests. Leasing out of a major portion of the land for other purposes may not be in
the best interests of the Trust. The Charity Commissioner while granting permission
under Section 36 of the Bombay Public Trusts Act could have explored these
possibilities. Therefore, we are constrained to remit the matter to the Charity
Commissioner to take a fresh decision in the matter. There could be fresh
advertisements inviting fresh proposals and the proposal of the 5th respondent could
also be considered. The Charity Commissioner may himself formulate and impose just
and proper conditions so that it may serve the best interests of the Trust. We direct
that the Charity Commissioner shall take a decision at the earliest.”
24. In Bhaskar Laxman Jadhav (supra) approval to sell trust property was sought,
in 1994. The trustees prevaricated; on different occasions, extension to carry out the
sale was sought. Ultimately, in 2006, the property was sought to be sold. However,
the approval application was rejected. This was impugned before the High Court,
which in its order, required the Commissioner to re-examine the matter afresh, and
also take into consideration altered circumstances, i.e., the passage of time had led to
a considerable increase in the value of the property. This court endorsed the view of
the High Court.
25. In Cyrus Rustom Patel (supra), again, the applicability of Section 36 of the
Bombay Public Trust Act was in issue. This court set aside a sale, after observing that
the Commissioner neither ascertained the value of the property, nor made any attempt
to secure the best price for it. Further, the Commissioner did not attempt to explore if
other conditions could be imposed on the proposed developer or purchaser. It was
“23. The power to grant sanction has to be exercised by the Charity Commissioner,
taking into consideration three classic requirements i.e. “the interest, benefit, and
protection” of the Trust. The expression that sanction may be accorded subject to such
conditions as Charity Commissioner may think fit under Section 31 (1) (b) and Section
36 (1)(c). The Charity Commissioner has to be objectively satisfied that property
should be disposed of in the interest of public trust; in doing so, he has right to impose
such conditions as he may think fit, taking into account aforesaid triple classic
requirements. It is also open to the Charity Commissioner, in exercise of power
of Section 36 (2) of the Act, to revoke the sanction, given under clauses (a) and (b)
of Section 36 of the Act, on the ground that the sanction had been obtained by fraud or
misrepresentation or those material facts have been suppressed while obtaining
sanction. The intendment of the revocation provision is also to sub-serve the interest,
benefit, and protection of the Trust and its property.
24. In the instant case, the Joint Charity Commissioner was required to consider the
interest and benefit of the Trust. We are compelled to observe that Joint Charity
Commissioner has totally abdicated its duty, and failed to act as per the mandate of
Section 36. The observations made by Joint Charity Commissioner in its Order clearly
reflect that Charity Commissioner has failed to exercise the duties enjoined upon to
protect trust under Section 36 of the Act. It has not considered the interest, benefit,
and protection of the trust at all. The order is wholly perverse. Joint Commissioner
abdicated its responsibilities, in as much as it observed that it was the outlook of the
Trust as to whom it wanted to sell the property, and as certain development was to be
made; as such market value of the property was not a relevant consideration. There is
the sale made in the form of Joint Venture development cum sell agreement and lease
was for 999 years. Right from the beginning, it was to be a joint venture agreement
coupled with a sale option, as apparent from the minutes of the meeting of the trust.
The trustees had been acting in collusion with developer even before resolution had
been passed. Negotiations were going on with M/s. Astral Enterprises- developer.”
26. It is apparent that these decisions of the court were in the context of Section 36
of the Bombay Public Trust Act, which confers decidedly wider powers on the
Commissioner (including imposition of “such conditions as he may think fit to
impose, regard being had to the interest or benefit or protection of the trust”) than
the kind of powers conferred on the Registrar, under Section 14 of the M.P. Public
Trusts Act. Under the latter enactment, the Registrar’s power to grant or withhold
sanction is guided by the stipulations in the trust instrument, or under a law, as
directed by a court. There is, consequently, a marked difference in the nature of the
powers under the two enactments. The Bombay law confers a wider supervisory role;
however, such a wide power is not available to the Registrar, under the M.P Public
27. Public control of charities (whether social or religious) has been recognized in
our country for over a century. In the context of religious endowments, such public
control is essential, for the simple reason that in its absence, there is likelihood of
diversion of monies and properties accumulated through public donation and gifts.
The role of the designated state official (commissioner, or registrar, etc.) is to ensure
that accounts are properly maintained; monies are expended in accordance with the
aims and objects of the endowments; the proper rituals are conducted, etc. Such
regulation does not mean that the state is allowed to appropriate monies which rightly
belong to the endowment. In the case of public charities and trusts, slightly different
considerations prevail. The aim of public control is to ensure that the trust is
administered efficiently and smoothly. The state interest is that far, and no more; it
cannot mean that the state can dictate what decisions can or cannot be taken. In the
specific context of alienation of properties, depending on the nature of the oversight,
the state’s interest is to ensure that valuable assets of public trusts are not frittered
away. It is for this reason, that provisions like Section 36 clearly enunciate a principle
that the Commissioner can impose such conditions as may be appropriate. However,
the statute in the present case (the M.P. Public Trusts Act) does not contain such a
power to impose conditions; the only considerations that weigh with the officer
(Registrar) are the stipulations in law, or in the instrument of public interest. Other
than these considerations, the principle of autonomy and democratic decision-making
cannot be undermined. Any organization which is self-governed, cannot be subjected
to overarching state control. As long as its decisions are well informed, and grounded
on relevant considerations, the interests of the trust are those defined by its members.
Any measure of public control enacted through express stipulations in law, should not
be expanded to such an extent that the right to freedom of association, under Article
19 (1) (c), is reduced to an empty husk, bereft of meaningful exercise of choice.
28. In the facts of the present case, the record shows that the decision to sell the
properties was a consequence of a two layered process, where all members
participated and decided to dispose of the property. The decision was based on a
realistic assessment of the trust’s existing and future liabilities, the obligations
towards charity, aid to senior citizens, education, medical aid, and religious
ceremonies, imposed by the trust instrument. Furthermore, the proposed spending
from the returns earned through the investment made from the consideration arising
from sale, were also outlined and clearly disclosed. Most crucially, the properties
were valued, and proposed to be sold by public tender. Disregarding all this disclosed
transparency, the Registrar, on the basis of her subjective notion of what constituted
best interests of the trust, could not have rejected the application, as she did. The
High Court, in this court’s opinion fell into error, in endorsing that rejection.
29. Before parting, this court is of the opinion that the trust may proceed to
implement its decision, but subject to fresh valuation of each of the properties, which
is proposed to be sold. This valuation should be disclosed to the Registrar, who can
facilitate the implementation of the decision to sell to the highest bidder, through
30. The impugned judgment and the decision of the Registrar are hereby set aside.
The appeal succeeds, in terms indicated in the preceding paragraph, and is allowed.
There shall be no order on costs.
[UDAY UMESH LALIT]
[S. RAVINDRA BHAT]
[BELA. M. TRIVEDI]
January 28, 2022.
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