Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Charity Commissioner can’t deny info in age of RTI

By Nauzer Bharucha, TNN

In the age of the Right to Information Act, the charity commissioner could not refuse to furnish documents under the cover of the

Official Secrets Act, said the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) on Saturday. Charity commissioner (CC) M K Choure was hearing an application by the BPP, which opposed his decision not to supply the charitable trust a copy of a preliminary inquiry report ordered by him to look into the BPP’s accounts.

On the basis of this inquiry report, Choure had ordered a special audit of the BPP’s accounts and directed the trust to immediately shell out a fee of Rs 1.2 crore to an auditor appointed by him. When the BPP refused, Choure warned that he would suspend the entire board comprising the seven trustees.

During the hearing in the CC’s office on Saturday, BPP advocate Percy Gandhy quoted a Supreme Court judgment, stating that a party against whom a special audit was ordered, had to be given an opportunity to be heard and provided with all material.

The embattled BPP, which looks after the welfare of Parsis, is defending charges levelled against it by Percy Patel of Alert Zoroastrians’ Association, who alleged various malpractices in the trust.

Gandhy told the CC that his order directing the BPP to pay Rs 1.2 crore for a special audit was itself bad because it was passed ex-parte "without hearing us or giving reasons for such an order”.

"In one case, the Supreme Court had overturned a ruling which sought to levy a fee of just Rs 1.5 lakh on a party for a special audit. The BPP likewise is a charitable trust and its funds are meant for the community’s poor. Such a large amount cannot be diverted to pay the fees for a special audit,” he said.

As against the fee of Rs 1.2 crore that the CC has directed the BPP to pay for auditing its accounts between 1998 and 2008, the punchayat said its own auditor, Kalyaniwalla & Mistry, charged just Rs 90,000 a year. The BPP counsel also questioned the time-frame of the special audit ordered by the CC, and protested that even under the tax law, investigations were for a seven-year period. "So, on what basis had the CC ordered a special audit for 11 years,” he asked.

The CC is likely to deliver a final order on October 8.