Friday, November 13, 2015

Diocesan trustee's removal over property row upheld

The city civil court has upheld the permanent removal of P B Amolik as trustee of the Bombay Diocesan Trust Association Pvt Ltd, which is affiliated to the Church of North India, and refused to interfere with a 2012 order of a joint charity commissioner.

The city civil judge V V Patil observed that eight other trustees ought to have been removed permanently by the joint commissioner, but held that since there was no appeal for “enhancement of penalty to these eight“, or against their non-removal, he has “no option but to confirm the judgment and hold that it needs no interference“.

The trust deals in promoting Christianity in the country and has its own memorandum of association. The court was hearing two appeals filed by beneficiaries of the trust, who challenged an order of the charity joint commissioner passed in 2012.

The allegations were that trustees had in “gross violation of the trust MoA and without prior permission of joint charity commissioner sold trust properties and caused huge loss in act malfeasance, misfeasance, breach of trust, misappropriation and failure to orders passed by the Bombay high court“.

It was alleged that one plot of land at Byculla, Claire Road, was sold for Rs 7 lakh despite its market price being Rs 3 crore, to lessees without prior permission of the charity commissioner's office. Another plot in Agripada, leased to Emmanuel Church Cooperative Housing Society in 1974 and later to another society for 99 years, was caught in a dispute over development. Yet another trust property in Panvel was developed and flats sold at a loss to the trust.

The 83-year-old Amolik argued through his lawyers that he had done no wrong and that “no cause of action arose against them“.

There were allegations about other properties belonging to the trust in Pune, Matheran and Mahabaleshwar and Ahmedabad too.

The city civil court dismissed appeals filed by trustees who were dismissed by the joint charity commissioner in December 2012. The appeal was against removal of trustee Amolik and temporary removal of a few other trustees and the appointment of two administrators. The office of the trust has been sealed since.

The joint charity commissioner had after hearing both sides, including evidence given by one James Baker, held that Amolik must be removed permanently as trustee and held that eight trustees also committed breaches and four of them were ordered to be removed for six months, and another one, Allwyn Rajendram, for five years.

The judge said: “Baker was also not a holy cow.“ The judge suggested that the charity commissioner initiate suo mo tu proceedings to appoint the collector as ex of ficio chairperson of the trust. Cyril Dara, a church activist from the Christian Re form United People Association, said it was a “landmark order“ as it would make for better functioning of the trust and safeguarding of properties. “A suggestion that city collector should be ex officio chairperson of the trust should be implemented by the Charity Commissioner,“ Dara said.

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