Bombay Public Trusts Act.

Prior to 1950, the Religious and Charitable Trusts in the State were governed by various enactments, Central as well as Provincial based on religion. In 1950, a composite legislation called the Bombay Public Trusts Act (XXIX of 1950) was passed, which could be made applicable to all public trusts without distinction of religion. This act defines "Public Trust" as "an express or constructive trust for either a public, religious or charitable purpose or both, and includes a temple, a math, a wakf, a dharmada or any religious or charitable endowment and a society formed either for a religious or charitable purpose or for both and registered under the Societies Registration Act (XXI of 1860) ".

The State Government is empowered to apply this Act to any public trust or class of public trusts and on such application the provisions of previous Acts cease to apply to such trust or classes of trust. The act has been made applicable to the following classes of public trusts in the old Bombay State with effect from 21st January 1952 and in the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions with effect from 1st February, 1961:-

(1) temples;

(2) maths;

(3) wakf;

(4) public trusts other than (1), (2) and (3) above, created or existing solely for the benefit of any community or communities or any section or sections thereof;

(5) societies formed either for religious or charitable purposes or for both and registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860;

(6) dharmadas, i.e., any amounts which, according to the custom or usage of any business or trade or agreement between the parties relating to any transactions, are charged to any party to the transaction or collected under whatever name as being intended to be used for a charitable or religious purpose; and

(7) all other trusts, express or constructive, for either a public, religious or charitable purpose or for both.

The Act has not been made applicable to the charitable endowments vested in the Treasurer of Charitable Endowments under provisions of the Charitable Endowments Act (VI of 1890).

The Charity Commissioner with headquarters at Bombay administers the Act. An Assistant Charity Commissioner has been appointed for Aurangabad Region with jurisdiction over the districts of Aurangabad, Parbhani, Nanded, Bhir and Osmanabad. The Assistant Charity Commissioner is directly responsible to the Charity Commissioner.

Duties of Trustees.

The Act imposed a duty on the trustee of a public trust to which the Act has been applied to make an application for the registration of the trust within three months of the application of the Act or its creation giving particulars specified in the Act, which include (a) the approximate value of moveable and immoveable property owned by the trust, (b) the gross average annual income of the trust property and (c) the amount of average annual expenditure of the trust. No registration is, however, necessary in the case of dharmadas which are governed by special provisions of the Act in certain respects. Trusts registered under any of the previous acts are deemed to be registered under this Act.

Table number 1 furnishes statistics relating to the Public Trusts from Dhulia district registered at the Public Trusts Registration Office, Poona Region, Poona till 31st December, 1964.




Total No. of trusts registered as on 31st Decem-ber 1964

Value of Property

Gross average annual income

Average annual expendi-ture








' A ' (Trusts for the benefit of Hindus)






' B ' (Trusts for the benefit of Muslims)






' C ' (Trusts for the benefit of Parsees)






' D ' (Trusts for the benefit of Christians)






' E ' (Trusts not for the benefit of any particular community)






' F ' (Trusts registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.






A registration fee ranging from Rs. 3 to Rs. 25 is levied depending on the value of the property of the public trust. An annual contribution at the rate of 2 per cent, of the gross annual income is also recovered which is credited to the Public Trusts Administration Fund created under the Act. The contribution does not form part of the general revenues of the State. Public trusts exclusively for the purpose of advancement and propagation of secular education or medical relief, veterinary treatment of animals and public trusts having gross annual income of Rs. 1,000 or less are exempted from the payment of contribution. Reductions from the gross annual income for computing contribution are allowed in respect of amounts spent on the advancement and propagation of secular education, medical relief, veterinary treatment of animals, grants received from Government or local authorities, interest on depreciation or sinking fund, taxes to be paid to Government or local authority, etc. The contribution is levied on the net annual profits in the case of public trusts conducting a business or trade.

Every trustee has to keep regular accounts of the trust which have to be audited annually by Chartered Accountants or persons authorised under the Act. A Chartered Accountant can audit accounts of any public trust but the persons authorised under the Act are permitted to audit accounts only of public trusts having a gross annual income of Rs. 3,000 or less. The auditor has to submit a report to the Deputy or Assistant Charity Commissioner of his region on a number of points such as whether accounts are maintained according to law and regularly, whether an inventory has been maintained of the moveables of the public trust, whether any property or funds of the trust have been applied on an object or purpose, not authorised by the trust, whether the funds of the trust have been invested or immoveable property alienated contrary to the provisions of the Act, etc.

If on a consideration of the report of the auditor or of a report, if any, made by an officer authorised under section 37, the accounts and explanation, if any, furnished by the trust or any other person concerned, the Deputy or Assistant Charity Commissioner is satisfieid that the trustee or any other person has been guilty oi gross negligence, breach of trust, or misapplication or misconduct resulting in a loss to the trust, he has to report to the Charity Commissioner, who after due inquiry, determines the loss, if any, caused to the trust and surcharges the amount on the person found responsible for it. No sale, mortgage, exchange or gift of any immoveable property and no lease for a period exceeding ten years in the case of agricultural land and three years in the case of non-agricultural land or building belonging to the public trust is valid without the previous sanction of the Charity Commissioner. The trustee of a public trust is bound to invest the surplus funds of the trust in public securities or first mortgage or immoveable property on certain conditions. For making an investment in any other forms, the permission of the Charity Commissioner must be obtained.

Application of funds by Cypres.

If the original object of a public trust fails wholly or partially, if there is surplus income or balance not likely to be utilised, or m the case of a public trust, other than a trust for religious purpose if it is not in the public interest expedient, practicable, desirable, necessary or proper to carry out, wholly or partially, the original intention of the author of the public trust or the object for which the public trust was created, an application can be made to the District Court or City Civil Court, Bombay, as the case may be, for application by cypres of the property, or income of the public trust or any of its portion.

If there is a breach of trust or a declaration is necessary that a particular property is the property of a public trust, or a direction is required to recover the possession of such property, or a direction is required for the administration of any public trust, two or more persons, having an interest in the trust or the Charity Commissioner, can file a suit in the District Court or City Civil Court, Bombay, as the case may be, to obtain reliefs mentioned in the Act. If the Charity Commissioner refuses consent, an appeal lies to the Bombay Revenue Tribunal constituted under the Bombay Revenue Tribunal Act (XII of 1939). The Charity Commissioner can also file such a suit on his own motion.

The Charity Commissioner may with his consent be appointed as a trustee of a public trust by a Court or by the author of a trust, provided his appointment is made as a sole trustee. The Court, is however, not empowered to appoint the Charity Commissioner as a trustee of a religious public trust. In case when the Charity Commissioner is appointed as a trustee, he may levy administrative charges on these trusts as prescribed in the rules framed under the Act.

Inquiries by Assessors.

Inquiries regarding the registration of a public trust or regarding the loss caused to a public trust or public trusts registered under the previous Acts, in consequence of the act or conduct of a trustee or any other person, have to be conducted with the aid of assessors-riot less than three and not more than five in number. The assessors have to be selected, as far as possible, from the religious denomination of the public trust to which the inquiry relates. The presence of assessors can, however, be dispensed with in inquiries where there is no contest. A list of assessors has to be prepared and published in the Official Gazette every three years. District-wise lists of assessors have already been prepared and published in the Maharashtra Government Gazette.

Charitable Endowments.

The Charity Commissioner is deemed to be and to have always been the Treasurer of Charitable Endowments for the State of Maharashtra, appointed under the provisions of the Charitable Endowments Act, 1890. In the case of religious and charitable institutions and endowments which vest in or the management of which vests in the State Government, they are to be transferred and vested in the Committee of Management to be appointed by the State Government for each district and endowment within the meaning and for the purposes of the Act. The Charity Commissioner is invested with power to inquire into the duties of these Committees and the direct expenses in respect thereof to be paid from the funds belonging to the Endowments.


Contraventions of the Act amount to offences and are punishable with maximum fine ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,000 depending on the nature of contravention. The Charity Commissioner is the sole authority for launching prosecutions in the case of such contraventions.