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HC asks state to raise awareness on illegal fund collection

Bombay High Court

Mumbai: In a bid to stop fraudulent fund collection in the name of relief work and war victims, the Bombay High Court has directed the state Charity Commissioner to create public awareness about laws that prohibit any person from collecting funds without informing him first.

A division bench of Justices A S Oka and Ajey Gadkari was earlier last week hearing a public interest litigation filed by one Sharad Patil alleging large scale fraud committed by some cooperative sugar societies and other entities in Kolhapur while collecting funds for Kargil war heroes and for the families of the deceased soldiers in the name of ‘Warna Bharatiya Sena Madat Nidhi’.

The High Court had in March 2010 directed Warna Bharatiya Sena Madat Nidhi to deposit Rs 91 lakh collected by it with the HC registry. It had also directed the charity commissioner of the state government to conduct an audit of the activities and accounts of the trust.

In April 2014, the High Court directed for the Rs 91 lakh to be transferred to the ‘Armed Forces Flag Day Fund’ of the Ministry of Defence.

The court was informed that under section 41 (c) of the Bombay Public Trust Act, any person collecting money as part of relief has to inform the charity commissioner in writing of such collection and the purpose for which the money is being collected.

On receipt of such information, the charity commissioner may or may not permit such collection to be continued subject to conditions as he may deem fit. The charity commissioner may even direct the person to stop collecting money.

The court held that citizens will have to be made aware of the provisions of section 41 (c) of the Act and directed the charity commissioner to issue a circular and posters from time to time informing the public at large.

“The state government shall give publicity to the said circular. Adequate publicity shall be given in periodical intervals every year and appropriate posters shall be printed for prominent display,” the court said.

The court also directed the state to consider the issue of making adequate statutory provisions for regulating and controlling collection of funds by persons other than public trusts. The state will also have to consider amending section 41 (c) to make it more effective.

The court has sought a compliance report to be submitted within three months.

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