May 12, 2021 12:31:27 am
Independent MLA from Vadgam constituency Jignesh Mevani Tuesday alleged an NGO, ‘We the People Charitable Trust, he has been associated with to raise funds to set up a medical oxygen plant in his constituency, was being targeted for political reasons. Mevani made the allegations after the office of Charity Commissioner froze the NGO’s bank account Monday citing various grounds.
Charity Commissioner Y M Shukla, in an undated and unsigned press statement issued Monday, had made public that the NGO’s bank account has been frozen. On Tuesday, Shukla confirmed he did issue the press statement a day back.
In the press statement, it was stated that the Vadgam MLA made a public appeal on behalf of ‘We the People Charitable Trust’ that funds worth approximately Rs 50 lakh were to be raised for having oxygen plant and concentrators in the region. It added the office of the Charity Commissioner started getting oral and written enquiries following which it was found that the Trust was established in January 2021, but did not reflect Mevani as a trustee.
The statement added the Trust was on May 3 notified as to whether any resolution was passed for setting up oxygen plant, for taking permission from the Collector in that regard or for asking Mevani to make a public appeal on behalf of the Trust. It added that till Monday no reply was received from the Trust after which a decision was taken to freeze its bank account while considering it as a serious matter as there was an application from the public.
The statement also stated in 2003, some reputed people had formed a Trust by the name ‘We the People Charitable Society’. It added that while this Trust was still carrying out its activities, a new Trust also named ‘We the People Charitable Trust’ was started by one of its trustees Kamlesh Katariya and six others — Jagdish Chavda, Umesh Parmar, Subhash Tapovan, Mahesh Parmar, Hargovan Makwana, and Chirag Parmar.
It said if there were chances of ambiguity in names of the two Trusts, the second one cannot be registered under the provisions of Emblem and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act.
On his part, Kamlesh Katariya said that till date they have not received any notice from the office of the Charity Commissioner. As per established norms, Katariya said, prior permission from authorities is required to be taken by an NGO only if their work falls outside the objectives set in the memorandum of association. One of the objectives of his NGO, Katariya added, was to carry out “relief work for medical treatment, medicines and arrangement for the same”.
When asked, how the notice was served on the NGO, Shukla said, “We have on our record that notice was issued, we are not obliged (to reveal) anything beyond that. As a Charity Commissioner, I am the custodian of all trusts’ property. If allegations are there, it is not necessary to give any chance to any trustee to give any explanation or make any mischief with their record… They are at liberty to challenge my order…”
Referring to the ambiguity in name of the two Trusts and the provisions of the emblem Act, Mevani and advocate Anand Yagnik, representing the NGO, said the Gujarat Public Trusts Act has already laid down provision of inquiry prior to registration of a Trust that is to be carried out by the office of the Charity Commissioner. They said the onus to prevent such ambiguities in names of two Trusts was on the office of the Charity Commissioner.
Shukla, meanwhile, said, “Ordinarily we just register (names of trusts). When we receive some complaints, then we inquire, and then we usually take action… This is a pragmatic approach.”
At a press conference Tuesday, Mevani said, “No trustee received a notice. Will they (Charity Commissioner) do the same for Ambaji Trust? I did fund raising as an ambassador and we received support from many… (actor) Amitabh Bachchan, too, endorses Gujarat… Does that mean you freeze the accounts when everything has been done as per norms? Money received as donations are not illegal and neither unaccounted for. Till date no money was withdrawn. This oxygen was meant for primary health centres and community health centres. At a time when we all must come together and work together, the NGO is being targeted only because I, Jignesh Mevani, raised funds by making public appeal,” said Mevani.
Advocate Yagnik said they are exploring legal options to challenge the order.
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