Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
The illicit users of Pt. Gopabandhu Das’s forged will, Lok Sevak Mandal (The Servants of the People Society, hereinafter the ‘Society’), recently presented Ms. Paramita Satpathy Tripathy as its chief speaker in the annual function of its new mischief styled ‘Gopabandhunka Satyabadi’. The function held in Cuttack was reported by Sandeep Choudhury, Reporter of its main weapon ‘The Samaja’ on the 2nd of April. The Society’s claim to be a charitable body entitled to tax exemption is invalid due to a Supreme Court Order that has asked for the Tax Assessing Officer to “examine” and “render fresh findings” on the issue “whether it is a charitable trust, entitled to exemption of its income”.The Supreme Court has ordered the AO to “complete the hearing and pass orders within four months” from January 31, 2023. The Society can go to any extent to cultivate a favourable finding by the AO. The AO is a junior officer in the hierarchy where Paramita is in a top position.She is currently the Commissioner of Income Tax-Appeal at New Delhi. The timing of the Society inviting her to its function and her acceptance of the invitation looks quite curious and provokes one to brood if there is any nexus between the offenders and top IT officials.
Ms. Paramita, according to this official report of the illicit users of Gopabandhu’s forged will, lauded the activities of the Society by telling the public how perfectly it has been serving the cause of the Oriyas as was envisaged by Pt. Gopabandhu. This happened when credibility of the Society as a charitable body is in serious Income tax investigations.
The brutally exploited workers of The Samaja and the Satyabadi Press are in several industrial disputes against the Society. It was established basically to train future political leaders. But under the guise of generating funds to carry out its purpose, it has been running business and commerce. It is using this fund against the workers in fighting industrial disputes raised by them. Moreover, in the Labour Court, it has been found to have forged signatures of Journalists in order to deprive them of their legetimate salaries.Pitambar Mishra is an instance. Evidences gallore on how the Society has made the Samaja a hub of misappropriation of its revenues. Yet, by posing as as a charitable body, it had been enjoying income tax exemptions. Exempting Income Taxt in favour of this Society is nothing but denial of legetimate funds to the Exchequre so that a corrupt organisation can amass money to carry out illicit activities.
As all the Income Tax Authorities are not stuffs to be hoodwinked, the tax exemption was done away with by an assessment officer against which the Society had preferred an appeal. Delhi Bench ‘A’ of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) in ITA No. 4984/Del/2015 for the Assessment Year 2011-12 allowed the appeal by accepting the plea of the society that it was “carrying the mandate of the Will of Late Shri Gopa Bandhu Dass in running the printing press and the newspaper and the income so generated is used for charitable purposes” with “no profit motive” in its activities. Accepting the plea, the Appellate Tribunal allowed the appeal, holding that the Society, in view of its adherence to the will of Pt. Gopabandhu Das, “cannot be said” to have been “involved in any trade, commerce or business and as such the mischief of the Proviso of section 2(15) is not apparently attracted.”
Aggrieved by this decision, the Principal Commissioner of Income Tax, Delhi preferred an appeal in the Delhi High Court, where the appeal was also dismissed on the same ground.
The Principal Commissioner of Income Tax (Exemption) Delhi invoked the Civil Appellate Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India in Civil Appeal NO(S). 614 OF 2023 against the Order of the High Court that upheld the decision of the ITAT.
What should be a charitable organisation to justify tax exemption has been determined by the Supreme Court in the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority case. Therefore, the claim of the Society as a charitable organisation justifying exemption of Income Tax shall have to be examined on the matrix of this decision, the Supreme Court Bench comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Dipankar Datta has held.
“In the present case, the Appellate Commissioner, the ITAT and the High Court merely followed the judgment of the Delhi High Court in India Trade Promotion Organisation. However, the law with regard to interpretation of Section 2 (15) has undergone a change, due to the decision in Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (supra). As a result, this court is of the opinion, that the matter should be remitted for fresh consideration of the nature of receipts in the hands of the assessee (the Society), in the present case. As a result, the matter requires to be re-examined, and the question as to whether the amounts received by the assessee (the Society) qualify for exemption, under Section 2 (15) or Section 11 needs to be gone into afresh.”
With this direction, the Court has ordered that the “AO shall examine the documents and relevant papers and render fresh findings on the issue whether respondent (the Society) is a charitable trust, entitled to exemption of its income. The AO shall complete the hearing and pass orders within four months.”
This Order of the Supreme Court has in reality quashed the Orders of the Appellate Commissioner, the Delhi Bench ‘A’ of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal and the Delhi High Court that had accepted the Society as a Charitable organisation and is in deep discussion in the circle of Income Tax Authorities.
For fellows, who have forged Gopabandhu’s will and have been using the forged will to keep the most earning organ of Orissa, i.e. The Samaja created with the financial support of the people of Orissa and managed by its then editor Gopabandhu Das, knowing pretty well that using a forged document is a severe crime, can go to any extent to canvass for a “finding” of the concerned AO, in their favour. Therefore, Paramita’s active participation in the stage of this Society appears unethical.
Investigation needs be made to find out if there is any unholy nexus between the Society and a section of top IT officials.