WHETHER A COMPANY CAN BECOME TRUSTEE OF THE TRUST - YES SAYS MADRAS HIGH COURT JUSTICE N.V. BALASUBRAMANIAN
THIS IS THE OBSERVATIONS OF MADRAS HIGH COURT BY JUSTICE N.V. Balasubramanian, in the case of B. Ramachandra Adityan vs Educational Trustee Co. (P.) Ltd. citation - 2003 113 Comp Cas 334 Mad,
Section 25 deals with charitable companies and licence from the Central Government is necessary so that company can be formed for promoting commerce, art, science, religion, charity or any other useful objects with no profit motive in mind.
Section 11 of the Companies Act in all cases, the company must carry on some trading or commercial activity and the object of the company must be to earn income. In the case of a company which is formed to act as trustee, such company must also carry on the activity for profit and unless there is an activity for profit, it would be of no benefit either to the company or to the shareholders who have invested money to the company.
Section 32 of the Trust Act which prohibits the receipt of any personal benefit to the trustees from the trust. Section 32 of the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 also provides that the trustee is entitled to get reimbursement out of the trust property all expenses properly incurred in relation to the execution of the trust property and for preservation of the trust property.
It is well settled that the company can be a trustee. The following observation made in Halsbury's Law of England, Volume VI, paragraph-20 (III Edn. Volume-4), the learned author, at page 394 clearly shows that the company can be a trustee. "As charitable corporations exist solely for the accomplishment of charitable purposes, they are necessarily trustees of their corporate properly, whether the beneficiaries are members of the corporation, as in the case of hospitals and colleges, or not. Accordingly, like other trustees, charitable or otherwise, they are subject to the jurisdiction of the Court. Though called directors and empowered to make and amend bye-laws for the corporation, apart from any provision in the constitution of the corporation, they have no right to remuneration and cannot amend the byelaws to permit remuneration to be paid to themselves."
In Palmer's Company Precedents, while dealing with the topic, 'Trust Company', learned author has observed that a company can be a trustee in the following words : "To undertake the office of and act as trustee, executor, administrator, manager, agent or attorney of or for any person or persons, company, corporation, government, state, colony, province, dominion sovereign, or authority, supreme, municipal, local or otherwise, and generally to undertake, perform and discharge any trusts, or trust agency business, and any office of confidence."
In Section 6 of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, a banking company can be a trustee and it can act for the administration of estates as an executor, trustee or otherwise and Section 6 provides that the banking company can act as a trustee in several manners as indicated in Section 6(1)(j).
In the Indian Trusts Act by N. Suryanarayana Iyer, learned author has observed as under:--"Formerly the notion was that the relationship of a trustee being one of confidence involving a personal element, a corporation could not be a trustee as there could not be a question of confidence being reposed in a corporation and therefore that it could not be a trustee. This notion, however, has long ago been given up. Corporate bodies have been held to be amenable to the jurisdiction in Chancery and compellablc to carry out the intentions of the settlor of property which has been vested in them.... Under the Indian law also a corporation, whether aggregate or sole, can be a trustee and there is ample jurisdiction in the court to enforce the performance of its duty by such trustee."
Section 12 of the Companies Act deals with the mode of formation of incorporated companies and under Section 12, any seven or more persons or where the company to be formed will be a private company, any two or more persons, associated for any lawful purpose, by subscribing their names to a memorandum, may form an incorporated company with or without limited liability. The company so formed may be limited by shares or limited by guarantee. Section 13 deals with the requirements with respect to memorandum and the company has to set out its main objects to be pursued by the company on its incorporation and the objects incidental or ancillary to the attainment of the main objects. Section 11(2) of the Companies Act provides that no company or association or partnership consisting of more than twenty persons shall be formed for the purpose of carrying on any business that has for its object the acquisition of gain by the company, etc. unless it is registered as a company under the Companies Act or is formed in pursuance of some other Indian Law. Section 11(1) deals with the case of a banking company, while Section 11(2) deals with cases other than banking companies. From these two provisions, it cannot be said that a company must always be formed to carry on a business venture with a view to make profit. If such an interpretation is given, then the trustee companies will have no place of existence at all in the Companies Act.
The concept of trust is a peculiar concept. Therefore, the word, 'business' found in Section 11(2) of the Companies Act is to be construed to mean any useful activity and it is not necessary to confine it to commercial activity for profit. The charitable companies are not formed or not intended for commercial activities.