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In order to qualify for exemption a trust must pursue charitable objects. Charitable object is defined to mean relief of the poor, education, medical relief, and the advancement of any other object of general public utility. Now u/s 13(1) (b) a religious trust which is established for the benefit of any particular religious community or caste is declined such exemption even if it pursue some of the charitable activities.

But the reverse is not true. In other words a trust, which is established with a charitable purpose, can also pursue religious activities. Way back in the year 1965 the Supreme Court in CIT v. Andhra Chamber of Commerce (55 ITR 722) held that, if the primary or dominant purpose of an institution was charitable any other object which by itself might not be charitable but was merely ancillary or incidental to the primary or dominant purpose would not prevent the trust or institution from being a valid charity. This principle was reiterated in CIT v. Bar Council of Maharashtra [1981] 130 ITR 28 (SC).

The AP High Court in the case of Commissioner of Income-tax Vs. Social Service Centre (119TAX124) held that donation to a church or construction of a church is not a purpose, which is not of general public utility. The contention of the Department that the expenditure on religious activities could not be given exemption is not accepted particularly in the context of the polity of our country. The Court acknowledged the fact that most of the religious and charitable activities go together in this country. After referring to the language of section 11 the High Court held that once an exemption is granted for charitable activities, the religious activities are also included.

In a latest row of cases the Commissioner of I tax in the case of Tirumala Tirupathi Devathanam v. Chief CIT (119TAX251) attempted to decline benefit of exemption u/s 80G on the ground that the trust was doing religious activities too. The AP high Court set aside the order of the CIT and in this regard desired that the revenue must consider the multifarious activities carried on by the institution that are charitable in nature. Similar kind of action is taken by the AP High Court in the case of Sri Ramakrishna Seva Ashram (119TAX444).

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