Generally, public trusts are established for relief of poverty, or advancement of education or religion, or any other purposes beneficial to the community. However, a concern may arise as to whether the objectives of public trusts are ever capable of complete achievement while they are exempted from the rule of perpetuities. Again, can we conclude with a contention that there is no difficulty to run public trusts even if there is absence of a specific legislation in Bangladesh to regulate the same? The write up will be drawing the importance of enacting a special law to regulate public trusts in Bangladesh.
Donating properties to run public trusts is rare in Bangladesh. We cannot, however, entirely ignore the existence of many organisations e.g. Bishwo Shahitto Kendro (BSK); Kumudini Welfare Trust of Bangladesh etc., which are providing their services resembling the objectives of public trusts. At present, the BSK is registered under the NGO Affairs Bureau, Department of Social Welfare, even though it was formerly registered under the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance, 1961. Likewise, although some institutions work as public trusts, they used to convert their legal nature to other type of organisations in Bangladesh. Since the conversion is voluntary, one might be satisfied thinking its better impacts on the organisations' interest.
Yet, the real troubles faced by the institutions are not very simple as while an organisation runs its activities like public trust for the welfare of the society, it cannot continue its works applying the same legal terms for long. Thereby, no extensive plan for running the functions of a particular public trust can be implemented successfully which results interruption to their continuous activities in the end. Then, why is this de jure conversion necessary? A legitimate reason could be getting exemption from tax representing the same as a NGO.
As legal bodies the public trusts organisations are bound to follow some bureaucratic procedures e.g. giving audit report for every major fund from different sources to the competent government authorities. To register a newly made public trust organisation, arbitrary manipulation of laws regarding registration which are essentially more of a strategy adopted to extract money from registration seekers by the government authorities are taking place. These problems can be frustrating and can even involve repeated attempts which may discourage interested people to create a new trust in public or charitable nature. Additionally, the institutions are examined so as to conduct investigations as to anti-State or anti-social activities by the public authorities. Nevertheless, as there is no indication whatsoever as to policy regulating funds as well as what constitutes anti-State or anti-social activities, these give rise to some practical ambiguities which may well misguide the authorities providing them opportunities for corruption.
We have the Trust Act of 1882 which only governs private trusts. Concerning public trusts, one of the easiest guidelines followed by the judiciary is to give effect to the donor's intention of creating the trust. However, instead of creating burden on the courts, rules and regulations for determining plans for the organisations and regulating the same could be a judicious need. Hence, to serve the real dreams of the settler and encourage the people to create public trusts relieving their frustration for procedural hassles, it would be wise if the government make a public trust friendly special law in Bangladesh.
Md. Pizuar Hossain
Department of Law, East West University