Pune – In a blow to Industrialist Nusli Wadia, the Pune Deputy Charity Commissioner has rejected his plea to take complete control of Maharashtra Education Trust (MES) by becoming its first permanent chief trustee.
MES runs seven colleges in Mumbai and Pune, including Wadia colleges in Pune, DG Ruparel College in Matunga and New Law College in Dadar, and also owns their land. A 21-acre plot in Wagholi, Pune, is part of its landholdings. The value of the properties runs into several worth hundreds of crores.
The Deputy Charity Commissioner also turned down Wadia’s proposal to appoint his sons Ness and Jehangir as permanent trustees for life, saying this would not be proper in a democratic setup and a balance should be struck between management and teaching community in regard to their representation in the trust.
Instead, the deputy charity commissioner N V Jagtap, in a speaking order on October 11, ruled that the trust should have three members from Wadia family, three others from teaching and non-teaching staff of MES and one independent member from the general public who has experience and eligibility to run the trust. He also ruled that the tenure of the trust should be five years or till electing a new board of trustees as per the scheme.
The order came on an application filed by Wadia seeking to adopt a scheme, which would reconstitute the constitution of MES on the ground, that the old constitution was not authenticated.
The deputy charity commissioner removed clause 8 (b) in the scheme proposed by Wadia that sought to make Wadia and sons Chief Permanent Trustee and Permanent Trustees respectively. “Considering Clause 8 (b) it is seen that the power of appointment of new trustees is only vested to permanent trustees ie Wadia family. Considering the history of MES from foundation till today it is seen that the work of trusteeship is served by Wadia family and serving teachers equally.”
“There is no difference between trustees from Wadia family and other trustees. So it is not proper to give permission to serve as permanent trustees to Wadia family members only. So the board of trustees, the nature of trustees mentioned in paragraph 8 of the scheme is not proper as per my opinion because it is seen that due representation is not given to all.”
“Hence composition of trustee board mentioned in para 8 is not desirable and proper. So I feel it is necessary to exclude clause 8 and 13 of the draft scheme filed by the applicant (Wadia) and substitute composition,” the order said.
“In the interest of the society, it is necessary to give representation to other persons also. So it is necessary to appoint seven new trustees as early as possible all the concerned persons mentioned in the new scheme approved by this authority, “ the order further said.
Commenting on the development, Advocate Waseem Pangarkar, Partner MZM Legal who represented MES said, “This is a big set back to Wadia(s) who intended to obtain absolute control on the Modern Education Society. The DyCC while rejecting Wadia’s plea of permanent and life trusteeship has clearly reasoned that a democratic set-up is only in the interest of Education Society.”
Earlier, Dilip Joag, the grandson of V K Joag, the founder of MES, had opposed the scheme proposed by Wadia to reconstitute MES, saying that over the years MES had acquired a large number of properties and set up educational institutions. He alleged that Wadia wants to usurp and gain control of these properties which are worth hundreds of crores, and oust prominent members. Joag had argued that merely because the existing constitution’s copy was not available with the Charity Commissioner’s office and merely because the existing constitution is being observed in breach by the trustees, it isn’t necessary to frame a new constitution.