Tata Trusts must introspect on greater scrutiny by govt bodies: Cyrus Mistry

SP Group chief Cyrus Mistry on Thursday said that instead of seeking to blame him at every turn, the Trustees of the Tata Trusts must introspect why they have deviated, leading to a greater scrutiny on their operations by the various government bodies.

“We note that the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has issued a corrigendum on its own, to correct the wild personal allegations made against Mr Mistry that formed part of its order dated 28 December, in proceedings where Mr Mistry was not even a party,” a statement from Mistry’s office said.

The corrigendum states “inadvertent errors” had crept into the order involving Tata Trusts.

“The reversal of these comments acknowledges that information sent by Mr Mistry to the Deputy Commission of Income Tax (DCIT) had been in response to a specific summons, conduct that is expected of any law-abiding person. This acknowledgement by the ITAT corroborates the submissions in this regard put forward by the SP Group before the Supreme Court, and is one step towards the vindication of truth and justice,” it said.

“It is a matter of record that after Tata Sons failed to respond to an earlier notice, the DCIT had issued summons and called upon directors of Tata Sons including Mr Mistry to comply with a notice issued under Section 133(6) of the Income Tax Act. Even the Articles of Tata Sons envisages disclosure of information when required to do so by a court of law. The DCIT is a ‘civil court’ under the Income Tax Act, 1961. As a director of Tata Sons, Mr Mistry responding to the summons was a legal requirement and fully in accordance with the Articles of Association of Tata Sons and more importantly, a discharge of his fiduciary duties as a director,” the statement said.

Mistry said the Tata Trusts are public charitable trusts, not a family investment firm, and the current trustees, who are fiduciaries, have been tasked with the noble goal of improving the lives of millions of Indians through philanthropy.

“Instead of seeking to blame Mr. Mistry at every turn, the Trustees of the Tata Trusts must introspect why they have deviated from this path, leading to a greater scrutiny on their operations by the various government bodies.”

“The Trustees must introspect why in July 2018, the Public Accounts Committee, a Parliamentary Committee expressed concern that Public Charitable Trusts were being used to run businesses for profit and repeatedly violating provisions of the Income Tax Act,” the statement said.

The CAG Report of 2019 records that the corpus funds of Trusts are being utilized to control the business of the group companies instead of applying funds for charitable purposes,it added.

“The Trustees should also introspect why they continue to seek to donate hundreds of millions of dollars to rich foreign universities with deep pockets and worse, where one of the Trustees has an association, instead of applying the tax-exempt money for the development of educational institutes in India as mandated by the settlors of the Trusts,” Cyrus Mistry said.

As fiduciaries in charge of public money, the Trustees have a moral duty to avoid conflicts of interest and discharge their duties in accordance with law and the Trust deeds, he said.

“It is a matter of record that even as early as 2013, the Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG), found irregularities of nearly Rs 1,000 crore in the Income Tax Exemptions given to the Tata Trusts,” it said.

“While we all are extremely proud of the good work that has been done by the Tata Trusts in the past, the question today is whether the decisions to deviate from the highest standards of governance imperils the largest public charitable trusts in India, and prevents benefits from reaching its rightful beneficiaries – the people of India,” the statement added.

“The Mistry family has for several decades acted as a guardian of Tata Sons. As long as we are associated with the Tata Group, we will continue to be the voice for truth and transparency – the hallmarks of the Tata Group – an institution we are all proud of,” it added.