The Madras High Court has quashed two orders — one passed by Assistant Provident Fund Commissioner in Chennai on December 5, 2000 and another by Employees Provident Fund Appellate Tribunal on February 2, 2010 — wherein it was held that World Vision of India, a non-governmental organisation with 1,584 employees across the country, was amenable to the Provident Fund Act.

Justice K. Chandru quashed the “superficial” orders after stating that both the authorities had not given any detailed finding on the contention that only colleges, education or scientific institutions imparting knowledge or training by charging fee from students were covered under the PF Act and not NGOs which occasionally impart education and training, free of cost, apart from their main objective of rendering social service.

“The orders of the second (Assistant Commissioner) as well as the first respondent (Tribunal) show total non application of mind. Merely because the petitioner NGO was imparting some training programmes, that too without charging any fee, that by itself will not make it as an institution imparting education,” the judge said and remitted the matter to the Tribunal for considering it afresh.

In its affidavit, World Vision of India, represented by its Group Director-Corporate Solutions, stated that it was a humanitarian organisation working for bringing lasting change in the lives of children, families and communities living in poverty and facing injustice. It was established in the year 1976 as a legal entity. It was a registered society under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act, 1975.

The NGO was working in 174 locations and 5,306 communities across the country. It was also a member of many government bodies and committees. About 2.5 lakh children were covered under various programmes conducted by it. There were about 1,584 employees as on April, 2010 working as full-time permanent staff across the country.

The average monthly salary of the employees was Rs.28,800. Apart from them, 135 staff were employed on contract basis with an average monthly salary of Rs.13,200. The NGO was granted recognition by the Commissioner of Income Tax on July 1, 1985 to start its own provident fund trust. The rules and regulations were also framed for the provident fund trust.

However, the Assistant Commissioner in December, 2000 held that the PF Act covers the petitioner establishment in respect of the support staff engaged by them. On appeal, the Tribunal too confirmed the Assistant Commissioner's order and hence the present writ petition.