Charity Tribunal's first appeal is brought by Tamil charity trustee

The spiritual leader of a London Hindu charity has become the first person to appeal to the Charity Tribunal after the Charity Commission ordered him to be removed from trustee duties earlier this year.

Charity appeal: Sivayogam's temple hosts an annual Chariot Festival
Charity appeal: Sivayogam's temple hosts an annual Chariot Festival

Nagendram Seevaratnam was formerly a trustee of Sivayogam, which runs a temple serving the Tamil community in south-west London. The commission said it wanted to protect the charity's assets while it continued to investigate whether Sivayogam's income, which amounted to nearly £500,000 in 2006/07, had been used in line with its charitable purpose (Third Sector Online, 11 April).

Seevaratnam told Third Sector that he had founded the charity with his own money and had never misused any of its funds.

"I provided the charity with interest-free loans, which are all properly documented," he said. "The commission hasn't told me how much I am supposed to have taken or how I did it.

"The commission thought their word was final - let them learn there is some control over them.

"They can't convict a religious leader who has been very kind to the community and lives like a pauper in a temple."

A charity commission spokesman confirmed that Seevaratnam had been temporarily suspended during an investigation of the charity in 2007 and fully suspended in March this year.

"We removed him because we believed that his conduct as a trustee was in breach of his legal duties and responsibilities towards the charity," the spokesman said. "We considered that if he were to continue as trustee, the charity and its work would be at risk."

Seevaratnam's appeal will be supported by the three remaining trustees of the charity. A fourth trustee recently resigned in protest over Seevaratnam's removal and the commission's refusal to approve transfers of money that the charity said were for Tamil orphans in Sri Lanka.

There is no date for the hearing, which will be heard by a panel of up to three tribunal members.

The Charity Tribunal has now appointed its five legally qualified members: Stephen Claus, Nigel Gerald, Peter Hinchliffe, Jonathan Holbrook and Vivien Rose. The tribunal's seven lay members are yet to be appointed.

Alison McKenna, the tribunal's president, took up her position on a full-time basis last Monday.

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