The Charitable Endowment Act was enacted on March7, 1890 with an intention to grant the vesting and management of property detained in trust for the purpose of charity. The Act does not extend to the State of Jammu and Kashmir and to any Wakf which comes under the purview of Wakf Act, 1954. The Act came into effect on October 1, 1890 as provided under the commencement clause of the Act.

The Act defines ‘charitable purpose’ as assistance to the deprived, education, medical aid and the progression of any other purpose of public importance except the objective dealing with the religious instructions or worship. The Act authorizes the Central Government to appoint a Treasurer of Charitable Endowments for India who is an officer of such Government. Similar power is vested with the State Government to appoint an officer to act as the Treasurer of Charitable Endowments on behalf of the State. The Treasurer of the Center shall be a Corporation sole in discharging its functions like acquiring, holding and reassigning the property of the trust. In the State, the Treasurer shall have a corporate seal, perpetual succession and the right to litigate.

An appropriate Government is the State Government where the intention of the charitable endowments is connected with not more than one state and the matter is not related with the executive authority at the Center. But in other cases of charitable endowments, the appropriate Government shall be the Central Government. If any property is detained or relate to the purpose of charity, the appropriate Government shall make an order to vest such property in the Treasurer of Charitable Endowments. Such order shall be made complying with the conditions of the application or the earnings as consented between the appropriate Government and the person filing the application. After the Central Government has made an order in this regard, the property shall vest with the Treasurer.

Where the property is vested with treasurer, he shall be permitted to keep all the documents and records of title connected with such property. The vesting of property with the Treasurer does not impose a duty to administer or manage the property or inflict an obligation upon the trustee to control such property. The concerned Government shall formulate a scheme for the management of the property vested in the hands of the Treasurer where an application is filed by the concerned person in this regard. The appropriate Government shall have power to appoint an official to manage the property and can modify the scheme where necessary.

The validity of the scheme cannot be questioned in any court or the court shall not pass a decree or order in contravention of the scheme. But the Court shall have the power to inquire the matters included in the scheme created by the appropriate Government. Where a scheme has been settled with regard to a property not vested in the Treasurer, such scheme shall come into force when the property is so vested with the treasurer. The application shall be filed by a person acting in relation to the management of the trust where such property is already under trust for the purpose of charity.

According to the provisions of the Act, the Treasurer on whose capacity the property is vested shall not administer the property while acting under his office. The Treasurer shall keep the records of the securities of the money or the earnings of the property in a separate account as provided under the Act. The Treasurer shall grant permission to the administrators of the trust to possess, supervise and be in charge of the property where a special order is received from the concerned authority.

The Act further provides for the restrictions on the authority and functions of the treasurer. The Treasurer shall be the only trustee and shall not take charge of or transfer the property except according to the provisions of the Act. The treasurer shall also comply with the directions of the concerned authority or the decree of depriving him of the property. The Act confers authority on the appropriate Government to formulate rules reliable with the provisions of the present Act.

The Charitable Endowment Act, 1890 was modified by many State amendments and new legislation enacted by the States according to the convenience and existing needs of the States. The amendment to the Wakf Act has also made considerable changes to the present legislation.