Home or Sanctuary for Chinese Vegetarian Women of Buddhist Faith - Charitable Or Not?

We had an interesting case from Singapore where a property was designated to be “a home or sanctuary for Chinese vegetarian women of Buddhist faith” and the issue was whether such a trust was a charitable trust. The judge decided that this was properly construed as a trust for the advancement of religion. Full judgment can be found here

I disagree completely and I was wondering what members’ reactions are to this case?

The lower court’s decision was subsequently overturned by the Singapore Court of Appeal. The full judgment can be found here

A very interesting case. Small changes in drafting, such as adding the word “needy” to the description of the class of beneficiaries, could apparently have produced a different result but it seems that the wording of the relevant provision faithfully reflected the settlor’s true non-charitable intentions regarding the use of the property in question.

Mark Hubbard
New Square Chambers.

Great point Mark. I suppose the more general point from the Singapore Court of Appeal’s decision is the role of the settlor’s contemporaneous intention and actions in construing a trust deed. In construing this trust deed, Chao Hick Tin JA relied on extrinsic evidence that the settlor had never allowed poor or destitute Buddhists vegetarian women to stay on the property. Instead, the settlor had always used part of the property as a private residence for herself and her close friends. Chao JA said (at [25]):

“While purely subjective and uncorroborated evidence by a settlor as to his intentions at the time the trust deed was drafted is inadmissible (Tudor at para 4-004), objective evidence of the settlor’s intent is highly relevant in construing a trust deed, especially in cases where its language is ambiguous”