Madurai, March 23: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court today stayed the auctioning of the property of the Premananda Trust, part of Premananda Ashram in Pudukottai district, by the Income Tax department for two weeks.
Justice Jothimani, staying the auction, issued notice to the respondents including the Chief Commissioner of I-T, Chennai, Commissioner (IT-I), Tiruchirappalli, and The Tax Recovery Officer-III. The auction was scheduled to be held on March 29 to recover the tax arrears due from godman Swami Premananda, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1997 for rape and murder.
The petitioner, Dhamayanthi Mathaji, the present managing trustee of the Sri Premananda Trust, submitted that the trust was formed in 1994 to take care of the affairs of the ashram. After the arrest of Premananda, some of the trustees left the ashram and a new trust board was formed. Now the ashram premises have been developed at a cost of Rs 97.35 lakh. More than 900 students were studying in the ashram school with 20 teaching staff. As many 630 students were staying in the ashram hostel and 50 persons were employed in the ashram.
The activities of these service-oriented people would be thrown out of gear and the ashram children would be affected if the auction was allowed, the petitioner said.
"When both Premananda and his associate Divya Devi had relinquished their rights pertaining to both movable and immovable properties and given them to the trust, how could the income tax officials auction the properties for the dues of the Swami?" the petitioner asked.
Besides, the donations had been made to the ashram for certain purpose and the trust was obliged to implement the purpose. "It is not income", the petitioner said.
The Income tax department had failed to note that Premananda was a 'sanyasi' and did not hold any property on his own. The funds were used for orphanage homes, rehabilitation of old people etc.The petitioner also submitted that the court should direct the income tax department to quash the auction order and assess the tax in the name of the 'petitioner trust'. (Agencies)
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