The Municipal Corporation of Prayagraj has sent a notice of arrears of house tax worth Rs 4.35 crores to Anand Bhavan, Swaraj Bhavan and Jawahar planetarium operated by Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, a non-profit trust headed by Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi.
According to the corporation, the notice was served on the basis that Anand Bhavan and the surrounding buildings are being used for commercial purposes and thus are required to pay increased taxes. Anand Bhavan, the ancestral residence of the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, along with Swaraj Bhavan were transformed into museums, showcasing artefacts and items of the era of Independence movement in India and memorabilia related to Nehru family.
The chief tax assessment officer, Prayagraj Municipal Corporation, PK Mishra stated that the house tax notice on Anand Bhavan, Swaraj Bhavan and Jawahar Planetarium was sent around two weeks ago. He also mentioned that the letter received from the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund was forwarded to Zonal Office (four) with instructions to carry out a comprehensive survey and submit a report regarding the total pending dues.
The Fund officials in Delhi reportedly refuted the claims of the Municipal corporation and wrote a letter to the mayor and the tax officials to review the tax notice claiming that Anand Bhavan and the surrounding structures are ‘heritage buildings’ and are thus exempted from commercial tax.
Confirming that the letter has been received, the Mayor of the city said that the documents and related files have to be studied before proceeding on the future course of action.
The administrative secretary of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, N Balakrishnan mentioned in the letter to the mayor and the tax officials that a bill of Rs 3,000 was received by the trust in 2003-04, which was duly paid. He, however, added that in 2005, a bill of over Rs 24.67 lakh for the year 2004-05 was sent to the Fund. According to the letter, the yearly bill of Rs 12.34 lakh continued to be sent till 2013-14 but it was lessened to Rs 8.27 lakh since 2014-15.
The PMC authorities have claimed that no taxes for the buildings have been paid after 2003.
Balakrishnan has maintained in the letter that the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund which runs the Anand Bhavan, Swaraj Bhavan and Jawahar Planetarium, is a charitable trust and not involved in any commercial activities. He argued that the trust was exempted from such taxes under Section 117B of Nagar Nigam Act 1959. Lamenting that the tax collection was faulty, Balakrishnan said that the house tax was increased despite no new construction in the premises in the last 40 years, tax on vacant land was also added.
The Prayagraj head of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, Ravi Kiran, claimed that despite the matter is pending in court, the Municipal corporation sent a bill of several crores to the trust. He stated that further action will be taken after discussions with the senior authorities of the trust in Delhi.