Syed Khalique Ahmed | India tomorrow
NEW DELHI—While the Aligarh Nagar Nigam ( or the Aligarh Municipal Corporation) has seized the bank accounts of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) on ground of not clearing house tax dues of several years, the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), which is also a central university like the AMU, says that it never paid house tax.
Speaking to India Tomorrow over phone, BHU Public Relations Officer Dr Rajesh Singh said, “BHU has never paid house tax for the buildings on its premises”.
Asked if the university has received any notice in the last few weeks from the Varanasi Municipal Corporation (VMC) claiming house tax for the university hostels, residences, laboratories, classrooms and guest houses etc on its premises, Dr. Singh said, “We received a notice in this regard about five years ago as far as my memory goes but the notice was withdrawn after we convinced the municipal authorities that it does not apply to BHU. We never received any notice regarding house tax after that”.
“We also did not receive any notice in the last one month or a fortnight”, Dr. Singh informed.
Surprisingly, AMU received a notice with regard to Rs. 14.98 crore house tax dues on it a fortnight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) as “Mini India” and released a commemorative stamp on the university on its centenary celebrations.
But the university says that the matter is pending before the Allahabad High Court for adjudication.
“The matter is sub-judice “, a statement released by the university said, in reaction to the civic body’s action.
A university official said that “the AMU has been paying house tax for residential areas, and it got exemption for the classrooms, laboratories and libraries from the Aligarh Nagar Palika (or the Aligarh Municipal Committee)”.
However, the decision was reversed in 2006 when the Aligarh Nagar Nigam came into existence.
“The university approached the Allahabad High Court following the decision and the matter is still pending”, said a statement released by AMU’s Public Relations Department.
According to AMU’s statement, AMU also owes an outstanding dues of over Rs. 9 crores towards Aligarh Nagar Nigam but the latter has not paid it to the university. The dues pertain to electric consumption charges of the university tubewells which are used by the corporation for water supply.
AMU pointed out that “the Banaras Hindu University and some other central institutions also got house tax exemption from the High Court and no tax is levied on classrooms, laboratories and libraries”.
An AMU official said that the AMU was also qualified for the same exemption.
The official said that the civic body should have waited for the High Court judgement in the case of AMU as well. “It should not have taken a hasty decision to seize the banks accounts of the university”, the official pointed out.
A university official said that the action of the AMC will adversely affect the war against Covid pandemic the university’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital is fighting.
The Phase III trial of Covaxin, the Bharat Biotech Covid-19 vaccine developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Virology (NIV), has been going on at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College (JNMC). “The first two doses have already been given to 1000 volunteers. The trial will go on for the next six months. JNMC, a dedicated Covid L2 Hospital, is treating coronavirus patients and has so far conducted over two lakh Covid tests”, according to an AMU official.
Aligarh Nagar Nigam’s chief assessment officer (CAO) Vinay Rai, when questioned about the AMU’s bank account attachment, said, “the university was issued several notices in the past with regard to the outstanding dues of Rs. 14.98 crore but it was not paid. Hence, the Nigam took the action of seizure of bank accounts to realise its dues”.
Regarding BHU having been given house tax exemption by the High Court, he said, “The AMU has not produced any such document or court order regarding BHU. We will certainly withdraw our orders if the High Court order regarding BHU is given to us or the High Court gives an exemption to AMU as well”.
Rai said that the UP Nagar Palika Act had the provision to give exemption to certain institutions for house tax but “there is no such provision under the UP Nagar Nigam Act”.
As for AMU’s Rs. 9 crore dues towards Aligarh Nagar Nigam, Rai said, “The issue was raised by the AMU after we served them notices to claim our dues. We have forwarded the AMU’s claim to Aligarh Water Works Department and are awaiting their reply to sort out the matter”, he said.