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Tuesday, January 11, 2000

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Court directive on Premananda accounts

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, JAN. 10. A Division Bench of the Madras High Court has ordered a part of the sum lying in frozen accounts (formerly) belonging to Premananda (of Swami Premananda Ashram, Pudukottai) and other co- accused in the case be kept in fixed deposit in a bank and the interest be paid as compensation to the rape victims.

Passing orders on a petition filed by the Kulathur Tahsildar seeking a modification of an order passed by the court last year, the Bench comprising Mr. Justice N. Dinakar and Mr. Justice K. Natarajan directed that the amounts in the IOB (Nachalur branch), Punjab National Bank (Sethurpatti branch), Indian Bank (Viralimalai), Indian Overseas Bank (Viralimalai), State Bank of Mysore (Tiruchi) and IOB (Tiruchi Branch) be deposited in Canara Bank, Inamkulathur branch), which already has a deposit of Rs.3.57 lakhs.

Of the total amount, Rs.36.40 lakhs would be kept as composite fixed deposit in the Canara Bank, Inamkulathur, for a three year period; the interest thereon would be paid as compensation to the victim girls, the Bench added.

In August 1997, the Pudukottai sessions judge had awarded life sentence to Premananda for causing death to an inmate of the ashram and rape of girls and imposed a fine of Rs.66.40 lakhs. On appeal, the High Court stayed the recovery of Rs.30 lakhs and directed him to pay the balance. As he did not make the payment, the movable properties in the ashram were attached and were set to be auctioned. In 1998, on a petition filed by Premananda, the High Court stayed the auction. Premananda sought stay of recovery of the balance amount. Rejecting his plea, a Division Bench had then said the trial court was empowered to award compensation to the victim of the offence out of the fine imposed while convicting an offender.

In September 1998, the Bench had directed Premananda to deposit Rs.36.40 lakhs (for payment of fine imposed on him by the trial court) in the Indian Overseas Bank, Tiruchi and the quarterly interest accrued thereon be distributed to the rape victims.

As the Bank did not pay the interest after January 1999, the district authorities wrote to the bank. The IOB replied that the account did not have sufficient funds as there was a shortfall of more than Rs.12 lakhs - being the amount deducted towards paying income-tax and wealth tax and fine.

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