The Madras High Court on Monday issued a warning to Sree Raghavendra Educational Society, which was represented by its secretary Latha Rajinikanth, that it will be sued under contempt of court proceedings if it does not vacate its premises in Guindy area in Chennai by April 30, 2021, The Hindu reported on Tuesday.
The Educational Society had sought for extension of time for vacating the property.
The Ashram School, which was founded by Latha in 1991, has been running on the premises for over a decade.
The court also ordered the establishment against admitting new students from the next academic year (2021-22).
The case was headed by Justice N Sathish Kumar. According to the report, the applicant’s counsel S Elambharathi had said that the landlords of the premise and the society had reached a compromise to vacate the place by April 30, 2020 on August 3, 2018, but this could not be adhered to due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the counsel also made it clear that there have been prompt payments of monthly rent, and TDS had also been remitted to the Income Tax Department. The report stated that the judge asked the society to conform to the new deadline and vacate by April 30, 2021 and take away all its belongings.
The landlords of the place, Ch Venkateswarlu, Ch Poornachandra Rao, had filed a civil suit in the high court in 2014 to recover Rs 1.99 crore rental dues accumulated since March 2013, along with interest at the rate of 18% per annum. “The suit also sought for eviction and included veteran actor Rajinikanth, too, as a defendant by claiming him to be the founder trustee of the society,” the media report mentioned.
However, Justice Kumar omitted the name of the veteran actor, who is also Latha’s husband, after it was brought to his notice that Rajinikanth was not connected with the school or the society. But he held the suit against the society represented by Latha and mentioned the compromise held between the parties on August 3, 2018. The compromise had stated that the society agreed to pay Rs 8 lakh as monthly rent, including TDS, and also stated to vacate the property by April 30, 2020.
“In view of the compromise, the judge rejected the first prayer for recovery of alleged rental dues and decreed the suit only with respect to eviction. Nevertheless, since the school had to be shut down due to COVID-19 since March this year and had to conduct classes only online, the society had moved the court now seeking extension of time,” the report concluded.
However, the society issued a statement on Wednesday clarifying a media report that projected Latha to contempt of court proceedings. The statement clarified that they had filed an application seeking to extend the time to vacate the premises.
“This is to clarify that we had filed an application along with an Affidavit before the Hon’ble High Court seeking to extend the time to vacate the premises as were not able to vacate the Premises in view of the outbreak of Covid-19 and further as the current Academic Year was not completed. In addition to the above and also keeping the interest of the students, teachers, and non-teaching staff, time was sought to vacate the school premises till April 2021 and we also informed the Hon’ble High Court that was no arrears of Rent and TDS, and the same was being periodically paid,” the statement read.
The statement further conveyed that the court had accepted their reasons and assurance and granted them to vacate by April 2021. It also clarified that the court had not prevented it from admitting new students in the next academic year but had just asked not to admit new students in the disputed premises.
In 2017, the then secretary of the school Latha’s daughter, Aishwarya Dhanush sued Venkateswarulu for defamation after it was locked by the landlords for non-payment of rents. In her lawsuit, Aishwarya demanded Rs 5 crore as relief for the defaming comments that he made to the media against Latha, along with causing worry to stakeholders of the school, including parents, employees, and children. Aishwarya had also sought Rs 1 crore from them for trespassing after the landlords had locked the school.
This is not the first time that Latha has been legally embroiled over non-payment of dues. In 2017, The News Minute reported that a travel agency she ran on CP Ramaswamy Road in Chennai ran into trouble for not complying with the new rental rates of the building owned by the Chennai Corporation. The Madras High Court had ordered the civic body to resort to seeking police help if she did not comply with the new rental prices. Though her lawyer Mohan Menon claimed that it was done without any explanation, the court had dismissed the petition and allowed the Corporation to auction the shop and take control of the property, had the rent not been paid.
In a similar case, in 2018, the Supreme Court pulled up Latha for not paying the dues to Ad Bureau Advertising Pvt Ltd. The court had issued a notice to her after a case was filed against her by the company, which is a post-production unit involved with the CGI for Kochadaiiyaan starring her husband. The unit, an ad bureau, had accused Latha of fraud. The firm had also accused Latha of not abiding by the promise of giving the film’s distribution rights in return for Rs 14.9 crore. Though the money had been handed over to her, the firm had accused of Latha of failing to keeping her word by selling the rights to a third party.