PIL alleges massive bungling in property tax assessment

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 14 Sep 2018 10:12:23


Staff Reporter,

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Nagpur Municipal Corporation Housing Tax Grievance Redressal Committee, through its Secretary Shankar Chetumal Gulani, has once again charged the civic body and its property tax department with massive bungling in assessing the properties and double-standards adopted to fix the property tax of houses owned by NMC officials and those by general public.

The petitioner Committee had also filed a petition way back in 2001 and had raised a serious grievance about faulty assessment of properties by NMC officials charging them with arbitrariness or high-handedness in the matter of assessment and levy of property tax. The petitioner had cited several examples of huge variation in tax rates for identical properties and in pre-RTI era had revealed very meagre property tax collected from the residential units owned by NMC officers. The NMC in its reply had stoutly denied all charges of arbitrariness and favouritism or victimisation while assessing properties to determine their property tax.

On November 21, 2003 then Additional Commissioner (Assessment) had submitted a report on specific cases showing house number and ward number in relation to which the study was undertaken. However, due to lack of assistance from the petitioner, the High Court had directed citizens affected by allegedly faulty property tax assessment conducted by NMC to make a detailed representation to the Municipal Commissioner about their grievance pointing out instances of abuse or misuse of power in the matter of assessment of property tax and had asked the authority to decide it within stipulated time.

Accordingly, the committee had submitted a detailed representation running into 143 pages citing several instances of faulty property tax assessment. Even the proper record of property tax owner was not being maintained, the petition claimed while citing cancellation of 14,000 receipts worth Rs 28.56 crore in 2016 and lack of any concrete database with property tax department. Some property owners are receiving arbitrary demands twice while many working with NMC and occupying similar houses in same localities are paying peanuts as property tax, the petitioner claimed. The petitioner has urged the High Court the NMC to publish list of properties, tax assessment details and actual collection made on its website. The National Informatics Centre be asked to bring transparency in digital presence of NMC the petitioner demanded while seeking special audit of property tax department to unearth many more serious discrepancies. A division bench consisting of Justic Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice M G Giratkar issued notice to State Government, NMC, Director General of NIC, Accountant General and asked them to file reply. Adv Jatin Kumar and Adv Swapnil Shingne appeared for the petitioner.


No gas supply without ration card: HC

Staff Reporter,

Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed State Government and Oil companies not to supply gas connection without authenticated documents like ration card. Since many ration card holders having LPG connections are also lifting subsidised kerosene quota, the High Court passed this order to curb the misuse of subsidised kerosene meant for below the poverty line people without a gas connection. The High Court also sought details of new gas connections provided after January 1, 2014.

State Government stated that there are around 2.44 crore ration cards in State of which 1.62 crore card owners have gas connections and 1.52 crore cards have been stamped. In the last affidavit, State Government had stated that there were 2,44,68,059 ration cards in Maharashtra and those with gas connections were 1,31,87,305 in number. The State Govt. had issued a circular on February 20, 2017 regarding stamping ration cards with gas connections and 3 months time was granted for this purpose. The stamping will dis-entitle such ration card holders from getting subsidised kerosene and quota can be meaningfully used by other deserving secntions.

The gas companies claimed that in Maharashtra there are 1.15 crore families with single cylinder while 1.17 crore families have two gas cylinders.

A division bench consisting of Justice Bhushan Dharmadhikari and Justice M G Giratkar on last occasion had imposed a cost of Rs 10 lakh on Food and Civil Supplies Department for giving up the ambitious programme to stamp the ration cards to streamline supply of kerosene. Despite such stern action, only 10 lakh more cards have been stamped in last six months. Therefore the High Court asked authorities to stamp the ration card while sanctioning the gas connection.

The High Court while hearing a PIL filed by Kaduji Pund (74) of Risod tahsil of Washim district, alleging discrimination in kerosene supply to rural areas, also sought details of kerosene quota released from July 10, 2018 till the date of next affidavit to Maharashtra and its appropriation in rural and urban areas.

The affidavit filed by State claimed that they were not in a position to collect data as the Oil Companies, which distribute LPG cylinders, were not co-operating with them. The State claimed that Oil Companies do not mandate possession of ration card before sanctioning LPG connection.

Rejecting this feeble justification, the HC noted “If the Oil cos do not force customers to produce ration card and if ration card is not mandatory, State has to devise some other mode.” Reminding Food and Civil Supplies top brass that he is assisted by qualified administrative officers, the task should have been accomplished long back. Meanwhile an intervention plea filed by one of the consumers having single gas cylinder also raised a very important question about use of kerosene during the waiting period. Depriving such consumers from availing kerosene would be unfair, the applicant claimed. The HC has now sought reply from respondents on this issue in two weeks. Adv Firdos Mirza appeared for petitioner. Adv Anil Kilor appeared for respondent State. Adv Bhanudas Kulkarni held the brief for intervener.