Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXX No. 20, February 16-28, 2021

Our Readers Write

Arbitrary levy of Property Tax

There appears to be no end in sight to the problems caused on account of the arbitrary levy property tax by the Greater Chennai Corporation [GCC]. The residents who fall under Zone 10, Division 136, with Bills No. 04121, 04133, 04172, 04094, 04049, 04086, 03933, 03910, 04160, 04105, 04079, 04057, 04050 and 04044, are the victims. We have been waging a battle with the GCC to sort out the issue but to no avail. E-mails sent in this connection to the civic body have elicited no response. We give below the genesis of the case so that it is understood in proper perspective.

It may be recalled that the GCC had effected a general revision in the property tax for the period 2018-19. Following the opposition to the upward revision from the public, the Government intervened and advised the GCC to roll back the revision. Paying heed to the directives of the Government, the GCC reversed the revision and stated that the residents can pay the tax at the pre-revision rates, that is to say at the rates prevailing as of 2017-18.

Besides the general revision effected for the period 2018-19, an increase was effected in the property tax in respect of the above residential properties for the period 2017-18 even before the general revision was carried out, with no intimation to the residents. This increase in the property tax for the period 2017-18 was noticed while a chance browsing of the online system of the GCC was made. But for the same, this increase for the period 2017-18 would have gone unnoticed and the residents would have paid. One of the residents thereupon alerted this Association and on perusing the details in the GCC website, we found that the increase in the tax for the period 2017-18 was carried out in a quiet manner in respect of about 14 residents.

We took up the issue with the Revenue Department at Zone 10, and were told that the revision in the property tax rate for 2017-18 was carried out based on the usage of the property and that towards this, a pilot survey was set in motion in Zones 5 and 10. It is still a wonder as to whether how the survey was undertaken, as, the residents have had no knowledge nor have been approached to get the information. Thus the very survey remains shrouded in mystery. Revision in the tax for the period 2017-18 was made on tenanted properties.

What however, irked the residents the most was the levy of tax even on those properties which are occupied by the owners themselves. This was the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. The furious residents told the Association that this wrongful levy must be negated at once. We pleaded the case with the then Deputy Commissioner [R&F], Ms Lalitha IAS. Since meetings after meetings did not yield any result, we sent out an online complaint to the GCC. In reply, the residents were told to come with details such as EC copy, Planning permission, EB Card, Gas bill etc. Upon our questioning as to whether the respective properties were classified as tenanted based upon the examination of the above papers, the officials had to eat humble pie.

We took up the issue with the Prime Minister through the Public Grievance portal. Only after the issue was referred to the PM, did the officials act. They contacted the Association and sought the details of the properties for rectification. The details of fourteen cases were given and these were rectified, in that the upward revision made for the period 2017-18 was rectified restoring the old rate.

In the meanwhile, the GCC, following the advice of the government to recall the general revision in the property tax for the period 2018-19, restored the old rates as of 2017-18.

As could be seen, in respective of the above residents, it was a double whammy as they had to encounter double revision for the period 2017-18 and 2018-19. In these cases, the GCC had to restore the old tax rates both for the periods 2017-18 and 2018-19. Even here, we had to keep reminding to the GCC as in some cases, the restoration of old rate was not carried out.

In one case, after carrying out the restoration of rates for the period 2018-19 [Bill No.4049], the GCC came up with a shocking news that the resident had not paid tax for the period 2014-15, and, sought details of the payment. When questioned as to how had they accepted payment for the later period without adjusting the payment for the missing period, the officials could not answer. Though the resident had all the details of the payment, we decided not to furnish and told the GCC to prove that the payment was not made. Realizing their folly, the officials after checking with the Divisional office, made entries for the missing period.

While most of the residents had paid the property tax for the period 2018-19 at the hiked rate itself, consequent upon the withdrawal of the general revision resulting in the restoration of old tax rates as of 2017-18, the excess payment made was kept as advance. In effect, many had paid for periods beyond 2021-22, earning rebate announced for early payment.

At a time when there was no due till 2020-21, a casual browsing of the GCC website on Feb 4, 2021, to ascertain the details had led to opening up of another Pandora’s box. The very same 14 property owners were targeted again levying an increase in the tax rates for the period 2018-19. But for the chance browsing, the increase would have gone unnoticed. There was no communication whatsoever from the GCC towards this increase. Thus, from a NO DUE/EXCESS PAYMENT category as of 2020-21, these residents have now come under due list, all of a sudden.

We are unable to fathom as to the rationale of this increase. How can the GCC revise the property tax every now and then without any information to the property owners? Further more, when there is a specific directive from the Government not to revise the tax till the committee which was constituted to look into the details, comes out with its findings after ascertaining the views of the stakeholders, how can the GCC arbitrarily increase the tax? While it is said that property tax is for the property and it should be non-discretionary and non-discriminatory, how can taxes be revised to suit their whims and fancies? This increase in the rate giving effect to the period 2018-19, seems to have been made sometime during December 2020/January 2021 and such an increase has not been given effect to other property owners.

As we request the GCC to restore the old rate of 2017-18 for the period 2018-19 in respect of the above Bills, we would like to state that instead of targeting the residents who pay the tax regularly and on time, should turn their attention to collect from those who are in arrears for years.

Motilal Street Residents’ Welfare Association
Old No.31, New No.57
Motilal Street
T. Nagar, Chennai 600 017

O. Pulla Reddy

This has reference to Karthik Bhatt’s tribute to O. Pulla Reddy ICS in your Feb 1-15 issue. When he was Secretary, Defence, Government of India, V.K. Krishna Menon was the Defence Minister who often got exasperated with Pulla Reddy’s slowness in decisions and quipped, “He has neither pull nor is he ready”.

Captain S. Prabhala
IN (Retd)
9/8, Haudin Road
Bangalore 560042

More on lake restoration

Reg. Lake Restoration which appeared in MM, December 16, 2020.

Since I was in the IAS service in Tamil Nadu for many years, I would like to raise an important point.
Over the last few years, mega projects of flats and apartments have come up not only within the city but also in the far suburbs. Ever since Greater Chennai came into existence some years ago, it has wiped off small local bodies which were on the periphery of the city. Now, I think it is the CMDA which deals with approval for large constructions which are heavily advertised.

What is called RERA is important. It means that the home design and planning of these multiple apartments buildings have been carefully checked and are “okay”. The issue is this. Quite a few of them have probably encroached on water bodies (within the city and outside) “but this seems to go totally unnoticed”. There is a well known Supreme Court decision saying that “even a dry water body marked on the survey map should not be encroached upon” goes unnoticed. What seems to be happening is that many old and useful water bodies have dried up and therefore are vulnerable to encroachments. I think citizens must have a campaign on this issue and demand that the building plan does not encroach upon any plan marked water body.

Devendra Oza
No. 1, First Cross Street
Indiranagar, Adyar
Chennai 600 020

Flowers in deserts

Regarding the article by V. Ramnarayan about the village born cricketer T. Natarajan, I am tempted to recall the verses from Gray’s Elegy which I have taught many times.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear,
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste it’s sweetness in the desert air.

We have many such Natarajans waiting to be found, not only in cricket but in other games also. If only we have sound talent finding machinery, we would have so many youths who would bring glory to themselves as well as the Nation.

S. Rajagopalan
30, Kamarajar Street
Chennai 600093

Cherishing memories of living legend C.D. Gopinath

To mark India’s maiden Test victory, which happened on February 10, 1952 at Chepauk, Indian Army veteran Col. Vembu Shankar, SC, and fellow cricket enthusiasts commemorated the event by felicitating C.D. Gopinath, the lone surviving member of the victorious team, at his residence in Chennai on 10th Feb 2021.

Cutting a shape like a cricket bat and ball placed on turf, in the presence of his wife and great grand-children, the 90-year-old Gopinath said he was overwhelmed by the gesture remarking the celebrations after the match on that day were not so grand. The batsman was in the squad that had greats like Lala Amarnath, Vinoo Mankad and Vijay Hazare (captain) among others. Gopinath was also given a specially commissioned caricature by Austin Coutinho to mark the historic occasion.

C.K. Subramaniam
1595, J Block, Anukul, Anna Nagar West
Chennai 600 040

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