MCC says hike has statutory backing; DC says wait for GO

Collection of revised property tax — which has become a poll issue — continued to be mired in confusion as the Deputy Commissioner and the Corporation Commissioner held views that were at variance with each other on Thursday.

Property owners continue to be confused. Two property owners, Bernanrd D’Silva of Jeppu and Laxman of Bejai, said on Thursday that they had paid their property tax at old rates, while Vijay of Attavar said his father paid the tax at the new rates. Officers in the property tax department of the corporation admitted that many were not paying the revised rates though officers had insisted that revised rates were applicable to all.

The corporation had decided to increase property tax by 15 per cent when Deputy Commissioner A.B. Ibrahim was its administrator about a month ago. With the Congress complaining that the administrator’s decision amounted to Lok Sabha poll code violation, Mr. Ibrahim, who is the Returning Officer for the Dakshina Kannada constituency, forwarded the complaint to the Department of Urban Development, detailing the decisions taken regarding the property tax.

On Thursday, Mr. Ibrahim told The Hindu that since directions of the Urban Development Department were awaited, “in my view, there is no government order (GO) for collecting the revised property tax.”

When contacted, Corporation Commissioner Ajith Kumar Hegde S. said revised property taxes were being collected on the strength of the “Administrator’s resolution” a month ago. Asked whether the resolution had the strength of a government order, Mr. Hegde pointed out that revision of property tax was a statutory provision. Section 109(A) of the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, mandates property tax revision under the self-assessment scheme (SAS) once every three years.

This is the second time that the MCC has hiked the tax since the civic body adopted the SAS for assessing property tax from 2008-09. The last time the civic body hiked the tax was in 2011-12 by 15 per cent.

Mr. Hegde said random verification of the property taxes paid would be taken up sometime later and those who have failed to pay the revised tax will be asked to pay up.

BJP corners Congress

The hike in property tax had come as surprise to the Congress which had won the elections for the corporation’s council assuring the electorate that it would not hike property tax. That the administrator’s resolution in this regard was backed by two Congress MLAs had made the matters worse for the party. When the Lok Sabha election was announced, the BJP cornered the Congress on the issue. Congress candidate B. Janardhana Poojary had vowed not to implement the decision taken during the administrator’s period following which a poll code violation complaint was lodged against the hike.

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