Three weeks after the Chandigarh administration declared levying of service charge on food bills illegal, a Sector-26 based restaurant, Whistling Duck, continues to short-change unwary customers.
But even if customers raise objection, they are in for dejection, as the restaurant presents before them a plea that a petition against the administration’s order was currently sub judice at the Punjab and Haryana high court.
Unassuming customers have no option but to step back, even as the fact remains that the court has only asked the administration to file a reply on the petition, while the latter’s order still stands.
As it happened, this Hindustan Times correspondent dined in at Whistling Duck. On being presented with the bill amounting to `927 (in picture), he spotted an illegal service charge of `72, besides `90 as VAT (12.5%) and `44.56 as inflated service tax (6.1%). When the restaurant staff was confronted, restaurant owner Ambar Mehrotra claimed, “The high court has allowed us to levy service charge,” while showing the petition number on his mobile phone.
When questioned whether the court had stayed the UT administration’s order declaring service charge illegal, Mehrotra persisted that they were working in compliance with “court directions”. “Moreover there is an order of union finance ministry that allows us to levy service charge,” he claimed.
When contacted, UT assistant excise and taxation commissioner RC Bhalla said, “The administration has declared service charge illegal. Hence, no restaurant or hotel can charge it from customers.”
When asked about the high court petition by some restaurant owners, he said, “The high court has told us to file a reply to the petition. But there is no stay on the administration’s order.”