Two of Delhi’s landmark hotels may have to wrap up operations soon, with the civic authorities cancelling Le Meridien’s licence and reaffirming its decision to auction Taj Mansingh on Thursday.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal made the announcement after attending a special meeting of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). “Important decisions in today’s meeting – Open auction of Taj Mansingh, cancel Le Meridien Hotel licence...” he tweeted.
A senior NDMC official told HT that the council decided to act against Le Meridien over non-payment of licence fees for a couple of decades. “The dispute has been going on since 1982. Till date, the total amount owed by them has accumulated to around Rs 523 crore. Now, in accordance with the Public Premises Eviction Act-1971, the matter is being referred to the NDMC estate officer and the hotel has been declared as an unauthorised occupant. The estate officer will take the final call in this regard,” he said.
However, a Le Meridien spokesperson said the establishment was yet to receive an official communiqué in this regard. “The case is sub judice. All hotel operations continue uninterrupted,” he added.
The NDMC official said the entire process of cancelling the hotel’s licence would take three to four months, provided things work in the council’s favour. When asked about the legal options lying before the hotel authorities, he said they could either “obtain a stay order from the Delhi high court” or pay the pending licence fees to the council.
A Union home ministry official said the Centre also shares the NDMC’s opinion on the matter. “The process adopted in the Taj Mansingh Hotel case will be followed. We had already said in the Taj Mansingh case that the lease cannot be extended in perpetuity. If the lessee wants, it can take part in the fresh auction and retrieve the property,” he said on the condition of anonymity.
The NDMC-owned Taj Mansingh was given to Tata’s Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) on lease for 33 years. The lease expired in 2011, but the company was given nine temporary extensions after that on various grounds.
Last November, the IHCL moved the Supreme Court against a Delhi high court order allowing the NDMC to auction the structure. There was no need to take such a step because the hotel generates considerable revenue for the civic body, it argued.
In January, the apex court asked the NDMC to review its decision to auction the Taj Mansingh Hotel. After hearing both the sides, it granted the council six weeks’ time to take a fresh decision after taking the opinion of law officers into consideration.
An IHCL spokesperson refused to comment on the NDMC’s reaffirmation because the matter was sub judice.