Around 1,000 misuse notices issued by the Chandigarh estate office to several traders for their buildings now stand invalid, following an order by the UT finance department, as the amended rules did not apply to their premises at the time of the notices.
In 2007, the UT administration had formulated new Chandigarh Estate Rules, and the misuse charges were enhanced from `10 per square foot to `500 per square foot. However, these rules were applicable only on allotments and auctions after the rules came into effect. For covering old allotments, the rules were amended on December 14, 2009. So, the `500/sq ft notices between these dates were legally unsustainable.
The cancellation orders have been passed by UT joint secretary (estate) SK Setia, exercising the powers of UT chief administrator, on an appeal filed by a trader named PS Virk. Virk was served misuse notices on January 4, 2007, and July 16, 2009. He was imposed misuse charges of `5.13 crore at the rate of `500/sq ft, and his showroom in Sector 8 was sealed. The showroom was allegedly being used for purpose other than it was allotted for, that is, for sale of grocery items.
SK Jain and Vikas Jain, counsels for Virk, underlined that the notice was issued under the 2007 rules, which were amended in 2009, but were not applicable with retrospective effect. The joint secretary in his order, thus, noted that the notices were indeed issued prior to the amendments made on December 14, 2009, that had allowed applicability to old allotments. Therefore, the estate officer is now required to issue fresh notices as per rules that were applicable to these premises.
Between 2007 and 2009, to put a check on misuse of commercial property by traders in different sectors, including 17, 22, 26, 34 and 35, the estate office served around 1,000 misuse notices for several crores. The orders on Virk’s plea now mean effective cancellation of all such notices.
Welcoming the development, Chandigarh Beopar Mandal (CBM) president Charanjeev Singh and CBM building bylaws panel chairman Vinod Joshi said the decision had come as great relief to the traders.
WHY THE QUESTION MARK
*In 2007, the UT administration formulated new estate rules, and misuse charges were enhanced from `10 per square foot to `500 a square foot. However, these were applicable only on allotments made after the rules came into effect. For old allotments, the rules were amended on December 14, 2009.
*The Punjab and Haryana high court, in a case dated October 8, 2012, had observed that the UT administration is not eligible to impose misuse penalty without making changes in the Capital of Punjab (Development and Regulation) Act, 1952, and getting it approved from Parliament.
*Subsequently, the administration sought opinion from its legal remembrancer (LR). In his opinion on May 30, 2013, the LR observed that the administration should not ignore the directions of the HC and advised it to regulate its course of actions strictly as per the directions.
*In another opinion given by joint secretary (estate) on October 7, 2013, the administration has been asked to amend the 1960 and 1973 rules so as to create provisions parallel to the provisions of the 2007 rules, instead of making new rules of higher penalty applicable on old allotments.