The city municipal corporation has fallen back on arm-twisting to recover pending house tax from residents.
To pressure property owners to pay the tax, the civic body has sealed 160 properties so far this month, though the high court had banned any such action by a municipal body in an order passed in August 2012.
All the sealed properties lie in zones B and D of the MC. Neeraj Jain and Hartej Singh are the superintendents of the house tax wing of the two zones, and the action was taken on their orders.
Contacted, officials of the MC defended the action. Additional commissioner Sumeet Kumar Jarangal, who is authorised to speak on the subject, said the process was not “sealing”, but a process for “attachment of properties” of those who did not pay the tax.
He said after a property is attached and yet the owner failed to pay up, the property could be auctioned.
The possible reason behind officials taking the step could be the pressure of meeting their targets before the financial year ends on March 31. A house tax official, who did not wish to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the attachment of properties was a lengthy process and a last resort. He also said that it was a way to pressure property owners. “We had recently sealed a shop in Zone A. Once a lock was put on the shop, the owner reached our office with a cheque. So, yes, this does help.”
While 90 shops were sealed on the orders of Neeraj Jain, the house tax wing superintendent of Zone B, Hartej Singh, who heads the wing in Zone D, has sealed 72 shops so far this month.
Commissioner RK Verma did not respond to the calls by HT.
The high court order that as passed in August says, “Action which can be taken for recovery of house tax as given in section 138 of Punjab Municipal Corporation Act, 1976, does not authorise sealing of the property due to non-payment of house tax or recovery of house tax (SIC)”. Justice Ranjit Singh had ruled this while hearing a petition against the state of Punjab. Owners whose properties have been sealed can file a writ petition in the high court against the civic body.
MC contradicts itself
In a reply to an RTI application filed by activist Ravi Sharma, the Zone C office of the city MC has itself said that sealing was not a provision for recovery of house tax.