Despite the assertion of Amritsar municipal corporation's officials that there is no provision to charge house tax from religious establishments in the rules, religious bodies owning taxable commercial properties too feature in the list of defaulters, as they owe it arrears in terms of pending house tax.
They have been issued notices under Sections 137 and 138 of the Punjab Municipal Corporation (PMC) Act to clear their payments or face auction of their properties.
Sources, however, said the MC, it seems, is unlikely hold the auction this time as well as it is counting on defaulters to clear their arrears ahead of the proposed auction. The house tax department of the MC faces the mammoth task of collecting arrears amounting to R20 crore from defaulters.
If the MC officials are to be believed, the civic body has never held an auction to date despite spending lakhs of rupees on advertising the proposal. They aver that this is because most of the defaulters, whose properties are mentioned in the list of assets to be auctioned, tend to redeem their properties ahead of the proposed auction.
Mayor Bakshi Ram Arora, too, endorsed this fact when he said defaulters often redeem their properties before the proposed date of auction.
“These properties are usually redeemed before the proposed date of auction. It is quite likely that defaulters will act in a similar manner this time too,” he said.
Arora added that even as religious establishments were not levied any tax, those owning commercial properties were required to pay house tax. However, sources said there are hundreds of defaulters' properties, whose status is unknown even to the MC officials.
The MC officials claimed that in this year's initial list of 100 defaulters, at least 30 had cleared their arrears so far. A few others, according to them, are double entries wrongly made in these lists, while still others, they claimed, are religious establishments with commercial properties, whose house tax payments have not been cleared yet.
Jaswinder Singh, SE, O and M, who also holds the charge of additional commissioner and house tax department, said around 1,000 notices had been issued to defaulters. “We are keeping a daily track of who has cleared the arrears and who has not,” he said.
Sher Singh, superintendent, who is in-charge of the proposed auction, said as per the PMC Act, the recovery proceedings were initiated under Sections 137 and 138, after which an auction notice was served.
“The notice served under Section 137 is followed by a period of one month, while there is a period of seven days after the notice given under Section 138. Thereafter the properties of defaulters are attached and auctioned, but so far the MC has not auctioned any of the defaulters' properties,” he said.
He added that a number of religious establishments that own commercial properties, but had not paid their house tax, too had been asked to clear their arrears at the earliest.