The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation cannot hike property tax without serving proper notice on the property's owner or occupier, the Bombay high court has said. Eleven years after the BMC asked some Girgaum residents to pay extra tax, Justice S S Shinde came to their aid and said the pasting of notice on the property "cannot be accepted".
"In the light of provisions, it is incumbent upon commissioner to give special written notice to the owner or occupier," the judge said dismissing a BMC appeal.
The Bombay high court has noted that as per the BMC Act, a notice to hike property tax has to be served on the owner or the occupier of the building or land. If the owner or occupier is not found, it has to be given to an adult family member or domestic help. If no one is available then it has to be affixed on a conspicuous part of the property.
Dismissing a BMC appeal against an order of the small causes court the judge held that a special notice has to be served "...so that (he) should know which aspects he has to answer in the notice. The contents of the notice assumes importance as much as the assessee... gets an opportunity to defend his case".
Justice Shinde said the BMC did not submit any evidence showing that it tried to serve notice on the property owners or explaining why the notices were not served at their residential addresses.
The dispute dates to 2002, when the residents of a flat in a Girgaum building were told in a letter dated March 4 that they were liable to pay property tax from April 2001 at an increased rate. It gave them 15 days to lodge a complaint.
The residents said the notice was received in the second week of March 2002 and that they had already paid the taxes till March 31, 2002. They moved the small causes court, which held that the BMC could not have increased the rateable value of the property without giving special notice to the assessee and giving opportunity of personal hearing. The BMC filed an appeal in the HC.
While dismissing the appeal, the judge cited an earlier order of the court that "if the reassessment order is without notice or if said order does not disclose the basis on which reassessment was made, the said reassessment order revising the assessment cannot be sustained".
The HC has stayed its order for four weeks to allow the corporation to file an appeal.