The issue came to the limelight after actor Rajinikanth moved the Madras High Court. Though he was forced to repeal the petition after being rapped by the judge for approaching it before submitting a representation to the civic body, the issue has resonated with many a property owner in the city.
Politicians, including sitting legislators, pointed out that the city Corporation Commissioner has the power under a provision in the Chennai City Municipal Corporation Act, 1919, to provide remission to those whose properties have remained closed due to the lockdown.
“Superstar Rajinikanth wanted to exercise the rights granted in Section 105 of the Act, under which remission is the right of a property owner deprived of earnings. He never said that he will not pay the tax amount. Anyone in Chennai hit by lockdown and economic loss are entitled to some kind of remission, subject to the approval of Corporation Commissioner,” former deputy mayor ‘Karate’ R Thiagarajan told DT Next.
The issue is worse in extended areas of Chennai where the residents are forced to pay exorbitant property tax amount despite the basic infrastructure are not on a par with the core city areas, said Madhavaram MLA S Sudharsanam. “Those in posh and commercial areas like Adyar and Velachery are paying less property tax than a resident in Madhavaram and Red Hills where most are from the working class. Is this justice rendered to taxpayers by the State,” asked the MLA.
The high-level committee announced in 2019 by Local Administration Minister SP Velumani to address the anomalies in property tax revision was dodging the proposal to reduce the property tax in extended parts of Chennai, he added.
“The situation in Ambattur is also alarming as the residents pay taxes more than that in Mylapore and Besant Nagar. Despite taking up the issue in the Assembly, there has been no respite for residents in the past five years,” Sudharasanam told this newspaper.
According to former V Sukumar Babu, former floor leader in the Corporation Council, many commercial establishments reported a 2,000 per cent increase in tax. “The economic crisis due to COVID-19 is choking traders. But the Corporation is serving demand notices warning fine for delayed payments,” he added.
When contacted, a senior government official said the local bodies and Corporation engineers have already submitted the details of wards and areas where the property tax slabs are higher. “But the file is pending with the Local Administration Department for approval,” the official confided.