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J&K Political Parties Slam Property Tax as ‘Arbitrary’, ‘Anti-People’

Anees Zargar |
Properties under the jurisdiction of municipal councils and committees of the Union Territory would be taxed from April 1.
J&K Political Parties Slam Property Tax as ‘Arbitrary’, ‘Anti-People’

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Flickr

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) political parties have criticised the administration’s decision to impose property tax from April 1 and demanded an immediate withdrawal. 

The Housing and Urban Development Department notified the Jammu and Kashmir Property Tax (Other Municipalities) Rules, 2023, on Tuesday, to levy the tax on properties under the jurisdiction of municipal councils and committees of the Union Territory.

The first block shall commence from 1st April, 2023, and shall continue to remain in force till 31, March, 2026. The blocks shall be similarly calculated thereafter,” the rules read.

Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) mayor Junaid Azim Mattu opposed the decision alleging that it was taken without consulting the municipal committees.

Imposition of Property Tax in J&K is ironically violative of municipal empowerment as this has neither been deliberated upon, nor approved by elected ULBs. While SMC will explore ways to contest this arbitrary move, I am writing to the Hon’ble LG seeking a withdrawal of the SO,” he tweeted. 

Deputy mayor Parvaiz Ahmad Qadri Saif tweeted and asked people not to panic. “We are rejecting it even before its arrival. It won’t get consent of corporators. People should not panic.”

CPI(M) Central Committee member and former MLA MY Tarigami termed decision “arbitrary and undemocratic”.

The towns and cities are to decide the values, not the Centre, as mandated by the 74th Constitutional Amendment. The notification is ultra vires to the constitutional mandate,” he told Newsclick.

Tarigami added that the locking period of three years is also “arbitrary”. “The cities must be given the prerogative to decide when they want to change their values and there should not be any particular locking period.”

The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) alleged that notification “smacks of arbitrariness” and is “anti-people”. 

The people of Jammu and Kashmir have been at the receiving end economically since 2019 due to the losses suffered by August 5, 2019, lockdown and then the successive COVID-19 lockdowns,” the JKNC’s state spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said in a statement, according to UNI.

Imposing property tax will further push the people to the wall. Such decisions will make the situation even worse,” he added. “Unfortunately such important issues don’t face public scrutiny in the current bureaucratic set-up. It has become a habit of those in power in Delhi to issue orders irrespective of their impact or public opinion.” 

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah and JKNC vice-president asked “why should people in J&K pay state taxes, including the proposed property tax, when we have no say in how our government is run”?

The decision was also criticised by Jammu-based political parties, who termed it “illogical”. The Dogra Swabhimaan Sangathan Party said that such orders from a “bureaucratic nexus” only hurt people. 

We are against the imposition of the tax and the government should know that we are going through a critical juncture where all businessmen, traders and labourers are already suffering economically. The order has been passed mindlessly by ignoring the ground realities,” party general secretary Dr Hari Dutt told Newsclick

Strongly denouncing the decision, J&K Congress president Vikar Rasool Wani said that this is the BJP’s Amrit Kaal and the administration’s Naya Jammu Kashmir.

I strongly denounced the levying of property tax on our people who are unable to run their homes due to the high rate of inflation, immense unemployment rate and zero business activity,” he tweeted.

Following the criticism, the administration clarified on Wednesday to clear the “confusion” created by “factually incorrect and misleading information”. 

The tax is levied worldwide by municipalities to augment their resources and J&K is the only UT in the country which does not impose it, it said. “With poor finances, the ULBs across the UT were unable to deliver to their fullest. The revenue from other sources accounted for less than 15% of their operational expenses. Where are the funds for development available?” it argued.  

The administration added that the tax is being levied to “strengthen ULBs and ramp up the urban development for the betterment” of common masses. “This new property tax policy will help municipal bodies to generate revenue for better municipal services with minimum tax implications to residents.” 

Despite the clarification, J&K People’s Conference president Sajad Lone tweeted, “Government has come up with a detailed clarification on property tax. I still say No. Not the time to tax.”

Levying property tax in the aftermath of COVID-19 is an attempt to ensure economic euthanasia, Lone added.

In 2020, the J&K Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) order, 2020, the J&K Municipal Act, 2000, and the J&K Municipal Corporation Act, 2000, were amended.

As per the amended Municipal Act, “property tax shall be levied at such a percentage not exceeding 15% of the taxable annual value of land and building or vacant land or both as the government may by notification from time to time specify”.

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