Anguished Residents Seek LG’s Intervention To Resolve Property Tax Issue
Srinagar: Strong resentment is brewing among the residents of Badamibagh and surrounding areas as the army’s Cantonment Board has allegedly threatened to attach and auction their properties if they fail to pay the property tax.
The residents told Kashmir Observer that they have been running from pillar to post since last one year to get the issue resolved but to no avail.
The Badamibagh Cantonment Board (BBCB), is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Defence. The board has served a fresh notice to the residents of Sonwar, Indra Nagar, Batwara, and Shivpora to clear the pending and new property bills otherwise the board will issue a warrant of “distress/attachment” or “suit” will be filed for the recovery of the same with costs.
The residents have appealed Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to intervene in this matter.
It may be noted that the residents of several localities including Sonwar, Indra Nagar, Batwara, and Shivpora had started receiving the property bills post abrogation of Article 370, according to the locals.
The notices were earlier served in 2020 causing massive outrage with political parties demanding the revocation of property tax. Following the uproar, LG Sinha made an announcement that the UT administration would not levy any property tax from the people in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, despite LG’s announcement the residents were served, fresh notices have castigated the cantonment board for “pressurizing” them to pay the taxes “we don’t deserve to give”.
The Board has also published a notice, asking residents falling within the domain of the Board, to clear tax payments by depositing it to the Board account or through online mode.
“It is for the information of all concerned residing within the jurisdiction of Badamibagh Cantonment Area who have not paid the Property / House Tax for the year 2021-22 are hereby again informed through this public notice that the payment for Property / House Tax be deposited on or before 30. September 2021 as already intimated through Demand Notice vide this office letter no. 7/6/3536/CI3/13B/609 dated 01.09.2021 sent to the residents of Cantonment Area by post failing which warrant of distress/attachment will be issued or suit will be filed for the recovery of the same with costs,” reads the Public Notice issued by CEO, Badami Bagh Cantonment Board.
They said that the board has unilaterally valued their properties and assessed the amounts to be paid.
“We are agitated against unilateral decisions of cantonment authorities. This is unjustified and unwarranted. We are being threatened that our properties will be auctioned if we fail to pay the taxes,” said Dr Rafiq Masoodi, a resident of Shivpora.
Masoodi has been served an amount of 39286 as property tax for two years. “The notice now says “attachment” means that they will attach our properties to collect some thousands,” he added.
He says the board has assessed the property value on their own. The locals say that notice comes at a time when the state economy is at its lowest ebb and people are struggling to make ends meet.
The Board has served notices to not only the Kashmiri Muslims but also Pandits as well.
Dileep Ganjoo, who lives in the Shivpora, told Kashmir Observer that he has been asked to pay an amount of Rs 28000 as property tax.
“The first notice of Rs 14000 was served last year and we decided not to pay now. They have added 14000 of this year and want us to clear it forthwith,” Ganjoo said.
He said one of his neighbours Kashmir Muslim was served an amount of Rs 34000 and is very much worried because he doesn’t earn much.
Ganjoo who has lived in the area for decades further said that they were never asked to pay the property taxes before.
“This happened post abrogation of article 370” he added.
It may be noted that the J&K administration has banned constructions and repair works in the vicinity of army’s field ordnance depots in Kashmir.
The notifications banning the works, unless approved by the army and the government, have been issued by the district commissioners under the provisions of Works of Defence Act (WODA), 1903.
Following the notification, the people of Indira Nagar locality were asked that no construction shall be made or altered in the area lying 500 yards from the outer crest of 2-Field Ordnance Depot (FOD), without prior approval of the deputy commissioner and General Officer Commanding.
The inhabitants maintain that the latest notice was in violation of the resolution passed by the elected members from the same areas, who unanimously rejected the proposal of charging house tax from the residents of the cantonment zone.
The notice was served two months after the term of elected board members expired.
The residents appeal to the authorities concerned to withdraw the notices and the attachment proceedings at the earliest.
Advocate, Afzal Parray, a resident of Indira Nagar told Kashmir Observer that Cantonment act section 60 clearly says if the Municipality charges property taxes in any state then the containment board can also charge.
“Our submission is since SMC is not charging property tax in their jurisdiction, why is Cantonment board charging,” Parray said.
The residents claim that the Jammu Cantonment board doesn’t demand any taxes from the people living under their jurisdictions. “We want to know why only in Kashmir, why not in Jammu” said Masoodi.
Chief Executive Officer Badamibagh Cantonment, Srinagar Upendra Kumar didn’t respond to repeated phone calls by this reporter.
Lieutenant Colonel Emron Musavi, PRO (Defence) Srinagar told Kashmir Observer that he will get the response from the board and get back to us.
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