HIGH COURT OF DELHI
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M.S.A.SIDDIQUI, J. -
(1.)THE petitioner seeks quashing of the impugned assessment order fixing the annual rateable value of the Maurya Sheraton Hotel & Towers, Sardar Patel Marg, New Delhi at Rs. 96,80,37,888/- less 10% with effect from 1.4.1995.
(2.)THE validity of the impugned assessment order has been challenged on various grounds enumerated in the writ petition. The grounds of challenge are inter-connected and substantially relate to one matter i.e., measure for determination of the annual rateable value of the property in question. However, main grievance of the petitioner is that the taxing authority did not observe the law and failed in its duty to determine the annual rateable value of the property in question in accordance with Section 6 of the Delhi Rent Control Act as directed by the Apex Court in Civil Appeal No. 42-44/87, New Delhi Municipal Committee v. East India Hotels Ltd. It is further stated that the impugned order is without jurisdiction and as such it is null and void. Learned counsel for the respondent raised a preliminary objection about maintainability of the writ petition. According to the learned counsel for the respondents, the NDMC Act provides an effective form to resolve the dispute pertaining to the levy and assessment of property tax and the petitioner should exhaust the said alternative statutory remedy before invoking extraordinary jurisdiction of this Court. Learned counsel for the petitioner, on the other hand contends that existence of an alternative remedy does not affect the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. It was also contended that this is a case where the taxing authority has committed a patent illegality by determining the rateable value of the property in question in violation of the law laid down by the Apex Court in NDMC v. East India Hotels Ltd. (supra). It was further contended that the impugned assessment order is null and void and it is, therefore, open to a party aggrieved by such illegal assessment order to move this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution for issuing appropriate writ for quashing it without his being obliged to pursue an onerous or inefficacious alternative remedy.
At the outset I must make it clear that the New Delhi Municipal Council Act is a complete code in itself. It lays down the procedure for assessing the property tax. It further provides for right to appeal in case the assessee is not satisfied with the assessment order. Now would it be legitimate for this Court to ignore the provisions of the said Act providing the machinery to resolve the dispute pertaining to the levy, assessment or collection of property tax and proceed to exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction at the initial stage. In Siliguri Municipality v. Amlendu Dass, AIR 1984 SC 653, it has been held that a levy or impost does not become bad as soon as a writ petition is instituted in order to assail the validity of the levy. It is also well settled that when an alternative and equally efficacious remedy is open to a litigant, he should be required to pursue that remedy and not to invoke the special jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. It is true that the existence of statutory remedy does not affect the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, but as observed by the Supreme Court in Rashid Ahmad v. Municipal Board, AIR 1950 SC 163, ''the existence of an adequate legal remedy is a thing to be taken into consideration in the matter of granting writs. Thus the existence of an alternative remedy is a very material circumstance to be taken into account when the Court is called upon to issue a prerogative writ under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. In Union of India v. T.R. Verma, AIR 1957 SC 882, it was held that when such remedy exists, it will be sound exercise of discretion to refuse to interfere in a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution, unless there are special or exceptional circumstances therefor. In this connection, emphasis is laid on the following observations made by the Supreme Court in Assistant Collector of Central Excise, Chandan Nagar v. Dunlop India Ltd., AIR 1985 SC 330;
''It has become necessary, even now for us to repeat this admonition indeed is a matter of tragic concern to us. Article 226 is not meant to short-circuit or circumvent statutory procedures. It is only where statutory remedies are entirely ill-suited to meet the demands of extraordinary situations as for instance where the very vires of the statute is in question or where private or public wrongs are so inextricably mixed up and the prevention of public injury and the vindication of public justice require it that recourse may be had to Article 226 of the Constitution. But then the Court must have good and sufficient reason to by-pass the alternative remedy provided by statute. Surely matters involving the revenue where statutory remedies are available are not such matters. We can also take judicial notice of the fact that the vast majority of the petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution are filed solely for the purpose of obtaining interim orders and thereafter prolong the proceedings by this device or the other. The practice certainly needs to be strongly discouraged. (emphasis supplied)
(3.)IN Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. C.L. Batra, 1994(5) JT (SC) 241 : 1994(3) RRR 216(SC), the Supreme Court had occasion to consider an interim order made by this Court in the matter of property tax. The assessee filed a suit in this Court and obtained an interim order of stay against the recovery of property tax. While reversing the interim order of this Court, their Lordships of the Supreme Court pointed out that there was no satisfactory explanation as to why the statutory remedy of appeal was allowed to be by- passed.
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