4Case I: A flat in Mahendra Chatterjee Lane had an annual valuation of Rs 8,350; the owner protested, the Municipal Assessment Tribunal (MAT) heard the case out and brought down the annual valuation to Rs 2,500
4Case II: Another flat on Dr Rajendra Road had an annual valuation of Rs 25,890; again, the owner protested and the case was taken to MAT, which brought it down to Rs 12,080
Alarmed at the growing number of cases in which the MAT — comprising West Bengal Civil Service (WBCS) officers — has brought down the annual valuation of properties by more than half the original amount decreed, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has issued a circular to regularise the scheme.
Hinting that “corruption” played a major role in most cases of “surprising reduction” — which, ultimately, brought down the amount of revenue the CMC was earning — a senior municipal affairs and urban development department officer said the CMC, henceforth, will look into cases where the quantum of reduction was over 10 per cent.
The decision to initiate ‘review petitions’ against MAT directives — for any 10 per cent-plus downward revision of the annual valuation as originally fixed by the hearing officer — was taken to clamp down on “rampant corruption”, officers said on Monday.
A senior CMC official said the issue was taking on a “political colour”. As the WBCS officers making up the MAT were sent by the state government (the Left Front), and as the “suffering party” in this case was the CMC (controlled by the Trinamul Congress), it was natural that “political motives” would be read into the cases of corruption, he explained.
According to rules, each and every property in areas under CMC jurisdiction is evaluated every six years. The CMC sends a notification to the owner after an on-the-spot inspection report is submitted by the CMC inspector, asking him to be present before the hearing officer with details of the property.
The hearing officer, also a WBCS officer, passes a verdict after hearing the owner's arguments. The owner gets another shot at an appeal. He goes to the MAT, comprising a chairman and two members (all WBCS officers), and lays out his arguments against the CMC’s “over-rating” his annual valuation.
It is here, say officials, that many “surprising cases of reduction” crop up. “There are cases where the annual valuation has been decreased by 80 per cent of the amount decreed by the hearing officer,” a senior CMC official said.
The circular, officers maintain, will stem the rot. “If the owner of a property realises that his case will be dragged into a fresh review if the quantum of reduction is abnormal, chances of corruption are automatically minimised,” one of them said.