People living within the jurisdiction of Badami Bagh Cantonment Board (BBCB), an autonomous body under the Ministry of Defense, have begun receiving property tax bills from the board for their commercial and residential structures in Srinagar.
Residents of several localities including Sonwar, Indra Nagar, Batwara, and Shivopora said that they have received property tax bills from the Board for the ongoing year. The bills have been charged as per the value of the property and range from Rs 2000-20,000.
The authorities, according to locals, have unilaterally valued their properties and assessed the amounts to be paid.
“No part of Srinagar or any other area of Jammu and Kashmir pays any tax on their own properties. This is a new gift after the abrogation of article 370,” Kashmir Life quoted a group of locals from Indra Nagar as saying.
While expressing their displeasure at the decision, the residents said such a move would only add to their miseries.
“I am a laborer and have worked hard to buy this property. This is my property, why should I pay the tax. Until now no one asked us to pay tax. Why are they doing it now,” a local asked.
Earlier in February this year, the administration of Jammu and Kashmir has ordered that the value of land notified in terms of Jammu and Kashmir Preparation and Revision of Market Value Guideline Rules, 2011 should adequately be factored in while determining the property tax.
The Housing and Urban Development Department had ordered that the value of land notified is adequately factored in while determining the unit area values for levy of property tax under different laws.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by the Jammu & Kashmir Property Tax Board Act, 2013, the Jammu & Kashmir Municipal Act, 2000, and the Jammu & Kashmir Municipal Corporation Act,2000, the Government hereby direct that for the levy of property tax on any land or building, the value of land as notified in terms of Jammu & Kashmir Preparation and Revision of Market Value Guideline Rules, 2011(circle rate) shall be a key determinant of the value of the property apart from the nature of construction, the kind of use, the age of the property, or any other relevant consideration,” read the notification.
It further added: “The Property Tax Board, or as the case may be, the Municipal Corporation, Council or Committee concerned shall ensure that the value of land so notified is adequately factored in while determining the unit area values for levy of property tax under the aforesaid Acts.”
It is worthwhile to mention that JK Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had last year said that the JK administration would not impose any property tax on the people in JK.
“Some people are saying that property tax will be levied from people of J-K. I am telling you clearly that no such tax would be levied in by the UT administration,” Sinha had said while addressing people in the Baramulla district.
Sinha, however, said that nobody should have any objection if elected representatives will take any decision for increasing facilities for the general public.
Meanwhile, residents of areas falling under Badamibagh Cantonment Board in the summer capital have decided against paying property taxes alleging that the authorities have “unilaterally” valued their properties and assessed the amounts to be paid.
The move from the general public came after they received fresh notices from the Badamibagh Cantonment Board asking them to clear the liability under property tax.
In J&K no property tax is levied, and as per residents of Badamibagh Cantonment, “forcing people to pay property tax is an effort to surpass Article 370 by every means and further weaken the special status of the state.”
“We will not allow board authorities to implement any central law in our areas. Why we shall be governed by the law which is not applicable in J&K,” said one for the locals of Batwara, wishing not to be named.
“No central law can be applicable to J&K if it is not ratified by the state legislature. The cantonment act 2006 was passed by the parliament but was never ratified by the J&K legislation. Therefore, its implementation in state or in any part of the J&K is null and void.”
Chairman Sub Auqaf Committee Batwara, Habibullah Bhat said that the representatives from various localities are meeting shortly to chalk out the future strategy. “We have communicated to the board authorities to roll back the property tax order or face agitation. In case they fail to roll it back or start to harm or threaten us in any manner for this tax collection, we will have no option but to take to streets,” said Bhat.
Locals said that all seven board members had opposed the imposition of this controversial property tax and also passed a resolution in this regard. “However, the chief executive officer of Board had arbitrarily issued the order for its collection,” said another local resident.
Local residents said the devastating flood of 2014 also shattered their economy. “We are yet to come out of the destruction. This (tax) is not acceptable to us,” said a local resident.
Earlier, the Badamibagh Cantonment Board had served notices to people residing in its jurisdiction and business establishment for filing details of property and business owned by them for imposition of Property Tax. However, people refused to file it and opposed the tax from the day one.
A cantonment board is an area notified by the government of India and is governed by the Cantonment Act. Apart from defense establishments, the civilian population also resides in the notified area. In 2013, the then National Conference-Congress government had to shelve the proposal for imposing property tax after separatists threatened to launch state-wide agitation against the move.