National

J&K to impose property tax

Srinagar: The State legislative Council on April 2 referred the controversial bills concerning imposition of property tax in the state to a joint select committee in the Upper House following public outcry over the issue.

The legislative assembly on March 31 passed a controversial law imposing tax on commercial and residential properties falling within municipal limits, amidst uproarious scenes and enmasse walk-out by the opposition.

The bills, JK Municipal (Amendment) Act 2000 and JK Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Act 2000, besides a bill to establish a Property Tax Board were passed by voice vote with only members from treasury benches available to consent the passage.

As per the law, 10 percent tax was to be levied on all commercial properties whereas four percent tax was to be imposed on residential properties falling within municipal corporations of Srinagar and Jammu. Lands upto 10 marlas and residential construction thereon were exempted.

In Municipal Committees, only commercial properties were to be charged tax with maximum ceiling of three percent. Commercial properties in Municipal Councils were to be charged upto seven percent while residential properties were to be charged upto a maximum of three percent.

The bills were earlier referred to the House Select Committee, which in its report suggested certain changes. The committee was divided over the issue and three out of seven members reportedly refused to sign.

Opposing imposition of property tax tooth and nail, Kashmir Economic Alliance (KEA), an amalgam of traders and industry bodies, asked the state government to re-think the legislation. “We appeal to the government to recall it so that people don’t feel the heat. Our economy is ailing for the last 20 years. It is not at all people or trade-friendly,” said Siraj Ahmad, representative of the Alliance, on April1.

Describing it as ‘anti-people’ aimed at crippling the economy of people, chairman of Hurriyat Conference (G), Syed Ali Shah Geelani said “it is a concern for us. Such legislations are aimed at choking the progress and prosperity of Kashmir and harass people.”

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of Hurriyat Conference (M), said it was an uncalled for move to impose tax on properties. “When you are affecting people on basic amenities of life, it will be disastrous.”

Leader of opposition and president PDP, Mehbooba Mufti, said NC-led coalition government wants to ‘bulldoze everything’ in the state. “This is for the second time when the entire opposition staged a walkout over an issue but treasury benches haven’t accorded any ear to our protests,” she said at Jammu.

The Deputy Chief Minister, Tara Chand, who is also incharge of Housing and Urban Development, introduced the Bills and said government has only reformed an old Act and interests of people have been kept in mind before bringing in amendments.

Minister of State for Urban Development, Nasir Aslam Wani said, “The Act is old. It was introduced in the year 2000. Instead of increasing taxes we’ve reduced it. BPL families, agriculture land, war-widows, widows, educational institutions and hospitals have been exempted,” he said.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2011 on page no. 15

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