The Scope of Interference in Revenue Matters by the Court Is Limited and Relief Can Be Granted Only if Statutory Violations Are Established: Kerala High Court

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Facts of the Case:

The petitioner was a leaseholder for running a two-wheeler parking facility for the commuters of the Pollachi bus stop specifically at Nachimuthu Maternity Hospital, Pollachi Municipality. A tender by the 4th respondent was invited to grant a license to collect parking charges and the petitioner had successfully bidded for a two-wheeler parking facility in Nachimuthu Maternity Hospital. 

 

According to the terms and conditions of the tender, the period of licence was for three years from 01.02.2019 to 31.03.2022. The annual licence fee for the first year was Rs.20,82,000/- and the same would increase by 5% for subsequent years. For every year, the annual licence fee had to be deposited in advance and a sum of Rs.6,00,000/- had to be paid as a refundable deposit.

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The petitioner had paid the amount for the first year and security deposit in advance. The 4th respondent thus issued a license to the petitioner in proceedings dated 31.01.2019 and it was valid from 01.02.2019 to 31.03.2022.

 

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According to the petitioner, in second-year Rs. 21,86, 100/- from 01.02.2020 to 31.01.2021 had been paid. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government had imposed travel restrictions. Therefore, the petitioner was not able to operate the two-wheeler parking facility and she was not in a position to run the business profitably. The lockdown period was extended and partial lifting and relaxation of the restrictions did not create any conducive atmosphere for running the two-wheeler parking facility. Hence, the petitioner couldn’t pay the amount for the period 01.02.2021 to 31.01.2022.

The 4th respondent had adjusted the deposit amount of Rs. 9,82,568/- and directed the petitioner to deposit the balance amount of Rs.13,12,840/-. However, the petitioner couldn’t pay the amount for more than 4 months and thus 4th respondent had issued a final notice calling upon the petitioner to pay the balance amount within 3 days failing which, the licence would be cancelled as per the terms and conditions and the leasing right would be placed for open public auction.

 

The petitioner had challenged the final notice issued on 03.06.2021, directing the petitioner to deposit the balance lease amount of Rs. 13,12,840/- within 3 days. The notice stated that if the same was not paid, the license would be cancelled and a public auction would be conducted. 

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Arguments by both the Parties

The Petitioner had submitted that the amount couldn’t be paid immediately due to the COVID-19 situation and a representation dated 31.05.2021 was also sent to the respondents to consider the same. Thus, further time is to be granted for the payment of the lease amount as sought by the respondents.

 

Court’s Observation

The court had observed that the license was granted for a tenure of 3 years. The petitioner had already completed 2 years. The respondent had called for petitioners to pay the licence fee for the 3 years and even after a lapse of 4 months, the petitioner didn’t pay the said amount. The court opined that the 4th respondent had to implement various welfare schemes for the benefit of the public at large from and out of the funds collected by way of tax, lease amount etc. The court opined that non-payment of lease or licence amount would affect the interest of the Municipality and would result in denial of basic amenities to the citizens of the local area.

The courts were thus expected to be cautious in the matter of collection of revenue by the competent authorities. If a right or violation was established by the authorities, then only relief could be granted and in all other circumstances, the licence holders were bound to pay the dues as per the terms and conditions of the lease agreement between the parties.

 

The court opined that the scope of interference to the revenue matters by the Court was limited and only if statutory violations were established, relief can be granted. In the present case, the petitioner had already earned a profit for more than two years and therefore, could not refuse to pay the balance license amount to the 4th respondent. A period of 4 months had already elapsed and the 4th respondent had also granted time to pay the balance amount. 

 

Court’s Decision

The court had held that there was no infirmity or perversity in respect of the notice issued by the 4th respondent. The Petitioner had to pay the balance amount or hand over the possession of the subject property to the 4th respondent immediately. Thereby, enabling them to proceed with open public auction. The impugned notice was issued on 03.06.2021 granting 3 days to the petitioner and the period granted had already lapsed. 

The petitioner was thus, at liberty to pay the license amount on or before 16.06.2021. The court had also held that if the payment was made by the petitioner, the respondent would allow the petitioner to continue the lease till the date of expiry. The failure in payment would enable the respondents to proceed with an open public auction without any further delay.

The court disposed of the writ petition with the above observations and directions.   

D.Suguna v. The State of Tamil Nadu & Others 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE JUDGMENT

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