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Consumer body moves court against `double' penalty

Special Correspondent

Right to Information Act invoked against Corporation

COIMBATORE: The Coimbatore Consumer Cause (CCC) has moved the Madras High Court against the Coimbatore Corporation, pleading for orders to halt the `double' penalty by the civic body collected for deviation from building plan.

The Corporation collects a penalty on a square feet basis that is to be paid along with the Property Tax twice a year. The penalty is levied on buildings that do not conform to the original plan approved by the local body or the Directorate of Town and Country Planning.

The Revenue Department of the Corporation is vested with the powers to collect this penalty if the buildings are found to have violated the building rules.

But the CCC had found that the Engineering Department also collected a one-time penalty for the same deviation while releasing drinking water connections. The CCC says that it had sought to draw the attention of the Corporation officials to the one-time penalty that is not provided for by the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation Act.

The argument of the CCC is that when the Revenue Department collects a recurring penalty, why should another department in the same civic body levy one more penalty for the same violation.

No response

In a plea before the High Court, the CCC, represented by its secretary, K. Kathirmathiyon, had claimed that it had brought this anomaly to the notice of the Corporation repeatedly and sought a clarification.

But with no response from the civic body, the CCC had decided to invoke the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Right to Information Act, 1997, to urge the Corporation to respond to this issue and provide the necessary information. It represented the case again to the Corporation on November 19, 2004, seeking information under the Act.

The CCC's contention is that the people are not aware that the one-time penalty has not been sanctioned by the Act. They are entitled to know that they need not pay such a penalty to two different sections of the same Corporation.

Notices issued

With no response from the Corporation or the Commissioner of Municipal Administration, Chennai, even to this, the CCC decided to file a public interest litigation petition in the High Court.

The petition came up for hearing on December 5. The court issued notices to the Corporation and its Commissioner to provide information sought by the CCC in 10 days and posted the matter for hearing on December 17.

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