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Former NDMC boss did not go ‘soft’ on Le Meridien

Former NDMC boss did not go ‘soft’ on Le Meridien
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The ongoing tax dispute between Le Meridien Hotel and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) seems to be an outcome of a tussle between two senior bureaucrats of the civic body. According to the documents accessed by Millennium Post, former Council Chairperson Jalaj Shrivastav had directed the hotel to deposit Rs 150 crore as license fee while leaving the dispute of the remaining Rs 360 crore on the final decision of the Delhi high court. 

However, after he was transferred, a disgruntled officer shot a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs alleging Shrivastav of ordering a full and final settlement of Rs 180 crore. The ministry then constituted a committee, headed by K K Pathak, which recommended a CBI inquiry, ignoring several facts related to this case.

It has been confirmed from sources that several important points were concealed in the matter. It was revealed from the NDMC files that on April 20, before the court appearance, Chairman (Jalaj Shrivastav), gave a clear order in the file that there is no question of settlement or compromise and NDMC has only accepted the undisputed amount from the hotel, and the remaining would be as per court orders, in due course.

On April 21, the court passed orders under the impression that a settlement had been reached. Its formal orders were available only on July 27, and the entire confusion was created because of this decree which stated that due to a joint petition filed by NDMC and the hotel, a compromise has been reached and the case has been closed. Report is that no joint petition was filed, and no compromise was ever reached. No such petition exists, yet this decree is the mother of all allegations.

Even so, when this information reached NDMC, the Chairman again recorded on the file on April 30 itself that the NDMC stand has been misunderstood and immediately a revision petition should be filed in the court for the rectification, as it is not a case of NDMC satisfaction on which the case has been set aside. On May1, Shrivastav relinquished the charge.

On July 20, Pathak committee submitted a report on which the Ministry decided this to be worthy of a CBI investigation. The report itself admits that the committee had never been shown the NDMC files at all. Secondly, it is revealed that the committee hardly bothered to seek the version of the Chairman or any other NDMC official, except the main complainant who had not even worked in NDMC between November 27, 2014 and June 6, 2015. Therefore, the Pathak committee conclusions, about irregularity in the hotel issue, were based only on the complainant’s one-sided version. Based on his report, the MHA recommended for a CBI inquiry.

Additionally, the complaints raised by B N Singh, an IAS officer who was in the NDMC for only a few weeks, during December 2014 – January 2015, were sent by the Home Ministry to NDMC for their response. On March 31, 2015, a seven-page letter containing 21 Annexures, were sent by Shrivastav to the Ministry explaining every point in the original complaints.

The Chairman sent the complaints (against himself) to the Ministry and Central Vigilance Commission, requesting them for a probe. 

These complaints were examined by the Central Vigilance Commission and the case was closed as early as on June 5, 2015. It appears that the MHA did not consider this closure report of the Central Vigilance Commission.

As per information collected from the Property Tax department of the NDMC, hotel Le Meridian, has in 28 years, paid about Rs 407 crore to NDMC already. As compared to this, two other similar hotels in the New Delhi area, have paid upto Rs 300 crore in 38 years of operation, and only Rs 72 crore in 32 years of operation respectively. 

Thus it seems that there is a certain amount of anomaly in the agreements between these hotels and the NDMC.
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