Licence of the city’s Le Meridien Hotel cancelled.
New Delhi: Two years after the Centre’s nod, decks have been cleared to auction the iconic Taj Mahal hotel on Mansingh Road. The decision was taken at a meeting of New Delhi Municipal Council on Thursday, while it also decided to cancel the licence of the famous Le Meridien Hotel over pending dues of Rs 523 crore. The NDMC has been embroiled in legal battles with the two hotels for a long time now. The NDMC decision has also been backed by the Union home ministry.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, a member of NDMC Council, made the announcement following a special meeting of its top decision-making body. “Important decisions today’s NDMC meeting — open auction of Taj Mahal, cancel Le Meridian Hotel licence…(sic),” Mr Kejriwal tweeted.
Taj Mansingh (as it is popularly known), owned by NDMC, was given to Tata’s Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) on lease for 33 years. The lease expired in 2011 and the company was given nine temporary extensions since then on various grounds. NDMC, which works under the administrative control of the Union Home Ministry, had got the nod to auction the hotel in March 2015.
The civic body had also selected SBI Cap, which was the Centre’s advisor for coal block auctions, to be its transaction advisor for the auction. However, the process got delayed with the Tatas moving court.
The Supreme Court in January this year asked NDMC to reconsider the decision to auction the property. According to minutes of the today’s meeting, “The best available method to NDMC...To obtain the fair market value of rental of the said property in a fair and transparent manner is to opt for e-auction of the premises (sic).”
A senior NDMC official said the right to first refusal has been denied to the Tatas in this auction, which means the company can’t take part in the process. “The right of first refusal to the Tatas will not be in public interest and would not yield a correct and fair price. The Supreme Court will be apprised of the decision accordingly,” a senior NDMC official said.
An IHCL spokesman, when contacted, said, “As the matter is sub-judice, we will not be able to comment on this.”
The civic body also decided to cancel the licence of Le Meridien in the Lutyens’ Delhi. “The council decided that the licence of the hotel be terminated due to non-payment of licence fee worth Rs 523 crore and the Delhi high court will be apprised accordingly, keeping in view the gross abuse of the process of law by the hotel,” the NDMC official said.
The Council in its meeting has also decided to conduct fresh e-auction for licensing out the Asian Hotel on licence basis.