RTI plea sought info on Rs 7 crore rent dues of Palika Bhavan traders.
New Delhi: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) to disclose details of all outstanding dues towards shopkeepers of Palika Bhavan in R.K. Puram after it surfaced that dues amounting to `7 crore were pending.
The CIC said that the civic body was attempting to keep the information under cover by denying the same under the clause of the RTI Act that exempts information related to commercial confidence, trade secrets, or intellectual property, unless it involves larger public interest.
“An honest citizen, who pays his dues, cannot be ignored by a civil body by sparing coercive action and extending tacit support to defaulters. Resistance to recover outstanding dues and efforts to keep the information guarded tends to legitimise the conduct of defaulters, besides causing heartburn to the upright tax payer,” said information commissioner Yashovardhan Azad.
The RTI applicant, who himself is a shopkeeper in the Palika Bhavan, has alleged that the majority of occupants in the said premises have not been paying the license fee, which is akin to rent for over decades. He alleged that the NDMC had taken no steps to recover the outstanding dues, which aggregates to millions of rupees.
He said that the office space in the business centre was allotted to the present occupants on leasehold basis.
“Upon a query from the commission, the appellant states that some of the shops/commercial spaces were allotted way back in 1980 and a few licensees have not bothered to pay any license fee since initial allotment. He also talked about the unholy nexus between the defaulter allottees and the officers of NDMC,” added Mr Azad. The NDMC did not send its officials for the hearing despite notices from the transparency watchdog.
The CIC summoned the records of outstanding bills from the NDMC, whi-ch showed “a rather sordid and contaminated state of affairs.” The records cited by the information commissioner in his order show that over `7 crore is pending, as on September 14, towards 25 shopkeepers in Palika Bhavan.
“The situation is alarming as it has a direct impact on the financial health of NDMC,” said Mr Azad.