CHENNAI : A residents' welfare activist from Pattabiram has used the Right to Information Act (RTI) to settle a 15-year-long dispute with the Avadi Municipality over property tax assessment.

Augustine Roy Rozario, a resident of Cholan Nagar in Pattabiram, said he had disputed the municipality's assessment of his annual rental value and subsequently the half-yearly property tax in 1989.

"The officials had fixed the tax twice as much as that for other similar houses nearby. I had submitted a revision petition within 30 days of the assessment and subsequently filed petitions at the Tax Appeal Committee meetings. They never revised my tax and ultimately issued a notice in 1992 saying that my property would be attached if I did not pay dues, as calculated by them."

Mr.Rozario moved the Poonamallee court in 1992, which ultimately gave an order in his favour in 2004. The court ordered that the assessment done by Avadi Municipality was arbitrary. The municipal officers, however, decided to challenge the order as it was granted ex-parte. With no legal action in the last two years, Mr.Rozario decided to seek information under the RTI about the reasons for the delay in re-assessment of his property to settle the issue.

"Not an easy task"

Even though it was the questions he filed under the RTI that finally helped Mr. Rozario resolve the tax dispute, he said the procedures he went through were not easy.

"It was not easy to file the application, as I had to obtain the treasury challan from the Chennai Collectorate, get the head of accounts from the general-secretary of the Thandurai-Pattabiram Consumer Protection Council, remit Rs.10 in cash at the State Bank of India, Treasury Branch, in Thousand Lights, and finally send the application by registered post."
Mr.Rozario was shocked when his application was returned because of a spelling mistake in the name of the Principal Information Officer.

"I had spelt the name as Varadarajan instead of Varadarajulu. However, the officer was courteous and kind enough to accept the application when he personally explained and handed over the representation."

Though the Municipal Administration Department had forwarded the RTI application to Avadi Municipality, Mr.Rozario did not get a reply within the stipulated 30 days. He then sent an appeal under Section 19(1) of RTI to the Appellate Authority.
Finally, the revenue officials of Avadi Municipality visited Mr.Rozario's residence in December and he was able to get the property reassessed.

The Hindu : Tamil Nadu / Chennai News : How RTI Act came to his rescue

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