On Friday i.e. Sep 25, 2020, the Delhi High Court announced that it would hear a plea filed by Advocate Nikhil Mehta on behalf of a lawyer’s association that challenged the charging of commercial property tax on advocate’s office by municipal corporations. The plea would be heard on September 30, 2020. The Hon’ble Justice Najmi Waziri pointed out that the issue challenged in the petition was of the nature of a PIL. Thus, it would be best if the matter be listed before an appropriate bench having jurisdiction. This would be subject to the order of Chief Justice.
The petition filed by the Lawyers Association posed a challenge to the decision of the Municipal authority to treat the use of premises by an advocate as commercial activity. The taxes were levied accordingly. The plea was registered by Delhi High Court Bar Association. It was presided by President Mathur and Secretary Abhijat. The plea challenged “an assessment order passed by SDMC in November 2018 and any other notice issued thereafter by the three MCDs -- South, East, and North -- for self-assessment of property tax returns of lawyers offices under provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.”
According to the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, a new method of assessment, called the use factor’ system for property tac and for advocates was introduced. Under this, there is no particular section however they are charged on the basis of methods applicable to commercial properties that attract the highest tax.
“All the professionals form one class but the legal profession has been treated as part of commercial activity, which is illegal, arbitrary and contrary to the law laid down by this court, the plea said, adding that the office of legal professionals should be use factor' 1 which is for a residential and public purpose.”
A representation of the Bar Council of India was sent to the municipal corporations on July 21. He was sent for a reduction of the use factor 4 to 1 for levy of property tax in respect of offices of advocates in Delhi.
The plea that was filed remained the court that the lawyers that were present before the court not only represent their clients but also assist the court to dispense justice
“As an interim relief, the plea sought to stay the operation of November 2018 notice issued by the authorities for self-assessment property tax return of the lawyer's office.”