In Taj Mahal Hotel (Mansingh) vs NDMC case, Arvind Kejriwal scores second victory

S V Krishnamachari
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Arvind Kejriwal, one of the ex-officio members of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) by virtue of being the chief minister of Delhi, tasted success for the second time against star hotels on Thursday. April 20, when the Supreme Court rejected the Tata Group's final attempt to prevent the auction of its prestigious Taj Mahal Hotel on Mansingh Road, New Delhi.

The apex court's verdict marks a victory for the civic body (NDMC) that had sought to auction after the lease with the Tatas ended six years ago. Last month, Kejriwal had said that the Taj Mahal Hotel on Mansingh Road would be sold in an open auction.  

The silver lining for the Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) is that the company will be allowed six months to vacate the area if it fails to win in the online auction to be conducted by the NDMC, according to the Supreme Court.

The NDMC and IHCL, that owns the Taj chain of hotels, had entered into an agreement in 1976 to construct and run a five-star hotel in the city's prime location on Mansingh Road. The lease agreement expired in 2009 and extensions were given till 2011; since then there has been a litigation between the two parties over the property.

IHCL had approached the Supreme Court last November after the Delhi High Court gave the go-ahead for auctioning the Mansingh Road property.  

IHCL shares closed 1.33 percent lower at Rs 126 on Thursday on the BSE. The Taj chain comprises 100 hotels in 62 locations across India and 15 properties in the Maldives, Malaysia, the UK, the US, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Africa and the Middle East, according to an update on its website.

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On March 2 this year, the NDMC had cracked the whip on Le Meridien Hotel by cancelling its licence after it failed to pay Rs 520 dues to the civic body.

The hotel had secured the licence in 1982 for 99 years.

The three contenders to the elections for 272 seats to the three municipal bodies are the AAP, Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

Otherwise an insignificant election, it is being seen as a proxy battle between Kejriwal-led AAP and Amit Shah-led BJP, while the Congress is widely believed to be a fringe player, given its current state of affairs. 

In all, 2,537 candidates are in the fray, the AAP contesting for all the 272 wards. The other two civic bodies are South Delhi Municipal Corporation and North Delhi Municipal Corporation (each 104 wards) while East Delhi Municipal Corporation has 62 wards. The results will be declared on April 26.

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