NDMC seeks Solicitor General’s opinion on Taj Mansingh issue

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on June 27, 2013

The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), which took up the Taj Mansingh Hotel issue in a meeting on Thursday, has decided to seek the opinion of the Solicitor General on the matter.

This is even after the Ministry of Home Affairs, in a letter dated May 10, had told the NDMC Council to conduct an open auction and not give the first right of refusal to Indian Hotels Company (IHCL), which operates the Taj Mahal Hotel at Mansingh Road in New Delhi.

The Solicitors General’s opinion is being sought through the Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the Urban Development Ministry.

Luxury hotel Taj Mansingh, situated at the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi, has been in the spotlight after its 33-year lease ended in 2011. Thereafter it got two extensions. The second extension will end in October 2013. In September, the Council had decided to go for open auctions, giving the first right of refusal to IHCL. This was decided to maximise the annual licence fee. However, after IHCL, filed suit in April seeking a stay on the auction, the Council took a U-turn and deferred the decision on the auction. It had also decided to convene a special meeting to look into the matter.

In the letter addressed to the Chairperson of NDMC, the Ministry of Home Affairs had said: “It is observed that the said proposal to allow IHCL to have the first right of refusal in the said public auction has not been provided for in the lease deed. A provision of the first right of refusal will result in lower bid in the public auction. Therefore the Ministry of Home Affairs is of the considered opinion that the first right of refusal should not be allowed to IHCL in the proposed auction and fresh lease should be granted by open public auction.”

Meanwhile, NDMC Member Karan Singh Tanwar said that “this decision (of seeking the Solicitor General’s opinion) will unnecessarily lead to a delay in the auction as the extended lease ends in October and the matter should be investigated by the CBI.”

He pointed out that the Additional Solicitor General, the Home Affairs Ministry and the Urban Development Ministry have already given their opinion and have said that there should be an open auction.

NDMC had also appointed Ernst & Young as a consultant as well had sought the opinion of the Additional Solicitor General.

Published on June 27, 2013

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