SC allows NDMC to e-auction Taj Mansingh hotel

In an earlier hearing the apex court had asked NDMC to reconsider its decision as the IHCL had approached the apex court against a Delhi high court’s ruling allowing the auction of Taj Mansingh Hotel

The High Court had dismissed IHCL's petition challenging the move by the NDMC to auction the property.

Six years after the lease of Tata Group's Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) to manage the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel on Mansingh Road in Lutyen's Delhi expired, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that the rights of managing the hotel be e-auctioned by the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) without any right of first refusal (RoFR) to the Tata Group.

The court had earlier asked IHCL, which challenged a Delhi high court order allowing the hotel's auction, to file objections, if any, within a week.

The Indian Hotel Company (IHCL), which manages the property popularly known as Taj Mansingh, will take part in the e-auction.

Earlier, the civic body, which looks after areas pertaining to Lutyens' Delhi, also conducted the e-auction of Asian Hotel through MSTC, which resulted in more than 15 times increase in the licence fee, which used to be Rs 3 lakh per month earlier.

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In January 2017, the apex court directed the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) to review its decision of auctioning the hotel. The court was hearing the submissions made by the NDMC and from the IHCL. IHCL, which runs the Taj Mansingh Hotel in the national capital, had on November 8 past year approached the apex court against the Delhi High Court order which had paved the way for auctioning of the iconic property.

However, the bench of Justices PC Ghose and RF Nariman asked the civic body to consider the "blemish-free" record of IHCL while auctioning the hotel. The home ministry later said that such an arrangement would lower the potential proceeds from an auction. Subsequently, two legal opinions were sought - one from Mohan Parasaran, solicitor general during the UPA government and later from attorney general Mukul Rohatgi.

"...a public auction with an RoFR is impractical and would never yield a correct and fair price".

Explaining the reason behind the judgement, the court said that, "Unless there is a social or a welfare objective or any other public interest which is served, an asset held for the benefit of the public, if commercially exploited should be by way of an auction or an open competitive bidding because it would then fetch the maximum revenue".

The Tatas had been given a 33-year lease for the property. Prior to it, IHCL paid 10.5% of its gross revenue to NDMC.

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