The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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State mulls appeal to clear tax hurdle

A day after Calcutta High Court stalled the move to collect one-time five-year tax on four-wheelers and life-time 15-year tax on two-wheelers, the government on Saturday decided to appeal to the division bench challenging the order.

Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya, while passing the order on Friday, had stated that the government could not collect one-time tax on motor vehicles as the rules framed by the transport department were not permitted by the law. The court had also directed the transport department to refund the money which it had already collected from vehicle-owners, along with interest, within two months.

Soon after the judgment, transport department officials discussed the matter with advocate-general Balai Roy and other legal experts to chalk out the next course of action. The legal experts opined that there was scope to challenge Justice Bhattacharya’s judgment.

Informed of the development, state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty directed his departmental officials to proceed for an appeal before the division bench.

“I do not want to comment on the judgment. Still I would say that our actions are in accordance with the law. We have passed the bill and made the enactment following constitutional provisions,” he said, adding that the case had not been represented properly. “Our lawyers were unable to establish the government’s stand in court,’’ Chakraborty observed.

If necessary, the minister said, the government would move the Supreme Court. “It is the state government which has to shoulder the responsibility to implement projects on transport infrastructure. We also have to collect funds for the projects. The government imposes and increases taxes from time to time to raise funds. Nobody has any authority to stall the government’s moves to earn revenue,” the minister maintained.

Senior transport department officials also observed that it was the state government’s sole discretion to collect revenue and the court could not interfere in the matter.

The minister has expressed his displeasure about government lawyers to his departmental officers. “Be it in the Bharat Stage-II case or the one-time five-year tax case, our lawyers should have been more serious,’’ he reportedly said.

The government is also considering deputation of a senior advocate to assist the advocate-general when the case will come up for hearing in the high court.

The government had made an enactment, the West Bengal Additional Tax and One-time Tax on Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2003 after amending the existing Motor Vehicles Act, 1948. On the basis of the new act, the transport department started collecting one-time five-year tax on four-wheelers and one-time 15-year tax on two wheelers. Several individuals had moved court against the action.

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