The Telegraph
Tuesday , June 17 , 2014
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Odisha’s crores tied in legal knots

- Opposition questions govt’s sincerity in pursuing cases in courts

Bhubaneswar, June 16: The cash-strapped state government finds itself in an ironical situation with Rs 51,000 crore worth of arrears tax revenue locked up in court cases.

Finance minister Pradip Kumar Amat said: “There are 7,180 cases involving Rs 51,914.13 crore of outstanding revenue in various courts.” The maximum amount pertains to mining revenue cases with Rs 46,191.69 crore blocked because of 122 pending cases. While 13 of these cases are before Orissa High Court, the remaining 109 cases are pending in lower courts.

Mining, undoubtedly, remains the major source of revenue. This has been badly affected by the closure of mines following a multi-crore scam. Now, court cases thwarting recovery of revenue has compounded the situation.

The Opposition parties accused the state government of not being sincere in pursuing the pending court cases. Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra said the state government had enacted a law for imposing tax on mineral bearing land. The bill was passed hastily ignoring the Opposition’s objections, and subsequently, the high court struck it down. The matter was pending in the Supreme Court. “Had the law been enforced, the state could have earned more than Rs 30,000 crore,” said Mishra, a former law minister.

“The state could have gone for a fresh legislation. When we are crying for money, why there is callousness on part of the government to ensure early disposal of cases,” he said.

Mishra said: “When the state government engaged senior lawyers in the Supreme Court to defend its stand against a CBI probe into mining scam and deposit collection scam, it’s not fighting other pending cases that seriously.” Echoing Mishra, BJP leader K.V. Singh Deo demanded serious efforts by the government to ensure quick disposal of the cases. “The government is concerned. I have instructed the officials to engage competent lawyers,” said the finance minister.

He said advocates-on-record and legal retainers had been appointed to defend the cases, while senior lawyers were engaged to expedite trial of some. Senior lawyers K.K. Venugopal, Ranjit Kumar and Rakesh Dwivedy had been engaged to fight commercial tax cases and A.K. Ganguly to fight industrial water tax cases. Senior BJD leaders and former ministers Debasish Nayak and Amar Prasad Satpathy suggested the government to set up a task force to monitor the cases and introduce one-time settlement scheme to settle the pending cases out of court.

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