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Opinion

Gauhati HC issues notice to Nagaland government on ‘illegal taxes’

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Gauhati’s Kohima Bench High Court notified the Nagaland government on Friday after admitting a public interest litigation (PIL) regarding the alleged rampant tax collection in Nagaland, brought by three social organizations – Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation (ACAUT) Nagaland, Public Action Committee (PAC) and Nagaland Business Association (BAN).

The state government, represented by the Chief Secretary, Chairman of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes (Government of India), Commissioner and Secretary of Municipal Affairs, Commissioner Nagaland, Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of Taxes, administrators of the Kohima and Dimapur municipal councils and Director-General of Police (DGP) Nagaland were named as respondents in the PIL.

The PIL, filed under article 226, seeks court intervention to pass the necessary directives regarding “illegal taxes” collected by various government departments, Naga political groups, etc. The petition mentions that a representation was sent on November 25, 2020 to the defendants for the necessary actions, but to date, no action has been taken to resolve the public complaints highlighted in the representation.

The petitioners maintained that they were not challenging the Tax on Goods and Services or any other tax legally imposed pursuant to the provisions of the constitution. However, they asserted that the threat of “illegal taxes” prevailing in the state is creating fear and resentment among the business community and the public, thereby violating people’s fundamental rights to live with dignity, to live without fear, to the freedom to profess any profession and the right to equality and equal protection of the law guaranteed by the constitution, as well as by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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On Friday, a two-judge court of the Gauhati High Court, in an order, served notifications to the defendants, which can be returned within five weeks. While the government’s top defender accepted the notice on behalf of all respondents, the petitioners were asked to take steps to notify the Central Board of Indirect Taxes within three days.

With Friday being the last business day of court, the matter will be brought back after winter break.

When contacted by the consumer rights activist and convenor of the ACAUT legal cell, defender Kezhokhoto Savi said that the three organizations had filed the PIL due to rampant taxation by government and non-government bodies.

“For example, there is a permanent government order on closing all tax booths at control gates since 2017, but unauthorized tax collection still continues in those places,” Savi said. With the matter on the list for an additional hearing, I was hopeful for a positive outcome that would help the general public.

Reference site

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