DB passes strictures for slow progress, directs State not to consider any amnesty

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Sept 5: Expressing displeasure over the ‘slackness’ in recovery of Sales Tax arrears worth crores of rupees from large number of defaulters, Division Bench of State High Court comprising Justice Virender Singh and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, today passed strictures against the Commercial Taxes Department and directed the State not to frame any amnesty scheme at this stage.
After referring the orders issued from time to time in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking recovery of Sales Tax arrears from hundreds of defaulters, the Division Bench observed, “a perusal of the fresh status report filed by the State reveals that all is not well in the Commercial Taxes Department. Certain defaulters, whose complete addresses are given in the chart, are shown to be not traceable. Some persons have been shown to be migrants. No material has been placed before the Court to show that serious and honest steps were taken in tracing out the whereabouts of the persons who fall in the category of not traceable and Migrants”.
“The State authorities cannot be said to be helpless and hapless in tracing out the defaulters, who have swindled the public exchequer of huge amounts. Serious efforts and effective steps are required to be taken for effecting recovery of taxes”, the DB further observed, adding “it was submitted at the Bar that in the past State formulated amnesty schemes where under not only the penalty and interest was waived off but the defaulters were asked to pay the taxes recovered by them from the consumers in installments thus causing huge loss to the public exchequer”.
The DB further observed: “The in-direct taxes under the relevant acts are being paid by every section of the society. The rich as also the poor are paying these types of taxes. Even that section of society which is under the category of Below Poverty Line and those persons who are surviving by taking one meal a day, also pay these indirect taxes. Like other taxes, these taxes are being used for over all welfare of the people but because of the in-action and some where connivance of some of the officers of the Commercial Taxes Department, huge amount in the shape of taxes is being illegally and unjustifiably retained by some dealers/ sellers which in turn results in unjust and illegal enrichment of such persons. The amount, which is required to be spent on the welfare programs and for the benefit of common man finds its way into coffers of few individuals”.
“What is shocking the conscious is that most of the people who are charged with the onerous duty to enforce the tax laws are not discharging their duties honestly, resultantly making the tax laws literally redundant and useless. What appears from the record is that the directions issued by the Division Bench on June 15, 2012 still remain to be complied with”, the DB observed while expressing concern over the non-compliance of the directions issued from time to time in the PIL.
The DB declined the request of Senior Additional Advocate General Gagan Basotra appearing for the State to grant three months time for complying with the directions issued on June 15, 2012 and observed, “there has been failure to enforce and implement the tax laws with all seriousness and in right earnest. The statutory mechanism has not been exploited honestly and diligently so as to get the desired results. The authorities are duty bound to enforce the laws with vibrating and pulsating enthusiasm”.
After hearing Senior Advocate Sunil Sethi assisted by Advocate Deewakar Sharma for the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) whereas Senior AAG Gagan Basotra and AAG Seema Shekhar for the State, the DB directed the State respondents to comply with the directions issued on June 15, 2012 by or before the September 25, 2012.
In the significant order written by Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar, the DB directed the respondent-state not to frame any amnesty scheme at this stage for recovering the taxes from the defaulters but strictly follow the mandate of tax laws. “The State has to put in a proper mechanism to ensure the implementation of tax laws and recovery of taxes”, the DB said and further directed the competent authority to consider initiation of disciplinary action against erring officers/ officials.
Keeping in view the public interest involved in the PIL filed by Balvinder Singh, Convener Sangarsh RTI Movement, the DB summoned a fresh status report before next date of hearing.

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