The Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court has served notice to the government of Nagaland on Friday after admitting a public interest litigation (PIL) regarding alleged rampant collection of taxes in Nagaland, filed by three social organizations – Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation (ACAUT) Nagaland, Public Action Committee (PAC) and Business Association of Nagaland (BAN).

The state government, represented by the chief secretary, chairperson of Central Board of Indirect Taxes (Government of India), commissioner and secretary for Municipal Affairs, commissioner Nagaland, commissioner and deputy commissioner of taxes, administrators of Kohima and Dimapur municipal councils and the director-general of police (DGP) Nagaland were named as respondents in the PIL.

The PIL, filed under Article 226, seeks the court’s intervention to pass necessary directives with regard to “illegal taxation” collected by various government departments, Naga political groups etc. The petition mentioned that a representation dated November 25, 2020, was sent to the respondents for necessary action, but till date, no action was taken to resolve the public grievances highlighted in the representation.

The petitioners maintained they were not challenging the Goods & Services Tax or any other tax imposed legally in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. However, they stated the menace of “illegal taxation” prevailing in the state was creating fear and resentment amongst the business community and the public, thus violating the fundamental rights of the people to live with dignity, to live without fear, freedom to profess any profession and the right to equality and equal protection of law guaranteed by the constitution as well as by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On Friday, a two-judge bench of the Gauhati High Court in an order served notices on the respondents, returnable within five weeks. While the senior government advocate accepted the notice on behalf of all the respondents, the petitioners were asked to take steps to serve notice to the Central Board of Indirect Taxes within three days.

Friday being the last working day of the court, the matter is to be listed again after the winter vacation.

When contacted, consumer rights activist and ACAUT legal cell convener, advocate Kezhokhoto Savi said the three organizations had filed the PIL due to rampant taxation by both government and non-governmental bodies.

“For example, there is a standing government order on closure of all tax booths at check gates since 2017, but unauthorised tax collections are still continuing in those places,” Savi said. With the matter being listed for further hearing, he was hopeful for a positive outcome which would help the public at large.

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