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Entry Tax not Violative of Freedom of Trade and Commerce, says Supreme Court

In a setback to business entities, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the entry tax on goods coming into a state

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New Delhi, November 11, 2016: In a setback to business entities, the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the entry tax on goods coming into a state, holding that it was not in violation of the freedom of trade and commerce guaranteed under Article 301 of the Constitution and free trade does not mean “free from tax”.

By a majority verdict of 7:2, the Supreme Court held that “States are well within their right to design their fiscal legislations to ensure that the tax burden on goods imported from other States and goods produced within the State fall equally. Such measures if taken, would not contravene Article 304 (a) of the Constitution.”

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“Only such taxes as (which) are discriminatory in nature are prohibited by Article 304(a). It follows that levy of a non-discriminatory tax would not constitute an infraction of Article 301”, the judgment said.

While majority verdict was by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice R. Banumathi, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar; Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan in separate judgments dissented from the majority view.

The majority judgment said that “Article 304 (a) frowns upon discrimination (of a hostile nature in the protectionist sense) and not on mere differentiation. Therefore, incentives, set-offs etc. granted to a specified class of dealers for a limited period of time in a non-hostile fashion with a view to developing economically backward areas would not violate Article 304(a).”

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Having said this, the majority judgment said that even though goods on which entry tax is being imposed are not being produced in the taxing State, yet a “tax on entry of goods into a local area for use, sale or consumption therein is permissible although similar goods are not produced within the taxing state.”

However, the court left open the question to be decided at a later stage whether “the entire State can be notified as a local area and whether entry tax can be levied on goods entering the landmass of India from another country …”

The case is rooted in the challenge to the constitutional validity of the laws enacted by the 14 States providing for levy of a tax on the “entry of goods into local areas comprising the States”.

The challenge to these laws was on the grounds of their being violative of the constitutionally recognised right to free trade and commerce guaranteed under Article 301 of the Constitution.

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Haryana law – Haryana Local Development Act, 2000 – providing for the entry tax was assailed by the Jindal Stainless Ltd.

The High Courts of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala and Tamil Nadu struck down the levies imposed by their respective States on the ground that they were discriminatory in nature hence violative of Article 304(a) of the Constitution.

When these States approached the apex court challenging the decision of the High courts, the two judges’ bench referred the same to a Constitution Bench for an authoritative pronouncement on as many as ten questions framed by them. (IANS)

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SC Warned Amrapali Directors, says “Would Be Rendered Homeless If Tried To Play Smart”

The company Directors were asked to file affidavits within 15 days listing their movable and immovable properties.

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The apex court directed the company to furnish details on how it intends to arrange Rs 5,112 crore. Wikimedia Commons
The apex court directed the company to furnish details on how it intends to arrange Rs 5,112 crore. Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Directors of the Amrapali Group to file details of all their movable and immovable assets along with valuation, and warned them that they would be rendered homeless if they tried “to play smart.”

A bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice U.U. Lalit clarified that all the properties of the directors would be sold if the company failed to raise Rs 5,112 crore required to complete its unfinished housing projects.

The apex court directed the company to furnish details on how it intends to arrange Rs 5,112 crore.

The company Directors were asked to file affidavits within 15 days listing their movable and immovable properties.

"Don't burden the home-buyers. Don't try to be smart. Tell your Directors also," the bench told the counsel. Wikimedia Commons
“Don’t burden the home-buyers. Don’t try to be smart. Tell your Directors also,” the bench told the counsel. Wikimedia Commons

When the company’s counsel Gaurav Bhatia told the court that home-buyers will also pay to help it raise Rs 5,112 crore, the court said: “The home-buyers will not pay a penny.”

“Don’t burden the home-buyers. Don’t try to be smart. Tell your Directors also,” the bench told the counsel.

“Tell us how you intend to arrange the money? Otherwise, you will be rendered homeless,” the bench said.

The court told the Directors that as they had made buyers wait for their homes, they will also search for their homes if they don’t submit the plan to arrange for money for the unfinished projects.

“Days are not away when you (Directors) will compel us to do this. If necessary, we will take every strip (of land) if you compel us. Next time, come (to the court) with the proposal,” the top court observed.

The real estate group is yet to hand over possession of flats to around 40,000 home-buyers. Wikimedia Commons
The real estate group is yet to hand over possession of flats to around 40,000 home-buyers. Wikimedia Commons

When the court was told that electricity supply at two projects of Amrapali — Zodiac and Silicon Valley — has been disconnected, it ordered the power companies concerned to restore electricity by Wednesday itself.

The court posted the matter for August 14.

On August 1, the court slammed the Amrapali Group for playing “fraud and dirty games” with it and ordered freezing of bank accounts of all the Directors of its 40 firms, besides attaching their personal properties.

Public sector undertaking National Building Construction Corporation was also directed to take over all 16 unfinished projects of the Amrapali Group.

The real estate group is yet to hand over possession of flats to around 40,000 home-buyers.

Also Read: Supreme Court seeks Centre’s response on plea challenging polygamy, nikah halala

The apex court has been hearing a batch of pleas filed by home-buyers who have sought quashing of the National Company Law Tribunal order to admit insolvency proceedings against the Amrapali Group.

The buyers belong to low and middle income groups and must be granted equal protection as other stakeholders, the financial and operational creditors, the home buyers’ plea said. (IANS)