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COVID-19 Cess: Court issues notice to Nagaland Govt

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Kohima, May 20: The Kohima Bench of Gauhati High Court has issued a notice to the Government of Nagaland over imposition of COVID-19 cess on petroleum, diesel and other motor spirit items and frequent hike of petroleum products.
The notice was accepted by Livika, Government Advocate on behalf of the respondents. The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by Neiteo Koza, a resident of Old Ministers’ Hill colony, Kohima.
The order issued by Deputy Registrar (Judicial), Gauhati High Court on May 19 stated that the petitioner has challenged the imposition of COVID cess on petroleum, diesel and other motor spirit items and also the frequent hike, which according to the petitioner, is unreasonable and is having a cascading effect on the economy of the State, shooting up the prices of essential commodities very high, and in the process the poor sections of the society have been badly hit.
“It has also been submitted that during this lockdown period, because of cessation of all economic activities these poorer sections of the society and who mainly live by earning their daily wages are not able to sustain themselves economically and in fact, it is during this time that the State Government must come out with welfare measures. However instead of doing so, by imposing a very high COVID cess as mentioned above, it has caused immense hardships to them”, the order stated.
In this regard the Court said the petitioner also has drawn attention of the Court to protests made by various public organizations across the State.
According to the petitioner, imposition of cess and frequent increase in the cess is unreasonable, illegal and against public interest.
“Be that as it may, this issue raised will be considered after getting the response from the respondents,” the Court said, while issuing the notice returnable in two weeks.
The petitioner has also prayed for passing an interim order for staying imposition of COVID cess. The court said the prayer will be considered on filing of affidavit by the State respondents.
Nagaland has imposed a COVID-19 cess on petrol and diesel sales, the first State to introduce such a levy. Experts say the move could coax other states to impose a similar levy, which will be detrimental to the fragile economy.
The State Government imposed a COVID-19 cess of Rs 5 per litre on diesel and Rs 6 per litre on petrol and other motor spirits through a notification issued on April 28. “In exercise of powers conferred by sub section 3 of section 3A of the Nagaland (Sales of Petroleum and Petroleum Products including Motor Spirit and Lubricants) Taxation Act, 1967 (as amended), the Governor of Nagaland is pleased to notify that in addition to existing rate of tax and cess, the Covid-19 cess shall be levied against Entry Serial Number 3 & 4 of Schedule II of the Act,” the notification said.
Petrol and diesel taxes have major share in total revenues. Some states have also asked the Centre to issue GST compensation cess that is due since December 2019.
Nagaland was the first State to impose a Covid-19 cess, Assam recently increased taxes on petrol by Rs 6 and on diesel by Rs 5, while Meghalaya is charging sales tax surcharge on motor spirit such as petrol at 2%.
Opposition parties and some groups have come out strongly against imposition of COVID cess and demanded the rollback. (Page News Service)

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