Bengal government imposing dead tax: Lawyers

Kolkata, Oct 3 (IANS) Three months after the Calcutta High Court struck down a law levying tax on entry of certain goods into West Bengal, tax lawyers Thursday objected to the "illegal realisation" of the now void tax and "threats of coercive measures" being issued by the state legal department to dealers.

Even though the law is no longer effective, members of the West Bengal Taxation Tribunal Bar Association (WBTTBA) claim the commercial tax directorate takes coercive action against different dealers for collection of entry tax.

Without issuing official notices, dealers are being personally called and are threatened with dire consequences like stopping of business etc, and threats of "serious consequences" are being circulated via texts and emails, the association alleged.

"How can some one pay a tax under a law that has been struck down? The tax is not payable by dealers. Moreover, we have received reports from dealers that they have been threatened by the department. No formal notice was issued but warnings of coercive measures have been repeatedly forwarded to them," said Sumit Chakrabarty, president of the association.

The Calcutta High Court in June this year had declared the West Bengal Tax on Entry of Goods into Local Areas, Act, 2012 as unconstitutional.

It was passed last year by the Mamata Banerjee government claiming it was aimed at facilitating trade and industry by creating infrastructure like roads, bridges and cold storage chains.

A number of companies had filed a writ petition before the high court last November challenging the act's constitutional validity.

According to the association secretary, Asish Gupta, assessment notices are also being sent out, which goes against the order of the high court. Several entrepreneurs have had to regularly pay the tax due to this.

"Entry tax assessments are being issued on dealers. If the act has been declared dead by the court, then it means the department is ignoring its order," said Gupta.

Some clients are going to court for clarification regarding the tax, said the lawyers.

"But the question is why will the government try to realise the tax under the struck-down act? We request the state government to be sensitive and not work against the judiciary," said Gupta.

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