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HC rejects ONGC plea for tax exemption from Puducherry
November, 22nd 2006

The Madras High Court has turned down the plea of Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to direct the Union Territory of Puducherry to continue exemption granted earlier from payment of motor vehicle tax for its vehicles.

Dismissing a writ petition of ONGC, challenging the orders of Puducherry administration rejecting their claim to get exemption from tax, the court said that the Union Territory with its meagre funds had to depend on revenues such as motor vehicles tax, and it was not open to this court to direct that the Government continue exemption granted earlier in favour of its predecessor body Oil & Natural Gas Commission which was subsequently converted into a company (Oil & Natural Gas Corporation) owned by the Central Government.

The petitioner contended that in terms of provisions of the Oil & Natural Gas Commission (Transfer of Undertaking & Repeal) Act, 1993, they were entitled for tax exemption granted by the Union Territory, even after February 1, 1994, i.e. date on which ONGC was converted into a Government company.

On behalf of the Puducherry Government, it was submitted that when there was a transfer of ONGC, in terms of Section 50(1) of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1998, the transferor should report the same to the registering authority within 14 days of transfer.

Such procedure was not followed, and after four years, ONGC sought for exemption from tax. The petitioner's request for further exemption of tax was rejected since the petitioner was carrying on commercial activities and was liable for tax and penalty.

Exemption was earlier granted on March 18, 1977, only to Oil & Natural Gas Commission for oil exploration, and therefore, even as per the earlier law of 1959, it was only the Commission, which was granted exemption, and that too on basis that the property of the Commission was the property of Union of India. However, now it is a corporation registered under the Companies Act and the exemption could not be availed of by them.

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