High Court slams government for collecting tax but not providing motorable roads
February, 02nd 2015
The Karnataka High Court on Friday rapped the state government for the poor condition of roads in Bengaluru while hearing a writ petition that chal lenged the lifetime road tax the Siddaramaiah regime has imposed on non-Karnataka vehicles plying in the state for more than 30 days.
"Where are the motorable roads in Bengaluru," Justice Huluvadi G Ramesh asked government advocates who appeared before the Judge to defend the new levy Siddaramaiah intro duced in his 2014-15 budget that has put a large community of profes sionals working in Bengaluru into inconven ience. "When there are hardly good roads, why are you levying a road tax," the Judge asked.
"Everyone is breaking his backbone because of non-mainte nance of roads. Do you have a count of the number of people who have been hospitalised because of potholes in city roads? Have you taken any action to fix the potholes," the Judge further asked.
Justice Ramesh mentioned that there were 156 road humps between Bengaluru and Mysuru and, the government was more worried about increasing its tax collection, but not much about giving them good roads. "You only know how to collect taxes from people, but don't know how to spend them wisely," the Judge re marked in the open court. The Judge expressed his concern that roads were coming apart, and authorities were not paying attention to fixing them.People, he said, should be in a position to certify the condition of roads rather than government auditors.
Justice Ramesh made these remarks when senior counsel Aditya Sondhi appearing for petitioners informed the Judge that the transport department officials were stopping non-Karnataka vehicles, and forcing them to pay lifetime road taxes if they stayed beyond 30 days. It was at this stage that the Judge wondered aloud if there were good roads in Bengaluru for the transport department officials to demand taxes from people.
The Judge sought to know from government advocates as to how the government could levy taxes under the Motor Vehicles Act as the subject of motor vehicles came under the Concurrent List of the Constitution, and any amendments under the subject called for the Presidential assent, and the government could not have enforced the amendment with the Governor's assent.
The Judge wanted the government to explain the legal validity of the amendment, and ordered the secretary of the Transport department to appear before the court on Monday , and explain.
Government advocates infor med the court that the Transport department will not stop non-Karnataka vehicles and ask them to pay a lifetime tax until they heard the final word on the matter from the court.
The petitioner, Anandhu, from Thrissur in Kerala, has prayed for quashing of the amendment providing for levying lifetime taxes on non-KA registration vehicles on the grounds that it goes ag ainst the spirit of the Constitution, and free movement of people across India.