The PIL is expected to be heard before Justices S.S. Kemkar and R.G. Ketkar on Monday.
Mumbai: A public interest litigation seeking a disclosure by the Union government on how the cess amounts collected by it during 2011-14 has been utilised has been filed in the Bombay high court and is expected to come up for hearing on Monday. The PIL filed by a professor from a suburban law college is based on comptroller and auditor general (CAG) reports of the said years. The report states that while the Centre has collected Rs 1.4-1.8 lakh crore annually, there is little or no details on how it has been spent or disbursed. The PIL has sought directions to the Centre to disclose the same.
According to senior advocate Satish Talekar, who has filed the PIL on behalf of assistant professor Ashrita Kotha, the issue of cess is misconstrued and misused by the government.
“Article 270 of the constitution specifies that the cess is over and above the taxes that the government collects and can be collected for a specific purpose only. The proceeds so collected are to be earmarked and not to be merged with the consolidated fund of India (CFI). However, based on the CAG report it seems that the Centre has been using the funds to balance the revenue deficits and other purposes contrary to the mandate of the constitution” said Mr Talekar.
The PIL challenges at least 16 cess legislations that levy cess in contravention to the constitutional mandate of levy, maintenance and utilisation of the cess proceeds for a specific purpose. Apart from the CAG, report Ms Kotha has also managed to collect information through more than 20 queries under the RTI. Referring to the tax revenue statement from the Budget Statement of 2016-17, Ms Kotha said that the cess forms approximately 10.79 per cent of the total tax revenues which is Rs 1.83 lakh crore. “Rather than accumulating the amount under specific heads in the CFI, the Centre has been putting it in the general fund. The content of the PIL has been researched by me and a fellow researcher Pradnya Talekar over a period of two years,” said Ms Kotha.
The petition has made the Union of India, the CAG, the 14th Finance commission, the Niti Aayog, the GST Council and the state of Maharashtra as respondents. The PIL is expected to be heard before Justices S.S. Kemkar and R.G. Ketkar on Monday.