ACAUT Nagaland has expressed its appreciation and gratitude to governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi for exercising special power provided under Article 371(A) vis-à-vis law and order by issuing the comprehensive Home Department notification of 19 May 2022 with stringent directives to curb “illegal collection of money at check gates” throughout the State.
Claiming that it had always asserted that unabated taxation was one of the main causes of factionalism, ACAUT in a press release hoped that the latest notification against illegal taxation would lead to a step closer for Naga Political settlement.
The group termed setting up of control room with 24×7 helpline numbers, constituting inspection teams in all districts and putting up prominent signage in all check-gate as truly commendable strategic decisions.
Meanwhile, as specific order was to be obtained from the Home Department for interstate check-gates to operate after May 31, 2022 ACAUT said it would like to ensure that there was no stone left unturned to implement this landmark notification. Hence, it placed forth 10-point charter of demands in public interest.
According to ACAUT, since the late 1990s there had been a continuous tussle in the court to legitimise collection of taxes by various unions, organisations and government agencies until the chief secretary issued a notification on June 22, 2009 on behalf of the State government banning “collection of cash” at check-gates.
From 2009 to 2013, 11 writ petitions were filed by such entities that were ultimately dismissed by Justice PK Saikia of Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench on June 3, 2014.
Over the years, with mounting illegal taxation in the State, a PIL was filed in 2020 by ACAUT, PAC and BAN through human rights lawyer Neiteo Koza, which was pending before the Divisional Bench for a final verdict.
On the other hand, Southern Angami Public Organisation (SAPO) along with its 13 village units decided to unanimously do away with the British-era collection of tax at Phesama gate in the greater public interest. GST goods and commodities were exempted from tax purview at various inter-state check-gates of Nagaland only in 2021, ACAUT added.
ACAUT’S 10-POINT CHARTER OF DEMANDS
- With the Goods and Services Tax (GST) imposed nationally since 2017 all other taxes are subsumed. The Nagaland State Goods and Services Tax (SGST) Department should ensure that no Act or law on taxation should not be in contravention with the Central GST.
- The imposition of royalty and tax on forest and mineral items with transit permit (TP) from other states by both by the Department of Forest and the Department of Geology and Mining is unlawful in the first place and amounts to double taxation which should be done away with immediately.
- The insistence of paper slip for entry of commercial vehicle with registration number at whichever check- gates serves as the information centre for tracking and sending SMS system for Illegal tax collection. Instead, GST e bill should be scanned and verified.
- Any authorized toll/tax levied should have services and facilities provided. For instance, the Department of Veterinary should have a quarantine for animals at the border check gates for issuing of the mandatory pass.
- Any aggrieved party or individuals should now be able to send photo or video evidences anonymously in the given helpline numbers and email. CCTV should also be immediately installed in all authorized check gates.
- The lessee system practiced by Municipal Councils in Nagaland, should henceforth be done away completely.
- The Divisional Bench should uphold the 18/5/2022 Home Department Notification, to make it a statutory judgment to serve as a precedent in all cases related to illegal taxation in Nagaland.
- The police should be given more teeth and power by the State by legislating an Act like the ‘Maharashtra Crime Control Act’ and ‘Uttar Pradesh Goondas Act’ to act as a deterrent.
- The High Powered Commission (HPC) headed by Justice H K Sema was the outcome of the ACAUT Public Rally in 2013 and had submitted its detailed report in 2015, with findings and recommendations which should now be intra vires for any investigation or legal proceeding and in policy making for the whole gamut of illegal taxation in the State of Nagaland.
- Other than deployment of normal personnel and officers, a dedicated unit, comprising of upright police personnel along with magistrates in a particular district may be tasked for overseeing the enforcement of the Home department Notification, adequately backed with ground mobile police squad for patrolling within zones in a district. Special police units of two or more districts may be placed under the rank of a senior SP or a DIG.