HC declines stay

Kolkata, March 30 | Updated: Mar 31 2005, 05:30am hrs
The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday declined to stay the introduction of value-added tax (Vat) from April 1, as sought by a public interest litigation filed by Dr Ashok Mitra, a former finance minister of West Bengal. At the same time, the court did not dismiss the PIL.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice VS Sirpurkar and Justice AS Ganguly, after hearing counsel for the petitioner as well as the Union government and the West Bengal government, said they would hear the petition again eight weeks from now.

Dr Mitra, who was the first finance minister of the Left Front government, was represented by Bimal Chatterjee. The state government was represented by Balai Roy, the advocate general, and the Union government by RN Das.

The judges questioned why the petition was filed so late, considering that the state government had passed the piece of legislation relating to Vat on December 27 last year.

Mr Bimal Chatterjee sought to argue that Vat is different from sales tax so the state legislature cannot amend the Sales Tax law to pass Vat.

On the other hand, Mr Balai Roy argued that Vat is a different form of sales tax and will plug the tax leakages apart from ending the unhealthy competition among states to lower sales tax.