SC stays recovery of transit fee on non-forest produce

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 24 2012, 07:43am hrs
The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on a batch of petitions challenging the levy of transit fee on non-forest produce in the state.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, while issuing the notice, also stayed the collection of such fee on non-forest produce by the state government.

Challenging the Allahabad high court order that upheld the levy of transit fee on non-forest produce on the ground that imposition of transit fee was transitory and regulatory in nature, the traders said that the HC could not allow the state government to impose and collect the fees on such forest produce prevailing on such rates as it was being charged prior to the fourth Amendment to the Rules notified on October 20, 2010, that is at the rate of Rs 38 per tonne of capacity per lorry load of timber or other forest produce; R19 per tonne of capacity per cart load of timber or other forest produce; R1.25 per camel load of timber and other forest produce; R4 per pony load of timber or other forest produce and R2 per head load of timber or other forest produce.

The petitions have challenged the applicability of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, on mines and minerals, including coal and other forest produce, as also the validity of the UP Transport of Timber and Other Forest Produce Rules, 1978, made under Section 41 (1)(c) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 as amended by the fourth and fifth amendment to the Rules in 1978 notified in December 2010 and June 2011, increasing levy of transit fee on forest produce including timber, firewood, and other forest produce coming from mines, like coal, limestone, sand, bajari and other minerals.

According to the petitions, such levy is unconstitutional and beyond legislative competence of the state government so far as mines and minerals are concerned, and also violative of the Constitution and the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

They have also sought the apex courts view on whether the word forest produce as defined under Section 2(4) of the Forest Act can be interpreted to include within its ambit all the minerals from mines and quarries, such as clinker and fly ash, calcium hydroxide, calcium oxide, quick lime, hydrated lime, hard coke, gypsum, rejected coke, ash burn coke and soil are forest produce.

It further said that the high court could not have relied on a judgment correctness of which was in doubt and had been referred to a larger bench of the same HC and was pending consideration.

The UP, while trying to justify the increase in transit fee on cubic feet basis and thereafter on ad- valorem basis purportedly to collect the transit fee to meet expenses for enforcement of regulation of movement by issuing transit passes, has not considered and kept in mind the principles of sustainable development, while raising environmental concerns, Ma Vaishnav Transport said in the petition.