The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court on Saturday served notices to the state government, the transport secretary, the transport commissioner and the union ministry of surface transport for charging green tax on old vehicles.
Responding to a public interest litigation (PIL), filed by the noted academician and former law college principal, Dr Thirty Patel, a division bench of the court, comprising Justice Sharad Bobde and Justice MN Gilani, directed the state government and the other concerned departments to file reply in next two weeks.
The Maharashtra government had imposed an environment tax, ranging from Rs 750 to Rs 3,500 on old vehicles for two wheelers and cars which are being used for more than 15 years. Similarly, an additional green tax is being collected from commercial vehicles that are over eight years old, in order to curb the pollution caused by these old vehicles.
While enacting an act, the state government claimed that the environment tax would be used for implementing various pollution control measures, providing clean fuel and introduction of advanced pollution check tests. Besides reducing pollution, the move was designed to discourage the use of old vehicles.
Later, by an ordinance, promulgated in October last year and through an act this year, the state government had started to collect the environment taxes from old vehicles.
The PIL claimed that the state exceeded its jurisdiction and transgressed the legal power vested in the central government. The power to decide the age of the vehicles and powers to control pollution are exclusively within the domain of union government.
The state government in the name of pollution control has virtually decided the age of the vehicles and has started recovering the additional taxes that is arbitrary, unilateral and unreasonable, the petitioner pointed out and sought an intervention from the court.
The petitioner has also pointed out that there was unreasonable classification of old vehicles for the “Green Tax.” The old vehicles coming from other state and old vehicles owned by the state government are exempted from the new tax under section of 13 of the Bombay Motor Vehicles Tax Act. “This is violation of article of 14 of the Indian constitution,” it said.
The PIL has questioned the constitutional validity of retrospective recovery of Green Tax. The vehicles have already paid one time road tax, along with all other taxes, like sales tax, professional tax and service tax etc and therefore the levy of Green Tax over and above the present tax is nothing but double jeopardy, the petitioner further alleged.