Matrilineal Meghalaya is in for a rather taxing time ahead. Quite literally.
Around 450 offices across the state received a notice from the income tax department last week asking them to deduct taxes from employees who were born of mixed parentage — of non-tribal fathers and tribal mothers.
It said that they would no longer be entitled to the benefits of scheduled tribe (ST) status. The taxman has directed that they must also pay their taxes for the financial year 2006-07 by July 31, the last date for filing income tax returns.
“All such taxpayers, including salaried individuals, auditable firms and business persons should file their income-tax returns this year,” said H Raikhan, commissioner of income tax, Shillong.
Tax department officials in the state have used the Anjan Kumar versus the Union of India judgment as the basis of their notice.
In February 2005, the Supreme Court upheld the Centre’s decision to deny Anjan Kumar — whose father was a non-tribal from Gaya in Bihar and his mother, an Oraon tribal from Jharkhand — tribal status and a posting as an Indian Information Service officer.
He had cleared the civil services in the ST category.
In Meghalaya, the taxman’s order has, predictably, drawn flak. Residents argued that since all the three principal tribes of state — Khasis, Garos and Jaintias — follow the matrilineal system, where the mother is the pivot of the family, the Anjan Kumar judgment was not applicable.
“The verdict is not applicable in Meghalaya. We have accordingly asked the income-tax department not to issue any notices to offspring of mixed marriages until the Supreme Court hears us,” said Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council chief executive member HS Shylla.
Chief Minister DD Lapang said: “We have decided to take up the matter with the appropriate authorities.”