R. Senthilbabu Vs.
State of Tamil Nadu & ANR.  INSC 2183 (16 December 2008)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7304 OF 2008 (Arising
out of SLP (C) No.10275 of 2007) R. Senthil Babu ....Appellant versus State of
Tamil Nadu and Anr. ....Respondents CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7305 OF 2008 (Arising out
of SLP (C) No.10277 of 2007)
Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT,
short question which arises for determination in these Civil Appeals concerns
challenge to the Constitutional validity of Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles Taxation
(Amendment) Act, 1998, by which initially the rate of tax in respect of
contract carriage stood increased from Rs.1500/- per seat per quarter to
Rs.2000/- per seat per quarter, and subsequently the said rate stood enhanced
from Rs.2000/- per seat per quarter to Rs.3000/- per seat per quarter vide
Notification No.1184 dated 30.11.2001 with effect from 1st December 2001.
basis of the challenge rests on the uneven burden placed on the owners of
contract carriage vis-a-vis stage carriage. Broadly it is contended that there
is no rational in the imposition of the levy, that tax is imposed
indiscriminately, that it is levied to cross-subsidize stage carriage and that
uneven burden has been placed on the owners of contract carriage which has no
nexus with the services or amenities provided.
in a matter of this nature, the quantifiable data forms the basis of the
challenge. At the initial stage when the petition is filed in such cases there
has got to be a precise formulation of the ground of challenge from the side of
the appellants based on some statistical data as to disproportionality of the
rate of tax. It is only thereafter that the burden will shift on to the State
to submit quantifiable and measurable data.
the present case we find that the initial burden on the appellants itself has
not been discharged in the sense that the petitions filed before the High Court
were very sketchy. A challenge of this nature requires the appellants to
furnish greater details before the State could be called upon to submit
quantifiable and measurable data justifying the impugned rate. Ultimately, it
is the State which has to meet the allegations made in the writ petitions and if
those allegations made in the writ petitions are vague, inaccurate or
insufficient then it would not be possible for the State to submit its
reply/data to the Court.
more aspect in these cases also needs to be mentioned. It has been argued
before us that the tax in question is a compensatory tax. Certain judgments of
this Court are also relied upon in this regard, the latest being the judgment
in the case of Jindal Stainless Ltd. (2) and Another vs. State of Haryana and
Others [(2006) 7 SCC 241].
our view, this repeated increase in the rate of tax, particularly the incidence
of which is more on the contract carriage vis.-a.vis. stage carriage raises
question of public importance. At the same time the State can certainly rely
upon the data available to show cross subsidization, if it so exists in a given
case, by which stage carriage gets subsidized in public interest.
in mind the gamut of the dispute involved, we are of the view that we cannot
interfere with the impugned judgment of the High Court, particularly when the
pleadings at the initial stage were insufficient.
this difficulty, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellants fairly
stated that he would seek permission of this Court to withdraw the civil
appeals/special leave petitions with liberty to file proper writ petition in
the High Court giving requisite details and available data.
Normally, we would
not have granted such permission. However, as stated above, questions of public
importance arises in these matters, particularly in the context of the
principles of proportionality under Article 14 of the Constitution and the
later development of law as indicated by this Court in the case of Jindal
Stainless Ltd. (Supra).
10. In the
circumstances we permit the appellants herein to withdraw the Civil Appeals
with liberty to file proper writ petition, if so advised. We make it clear that
we do not find any infirmity in the impugned judgment of the High Court which
is based on the petition originally filed by the petitioners. Subject to above,
Civil Appeals stand dismissed with no order as to costs. We make it clear that
if a proper writ petition is filed giving requisite data to the satisfaction of
the High Court, then any observation made in the impugned judgment will not
come in the way of the appellants. All contentions of both sides are expressly
order was passed in a group of cases i.e. Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Owners
Association v. State of Tamil Nadu & Anr.( i.e. Civil Appeal No.1177 of
2006 etc. disposed of on 28.11.2007).
to the above, the Civil Appeals are dismissed with no orders as to costs.
(Dr. ARIJIT PASAYAT)
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