‘VAT, goods and service taxes cannot be levied on betel leafs’
IMPHAL | Apr 21
Justice, Kh Nobin, High Court of Manipur has quashed and set aside the notification order for the inclusion of Kwamana (beetle leaves) among forest products.
The order to include beetle leaves as forest products had been released by the additional chief secretary, under secretary and joint secretary of the department of Forest and Environment on different dates.
The order of the High court was passed on April 10 in connection with different writ petitions which were filed challenging the notification for the inclusion of Betel leaf as forest products by the department of Forest and Environment, Government of Manipur.
The writ petitions were filed by different individuals against the State government with additional chief, chief secretary, government of Manipur, principal chief conservators of forest and under secretary, department of Forest and Environment as respondents.
As the writ petitions were said to have arisen out of the similar set of facts, they were disposed by a common judgment passed on April 10, 2018.
The petitioners of the writ petitions were the agencies and running shops which have been selling Betel leafs and piper betel at different places in the State for more than last 10 years.
In their petitions, it was submitted that the Betel leaf is a basic commodity in the State of Manipur and considered to be an essential component required in every ritual and traditional functions, all kind of religious ceremony including marriages.
Therefore, the betel leafs were imported from the neighboring states like West Bengal, Assam and others.
Betel leaf is said to be a horticulture product and a perishable item which was not included in the list of forest product in the state of Manipur. Plantation of the betel leafs as horticulture items for more than 4 hectares of land have been seen in Kakching and at Noney as well as Jiribam.
In the notification of Ministry of Finance on June 28 2017 where certain goods of Inter-state supplies are exempted from the purview of the central goods and services Tax Act 2017, the betel leafs were shown in serial number 93. Therefore, any kind of goods and service taxes cannot be levied on betel leafs. Imposition and levying of VAT on betel leafs will be an illegal tax collection.
Single Bench High Court of Manipur on March 14 after hearing both sides, the Judgment order was reserved and on April 10, single bench, High Court of Manipur, justice Kh Nobin passed the judgment order which allowed the writ petitions and consequently quashed and set aside the October 29, 2016 notification of the officials of the department of Forest and Environment to consider betel leaves as a forest product.
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