TODAY -
Not pressing State's case
The past catches up with Govt Advocate

Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, May 19: A Government Advocate has landed in a soup for reportedly failing to pursue a case with merit that dates back to the last millennium with the Vigilance Department recommending to the Law Secretary that major penalty be slapped against him.

The case dates to the levy of taxes by the Forest Department on betel nuts imported from Myanmar from 1992 to 1999 on the ground that the nuts are forest products.

Speaking to The Sangai Express today, a reliable source said that between 1992 and 1999 the Forest Department collected a total of Rs 3 Crs, 55 lakhs, 92 thousand and 91 by way of taxes on the betel nuts brought in from Myanmar by 73 agencies.

However in 1999, AK Cycle and Allied Centre and Others filed a case before the Imphal bench of the Gauhati High Court contending that the Forest Department is not entitled to collect the tax on the import of betel nut as it is not a forest produce but a Horticultural produce.

This being the case, the amount taken so far should be returned, prayed the petitioners.

After hearing their prayer, the Court on June 123, 2000 passed an order directing the State Government to arrange the repayment of the more than Rs 3 crores taken earlier from the agencies as taxes, said the source.

Following the ruling of the Court, the then Law Secretary issued an order appointing a Government Advocate to file an appeal against the ruling of the High Court.

A writ petition was filed which was admitted by the High Court, said the source and added that on the other hand, the agencies filed another appeal before the Court to speed up the process of the repayment of the money which they had paid earlier as taxes.

Even as the two sides had filed their own suits, the High Court issued an order that the money should be repaid to the Agencies as the Government Advocate had not pressed the matter.

This order was passed on August 29, 2001 .

The order of the High Court to repay the amount came to the notice of the Government only recently, said the source.

Accordingly, the State Government filed another petition with the High Court.

Following this, the High Court asked the State Government to issue necessary directives to the State Vigilance to find out the person responsible for the lapses on the part of the Government to pursue the case.

The Court also asked the State Government to crack the case within three months time and to file criminal cases against the person/s responsible.

Consequent upon the order of the HC, the Director of the State Vigilance Department was asked to investigate the matter.

As per the findings of the probe, the Vigilance Department submitted a recommendation on May 12 this year to the Law Secretary to award major penalty against the erring Government Advocate.


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