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COVID-19: SC stays Kerala HC order to avoid levying taxes


New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed a Kerala High Court order which asked authorities to give some relaxation in levying taxes and recover banks' dues from people, in the backdrop of the ongoing health crisis due to coronavirus pandemic.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, contended before a bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar that the Kerala High Court order should be stayed. Mehta contended a similar order had been passed by the Allahabad High Court too. He argued the authorities concerned are conscious of the issues faced by the people in the view of the coronavirus pandemic, and the efforts are in progress to evolve a people-friendly mechanism.

Mehta insisted various taxes -- goods and services tax (GST), are payable online and the High Court should have restrained from passing such order. After a brief hearing on the matter, the top court granted an ex-parte order on the Centre's plea. The court also issued notice to the persons who had moved the Kerala High Court.

The Centre in its plea contended the High Court order would either lead to delay in payment of taxes or people may not pay taxes due at all. "It would lead to devastating consequences for the country's financial system wherein even those who are able to pay and are not affected by coronavirus will not comply with their obligations under the various laws to file returns or pay taxes on time, secure in the knowledge that all recovery proceedings have been deferred," said the Centre's plea.

The Centre's plea contended that High Court's order will severely impact the monthly revenue collections which are to the tune of Rs 2 lakh crore without considering the fact that the government has to balance various factors including meetings its monthly expenditure commitments for the various governmental functions and dealing with the situation due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The order fails to consider that even those who are financially capable to pay taxes in time would also wait till April 6, because the consequences of late payment such as late fee, penalty, interest, etc have been deferred and it has been the common experience that almost 90 per cent of taxes get paid only on the last date or one or two days before the last date," said the Centre's plea.

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