Amendment in the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Taxes and Fees Rules, 1960 is unconstitutional

Bombay High Court: While allowing a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of the provisions of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Taxes and Fees (Amendment) Rules, 1999, a division bench of A.S. Oka and A.S. Chandurkar J., struck down Clauses 2, 3, 4 and 5(a) of the Amendment Rules, 1999 as unconstitutional for being discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

In the instant case, S.S. Patwardhan, the counsel for the petitioner contended that Amendment Rule 1999 replaced the determination of the rate of tax from the capital value or annual letting value of the property to the value of the total area of the building or land in question, which ignored the depreciation in the value of the property and is arbitrary, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution and deserves to be quashed.

The Court observed that the annual letting value is a time based concept of levying such taxes and has been the most accepted method of determination of ratable value, as the age of the construction of the property cannot be ignored. The Court also observed that it is not just to tax two properties at the same rate when one is recently constructed and has more annual letting value than the one which is 25-30 year old in the same area.

The Court made clear that the unequals cannot be treated as equals by the amended method of determining ratable value. The Court held that the amendment made by the State of Maharashtra in the provisions of the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Taxes and Fees Rules, 1960 is discriminatory and violative of the Article 14 of the Constitution and therefore is liable to be stuck down as unconstitutional. Vijay Dinkarrao Shinde v. State of Maharashtra, 2014 SCC OnLine Bom 1667decided on November 10, 2014.

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