New Delhi: The Supreme Court has instructed
the state authorities to refrain from taking any coercive
action against the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) with
regard to the payment of property tax to village panchayats
surrounding its port establishments.
The state-owned JNPT had approached the Supreme Court,
seeking relief from a Rs 129-crore village property tax demand
by surrounding village panchayats for setting up port-related
infrastructure in the area.
A vacation bench, comprising Justices Deepak Verma and K
S Radhakrishnan, issued notices to 11 gram panchayats
surrounding India?s busiest container port located near
The court also said, "Until the next date of hearing, no
coercive steps shall be taken" against the Board of Trustees
of the JNPT, which runs the port.
The court also reassured the gram panchayats seeking
payment of the tax by saying, "It (JNPT) is a government`s
undertaking and your amount (duty) is safe".
The court`s direction came over a petition filed by the
JNPT, challenging a Bombay High Court order that refused to
stay tax demands by the panchayats under the Bombay Village
The JNPT was directed to approach the standing committee
formed by the state government for the relief.
During the proceedings, senior advocate P S Patwalia --
the counsel appearing for the port trust -- submitted that the
panchayats were yet to determine the final amount.
"Earlier, it was Rs 54 crore. Then, in High Court, it
(duty) became Rs 129 crore and before the standing committee,
they have not even mentioned the amount," he submitted.
JNPT`s counsel further submitted that the port trust was
ready to give a bank guarantee for the tax, but that would
happen only if the standing committee fixes the amount.
The panchayats are demanding property tax from the port
from 1983, when the port was established, to 2009. They have
also approached the Bombay High Court seeking payment of tax.