Karnataka Road Tax For Non 'KA' Vehicles Is Unconstitutional: High Court

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The High Court (HC) has said Karnataka demanding Life Time Tax (LTT) for non Karnataka vehicles that are plying on roads is 'Unconstitutional'. Karnataka demanded that vehicles registered outside the state need to pay LTT within 30 days. This resulted as a huge barrier for people outside the state working here.

There were a lot of checkposts set up in various parts of the city and officials started stopping cars that were registered outside and seizing them. They were released only after the car owner had paid the demanded LTT, with a fine.

At first, this seems quite okay, but what had happened was the officials went on a frenzy to seize vehicles and they used everything in their power — including hired contractors and other drivers to seize vehicles. The cars were stopped and driven away to be impounded, leaving the car owner confused and stranded. When officials were asked, they claimed that they were short on manpower, hence used some 'additional' help.

Consider this, why would you handover your vehicle to a random person to drive it away? What if the person didn't know how to drive it? Or what if there was a scratch, or a dent when you went to pay the demanded LTT plus tax and collect your vehicle? Who was responsible? These were just some of the concerns.

Karnataka has the highest tax structure for a new vehicle and keeping in mind that most of the vehicles seized were that of people who came here to earn a living, where would one manage the cash to pay as a second LTT? Most of the working class have their cars financed (paying EMIs) and arranging a sum of Rs. 50,000 plus at one shot meant borrowing cash from money lenders as they already have bank loans.

There were also recorded instances where people were so terrified of the collection and 'other drivers' method they locked themselves up in cars. The above mentioned were just a fraction of the whole picture.

There were also people affected big time by this rule. One such example is a person named Rahul who studied in Bangalore. Rahul had brought his motorcycle to Karnataka which was registered outside Karnataka, to collect his college certificates. He had come down only for a couple of days when he was stopped by RTO officials.

As he recalls, a white Tata Sumo overtook his motorcycle and officials from inside the vehicle pulled him over. They demanded to see the motorcycle's records and said they would let go only if he produced original documents. Once showed, the officials handed over a charge sheet, written in Kannada and drove away with the original Registration Certificate (RC) asking him to visit the RTO.

Confused and worried, Rahul went over to the RTO on the same day and produced the charge sheet to officials there. The officials said there was no record of the challan and asked him to come the next day. Curious, Rahul asked the officials what was written on the charge sheet and the officials claimed that the original RC had been impounded because the motorcycle was being ridden on Karnataka roads without paying tax.

When Rahul went to the RTO the following day, he was refused to be handed over the RC without paying taxes. The officials demanded Rs. 12,000 to be paid as tax to release the RC book. That was just too much for a person who came to Karnataka for two days, to collect college certificates. Eventually, after running about for close to 15 days, Rahul was handed over the RC, torn and ripped, after paying a fine.

Another incident involves a person named Arjun, who again is from another state, working in Karnataka, trying to earn his living. He too was harassed for using his motorcycle by police officials.

There are many others who have sold their cars, don't use their cars, relocated, had their cars impounded, vehicles damaged in name of law, borrowed money from money lenders to pay taxes, and been harassed by officials.

All this got a level beyond bearability, when a few concerned and affected citizens like Wasim Memon, took the responsibility to change things and give citizens a piece of mind. The High Court has now claimed that vehicles need not pay any such taxes, but should do so when a vehicle is in the state for more than 12 months.

But what people really want is 'One Nation-One Road Tax'. People already pay a huge amount while registering their cars, and paying tax again, is a criminal waste. What the government should do is if they want taxes to be paid again, to generate revenue, they should just transfer the tax from one state to another, without troubling the users. What Karnataka is doing by the taxation rule is stopping people from moving around the country, basically snatching away a person's right to freedom.

Officials need to understand and know that Karnataka, and especially a city like Bangalore has people working here from around the world. They need transport since public transport is very bad. Bus driver's have known to skip stops, being rash, and mow down other commuters driving recklessly! These are things that need enforcement and not a common man using his vehicle here. Take the Metro for example, what is happening?

Also, the department officials have to find a way to sort people out with the twice paid tax money. Karnataka has the highest tax compared to other states in India, and also, the government did get a revenue of close to Rs. 100 crore, taxing people for registration issues.

The High Court has clearly mentioned that non-Karnataka registered vehicles CAN BE USED IN THE STATE WITHOUT PAYING LIFE TIME TAX. Only if a vehicle is being used for over a year, the owner of the car is to pay taxes, while re-registering the car in Karnataka.

Police personnel, despite the High Court giving the order, are still stopping vehicles registered outside the state. Does that mean officials don't care what the High Court says? Please feel free to comment about your views below.

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Story first published: Friday, March 11, 2016, 13:31 [IST]
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