COCHIN MALABAR ESTATE Vs. EXECUTIVE OFFICER VARANTHARAPPILLY PANCHAYAT
HIGH COURT OF KERALA
COCHIN MALABAR ESTATE
EXECUTIVE OFFICER, VARANTHARAPPILLY PANCHAYAT
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(1.) In this batch of petitions challenge is made to demands by various Panchayats for tax assessed under S.66A of the Kerala Panchayats Act, 1960 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act'). It is agreed that in all these cases demands were made without service of any order of assessment prior thereto It is also agreed that capital value of land which has to be determined for the purpose of S.66A of the Act had not been determined in these cases with reference to material put to the petitioners and after giving an opportunity to the petitioners to substantiate their cases in regard to such capital value Possibly in these petitions this court may be able to grant relief on this ground itself But we may mention here that m most of these petitions there is an attack the constitutional validity of S.66A of the Act and also to the Kerala Panchayats (Levy and Collection of Land Cess) Rules, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as the Rules).
(2.) The Kerala Panchayats Act, 1960 had, by S.66 (2), provided for a levy of cess on all lands in the Panchayat area, other than exempted lands at the rate of two paise per annum for every five cents of land or part thereof. This provision was repealed and a new S.66A was introduced providing for the levy of land cess on every land in a panchayat area, other than exempted lands at the rate of one sixteenth per centum of the capital value of the land. The cess so levied was payable by the owner of the land. This was subsequently amended folder indicate that the levy was of an annual nature. S.66A was deemed to have come into force in the Travancore - Cochin area on 5th August, 1951 and in the Malabar area on 1st April 1958. This section reads:
"66A Land Cess. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, there shall be levied annually on every land in a Panchayat area, other than any land or class of lands which the Government may, in public interest, exempt by notification in the Gazette, a land cess at the rate of one sixteenth per centum of the capital value of the land and cess so levied shall be payable by the owner of the land:
Provided that nothing contained in this sub-section shall be deemed as authorising the levy of land cess in any Panchayat area in respect of any particular period during which such cess was not being levied in that Panchayat area prior to the 1st day of January, 1962.
(2) The Government may make rules providing for the manner of ascertaining the capital value of the lands for the purpose of sub-s.(1)."
It may be noticed that it was left to the rule making authority to prescribe the manner of ascertaining capital value of lands for the purpose of levy of the cess. This was purported to be done by the Rules. The rules were framed by the Government of Kerala in exercise of the powers under S.66A (2) which provided for rule making in regard to the manner of ascertaining the capital value of the lands and under S.129 of the Act which enabled the Government to make rules generally to carry out the purposes of the Act.
(3.) A brief reference may be made to the scheme of the rules. R.2 defines certain terms including the term "Assessment Officer". That term meant such officer as was appointed by the Government for determining the cess payable in respect of any land under S.66A of the Act. R.3 and 4 are the pertinent rules which provided for assessment and the manner of determining capital value for such assessment. It may be profitable to extract these rules here:
"3. Assessment Officer to determine cess: The assessment Officer shall, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, and the rules issued thereunder and the orders issued by the Government from time to time, determine the cess payable in respect of every land in the Panchayat area, other than any land exempted under S.66A of the Act.;
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