PIL filed against Nagaland government’s Covid-19 cess on fuel
Kohima, May 20 (EMN): The Gauhati High Court has decided to consider a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Kohima-based advocate, challenging the imposition of Covid-19 cess on petroleum, diesel and other motor spirit items in Nagaland.
Hearing the petition filed by Neiteo Koza a resident of Old Minister’s Hill colony Kohima, the Gauhati High Court, Kohima Bench, on Wednesday said that the “issue raised will be considered after getting the response from the respondents”, and issued a notice returnable within two weeks.
Nagaland state was represented by the chief secretary, office of the chief secretary, GoN, Nagaland Civil Secretariat, Kohima and the additional chief secretary and finance commissioner, GoN, department of Finance (Revenue Branch), Kohima.
The petitioner, Koza, told Eastern Mirror that the intention of filing the petition was to challenge the imposition of Covid-19 cess on petrol, diesel and other motor spirits, by the state government.
“It was immature of the government to take that drastic measure at this juncture. It is not only about the questions of essential food but it is about all the services that we are availing,” she said. While acknowledging “huge deficit” faced by the state, she said “this is not the right time (to impose Covid-19 cess)”.
The petition was “not against the imposition of Covid-19 cess but on checking the reality, the question of survival is becoming extremely difficult for those poor people. Because it is obvious that once fuel prices are high, definitely it will affect the whole services starting from the food essentials to transportation costs”, she said.
Several civil society organisations, opposition parties, and public have decried the state government’s decision to impose Covid-19 cess and had appealed to rollback, but the government stuck to its decision.
“The court being the only forum left, I filed a petition,” she said, while adding, “I don’t know what will be the outcome. But I did it only for the welfare of the people living in the state.” If respondents do not file their response within two weeks “we will also initiate some further steps”, she added.
The court order stated that “according to the petitioner, this imposition of cess and frequent increase in the cess is unreasonable, illegal and against public interest”.
“In this PIL filed, the petitioner has challenged the imposition of Covid cess on petroleum, diesel and other motor spirit items and also the frequent hike, which according to the petitioner is unreasonable and is having a cascading effect on the economy of the state of Nagaland shooting up the prices of essential commodities very high, and in the process the poor sections of the society have been badly hit,” it stated.
“During this lockdown period, because of cessation of all economic activities, these poorer sections of the society and who mainly live by earning their daily wages are not able to sustain themselves economically and in fact, it is during this time that the state government must come out with welfare measures. However, instead of doing so, by imposing a very high Covid cess as mentioned above, it has caused immense hardships to them,” it added.
“The petitioner also has prayed for an interim order for staying imposition of Covid cess. This prayer will also be considered on filing of affidavit by the state respondents,” it continued.
The court has listed the matter for hearing on June 3, 2020. It added that Livika, learned government advocate, accepts notice on behalf of all the respondents.