Srinagar: Junior finance minister Pawan Gupta’s letter to his senior, Haseeb Drabu, questioning the latter’s order imposing service tax on chopper service to Vaishno Devi shrine, reads like a tutorial on rules.
The letter, which Kashmir Reader accessed, tells Drabu that he has not “adhered to” the “Rule 8 of the Jammu and Kashmir Business Rules”.
“The rule stipulates that any proposal seeking amendment/imposition of a new tax ought to be approved by the Cabinet, which in the instant case is learnt to have not been adhered,” reads the letter.
Drabu had announced 12.5 percent service tax on commercial helicopter services to the shrine, which prompted BJP, the ally in the government, to compare the tax to jazia.
The finance minister had defended the decision, saying, “The helicopter ticket is originally priced at Rs 700 approximately but the Shrine board authorities charge Rs 300 landing charges per ticket. If landing charge is not jazia, why is 12.5 percent service tax described as jazia.”
Consistent with his party’s severe criticism of Drabu’s decision, Gupta has talked of “mass resentment” in his letter.
“Mass public resentment in Jammu region especially the pilgrims across the country visiting Shri Mata Vaishno Devi as well as Shri Amarnath Shrine has complained while taking it and attack on their faiths (sic),” the letter said.
“Such an order about a sensitive issue has neither been discussed with the undersigned (Gupta) being a member of the Council of Ministers of the State, especially holding the portfolio of the Finance Department, nor Cabinet ministers forming part of this government from BJP have been consulted in the matter,” it reads.
Gupta also reminds Drabu about “Rule 14”.
“I will further like to be aware of whether this matter was brought before Cabinet under Rule 14 and due constitutional process was followed even with a post facto sanction by the competent authority,” it reads.