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Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited v/s Principal Secretary (lsgd) & Others

    WP(C). No. 26366 of 2021
    Decided On, 18 February 2022
    At, High Court of Kerala
    For the Petitioner: Mathews K. Philip, SC. For the Respondents: M.M. Jasmin, Govt. Pleader, Manoj Ramaswamy, Advocate.

Judgment Text
1. M/s.Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has filed this writ petition challenging the prosecution steps initiated against them under section 210 of the Kerala Panchayat Raj Act, 1994. They also seek to set aside the demand notices issued against them, demanding property tax due for the period 2013-14 to 2021-22, for the mobile towers erected by the petitioner, after a reassessment of the area and the rate of tax imposed.

2. Petitioner claims to be one of the largest public sector undertakings providing telecom services in India, having around 65000 mobile towers. The mobile telephone tower was included as one of the categories of building for imposing basic property tax as per notification dated 14.01.2011. Subsequent to the imposition of property tax for mobile towers, demand notices were issued against the petitioner, claiming tax due thereon for the towers erected and installed by them. When there was default in payment of tax, prosecution proceedings were also initiated as S.T. No.85 of 2021 and S.T. No.86 of 2021 before the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, Pathanapuram.

3. In the meantime, petitioner, through its officers, submitted request letters to reduce the high rate of tax imposed on the mobile towers, after carrying out a re-assessment. Though the said request was rejected and proceedings for prosecution were initiated, subsequently, a joint inspection was conducted on 09.09.2021 and the report consequent to the joint inspection was prepared, which was communicated to the petitioner as per Ext.P13. Petitioner pointed out through Ext.P14 several anomalies in the assessment of tax demanded by the respondents and alleged that in respect of some of the mobile towers, the plinth area was calculated incorrectly and that the demands were excessive. In spite of such requests, the respondents proceeded with the demand and also initiated prosecution proceedings. The writ petition was initiated in the above circumstances.

4. When the writ petition came up for admission, this Court expressed its disinclination to interfere with the prosecution proceedings since, petitioner's remedy was not through this writ petition in which even the complaint filed by the Panchayat had not been produced.

5. Today when the case was taken up, learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that he is not pressing relief No.1, i.e.; for a direction to the local bodies to refrain from initiating prosecution proceedings. It was submitted that the prosecution proceedings have already been challenged before this Court under section 482 of the Cr.P.C. Petitioner therefore confined the submissions to relief Nos.2 and 3, i.e.; for a direction to reassess the tax on the basis of actual plinth area at the correct rates and to quash Ext.P6 and Ext.P7 demand notices.

6. Sri.Manoj Ramaswamy, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the third respondent, submitted that, they are willing to re-assess the plinth area and reconsider the rate of tax based upon the area assessed as per the joint inspection report, copy of which is produced as Ext.P13.

7. A perusal of Ext.P13 reveals that the joint inspection revealed mistakes in the calculation of area at least in respect of Elikkattoor and Mukkadavu mobile tower locations. Petitioner had pointed out the anomalies through Ext.P14 also. Even the rate of tax is alleged to be calculated wrongly.

8. In view of the explicit error in calculating the plinth area of the tower building, as evident from the joint inspection report, it is essential in the interests of justice to redo the assessment based upon such inspection report. To enable a reassessment of the area and the tax imposed, this Court is of the opinion that Ext.P6 and Ext.P7 ought to be set aside and a fresh assessment of the property tax due on the mobile towers erected by the petitioner be carried out in a time bound manner.

9. Accordingly, Ext.P6 and Ext.P

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7 shall stand set aside. The third respondent is directed to re-assess the tax on actual rate and the plinth area arrived at as per the joint inspection report, produced as Ext.P13. On the basis of the said re-assessment, fresh demand notices shall be issued thereafter. Needful shall be done, within a period of three months from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment. 10. The writ petition is allowed in part.