Karnataka Govt’s lifetime road tax on outside cars declared unconstitutional by the High Court..

Well, there is some justice and a jolt for Karnataka Govt which has haraassed so many commuters.

The copy of the court decision is here. Huge applaud to the people who dared fight the State of Karnataka and bureuacracy on the matter. The way the govt officials impounded cars and licences reminded one about the powers a government has no matter how illegitimate the matter may be. No warning or anything, just confiscate.

However, there is still some confusion over the matter.

The government was demanding lifetime fees on even cars which crossed the state or those people who travel frequently to the state from other states(read at the beginning of petition, shocking really). It is clear that no such taxes can be collected. But will they be reimbursed back? No such orders from the govt.

What about those whose cars have been in state for more than 12 months? The law says that one needs to apply for a new number if he/she has been in another state for 12 months. So, will someone have to pay lifetime tax when he/she gets his/her vehicle registered in a new state?  This also is needless given how much people migrate from one place to another these days. Does it mean a person has to keep re-registering his car/vehicle with each transfer?

It is all needless really and just an additional harassment for people for whom migration anyways is a tough issue to tackle. In times of IT, one can easily check whether the vehicle is registered in another state  and should be enough. The idea to get another State number or not should be a choice left to the person. If one has to sell the car, it has to get a local number. At that time, people can just switch number plates by paying a nominal fee or something.

I mean one can’t have these draconian taxes at metropolitan cities of all places. Government of Karnataka should know better how much it benefits fro,m positioning Karnataka as this city which invites talent from everywhere. Once people come, they are anyways paying taxes on all kinds of things. Why harrass them anymore?

This issue also helps one think about this political economy of taxes. It is much easier for the state to choose people to tax who cannot organise themselves. These are usually mango people who don’t have an instrument to dissent. Any such tax on say FIIs or large corporates like Vodafone doesn’t work as easily. They have a powerful instrument of financial markets to show their dissent. Any such move leads to sharp decline in markets with experts reacting strongly calling it against financial globalization etc. Even if they don’t have financial market as an instrument like the jewellery industry,  the industry can organise and call a strike. So even before tax can be collected, the finance ministry will have to come out and say sorry.

But people have no such mechanism other than these petitions which take their own sweet time. By then, the government has already collected taxes from hapless people through its impounding and threatening drives. If there is an order to return the money to people, the mechanism will be such arduous one, that most will give up.

Even worse is to  see none of the big businesses of Bangalore speaking against such taxes. They perhaps also know people have no choice but to come to Bangalore for  work. Any such taxes on their businesses will lead to all kinds of cries but nothing at all for their employees. Such an approach will only be temporary though. It might take time for alternative employment choices to develop but once they do, people desert cities very quickly.


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