CESS EVASION ON AGRI IMPORTS
BY Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, Sept 17: The Gauhati High Court has admitted a PIL which sought a CBI probe into an alleged multi-crore scam in which cess to be levied on agricultural produce brought into Assam, has either been evaded or misappropriated since the past several years.
Admitting the PIL, a division bench of Chief Justice (acting) K Sreedhar Rao and Justice PK Saikia has issued notices to the respondents - Chief Secretary, Agriculture Secretary, the Assam State Agriculture Marketing Board and NF Railway.
In her PIL, Sudipa Goswami Konwar alleged large-scale evasion and misappropriation of cess under the Assam Agricultural Produce Market Act, 1972 during the past several years by traders in collusion with officials of the Assam State Agricultural Marketing Board.
"It is only the tip of the iceberg and only a probe by an independent investigating agency will be able to identify the persons involved in such a fincial scam which has caused huge loss to the tune of several hundred crores to the State exchequer," said the petitioner's counsel Bhaskar Dev Konwar. The petitioner cited information furnished under RTI, according to which there is no record of the quantity of the goods against which the Board collected cess for a considerable period of time.
Much of the cess allegedly evaded or misappropriated was in respect of agricultural produce brought into Assam by traders through rail transport. It is alleged in the PIL that cess is not being collected at the BG (broad gauge) points at New Guwahati, Changsari and Amingaon and also at Jorhat on the basis of the quantity and price of the goods that are brought in, but through an 'understanding' between the traders and officials of the Board.
According to the PIL, the annual misappropriation could be to the tune of Rs 300 crore.
"Agricultural produce are brought into Assam and shown to be destined for Meghalaya and galand and in that manner cess is evaded. The quantity of agricultural produce unloaded at the BG points and removed by the traders is far higher than what is disclosed by the Board. Similarly the amount of cess shown to have been collected is far less than the actual amount collected," the PIL stated.