Port Trust not entitled to exemption from urban land tax, says Madras High Court

Ownership transfer: The land originally belonged to the Madras Dock Labour Board, which merged with the Chennai Port Trust in 1998. File Photo  

The Madras High Court has held that the Chennai Port Trust (CPT) is not entitled to exemption from payment of urban land tax to the State government under the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Urban Land Tax Act of 1996.

Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy ruled that the CPT had failed to establish that it was entitled to exemption granted, under Section 29 (a) of the Act, to lands owned by the State government or the Centre.

The judgment was delivered while allowing a writ appeal preferred by the Commissioner for Urban Land Ceiling and Urban Land Tax. The first Division Bench overturned a ruling passed by a single judge of the High Court last year in favour of the CPT.

The issue in question were land originally owned by the Madras Dock Labour Board (MDLB), a body corporate constituted under Section 5-A of the Dock Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act of 1948. In 1998, MDLB was merged with the CPT.

After the merger, all assets and funds of the MDLB were vested with the Board of Trustees of the CPT, which refused to pay urban land tax on the ground that both the entities were fully controlled by the Centre, and hence the land technically belonged to the latter.

Rejecting the contention, the first Division Bench pointed out that the MDLB was a body corporate empowered to own lands and it had been paying urban land tax before its merger without claiming that the lands were owned by the Centre.

Therefore, the evidence on record showed that the MDLB was both the ostensible and real owner of the lands.

Further, there was a June 30, 1976, circular which categorically stated that lands owned by the CPT would not be eligible for exemption, the Bench added.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 9:57:27 AM |

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