Justice S.M. Subramaniam of the Madras High Court has sent a written communication to its Registrar General questioning as to why professional tax is not being deducted from the salary of the High Court staff when there is no interim stay in a case filed by them, way back in 1998, against such deduction.
A copy of the letter accessed by The Hindu, states that one C. Selvaraj, general secretary of a private body titled Federation of Anti Corruption Teams India, had sent a complaint to the judge on September 19, 2022 stating that the High Court staff alone were not paying professional tax for several years.
On verification, the judge found that the Madras High Court Staff Association had filed a writ petition in 1998 challenging the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Tax on Professions, Trades, Callings and Employment Act of 1992. After 13 years, the writ petition was dismissed for non prosecution on July 5, 2011.
Thereafter, it was restored and an interim order was passed on August 30, 2013 granting liberty to the staff association to make a representation to the government and issuing a direction to the latter to consider it depending upon the public policy. A similar interim order was passed once again on June 8, 2016.
Though there was no interim stay against deduction of professional tax in the writ petition pending for the last 24 years, the High Court staff had not denying the public exchequer of its annual entitlement of Rs.59.82 lakh while all other government employees and staff of subordinate courts were paying the tax promptly, he said.
“It is unfortunate that the Madras High Court and Madurai Bench of Madras High Court Officers and Staff Association has been taking undue advantage of the pendency of the abovesaid writ petition and evading payment of professional tax for several years resulting in huge financial loss to the exchequer,” he wrote.
Also wondering why the writ petition had been kept pending for over two decades without any acceptable reason, he went on to state: “I am of the reasonable doubt that the staff association of the Madras High Court is manipulating the case bundle in the matter of listing the said writ petition before the court concerned.”
Finding no reason why the High Court staff alone does not pay professional tax when 12 lakh government employees including the Secretariat staff were paying it regularly, the judge said: “Shockingly, the bills presented are cleared by the Pay and Accounts Office due to misguidance of the High Court Registry.”
He further wrote that the Pay and Accounts Officer had been unduly pressurised to clear the bills without deducting the professional tax. “Such a conduct of the Registry officials is to be enquired into and due actions are to be taken. The Registrar General should also issue instructions to deduct professional tax,” the judge concluded.