New Delhi, Mar 9 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today deferred the hearing for four weeks on a petition seeking direction to the Centre to not levy service tax on Hajis, who perform Haj through Haj Group Operators (HGO) and further to exempt them from the service tax category as performing Haj is a religious activity.
A three-judge bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjiv Khanna directed to list the matter with other similar matter.
The petition has been filed by the All India Haj Umrah Tour Organizer Association, Mumbai, seeking a writ/order/direction, declaring that the levy of service tax on the pilgrims (Hajis), who undertake religious pilgrimage of Haj and Umrah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is unconstitutional, infringing fundamental rights of the Hajis enshrined in Articles 14, 19, 21 and 25 of the Constitution.
The petitioner contended that no service tax could be levied on the Hajis for performing the Haj/ Umrah in any event. The said service was exempted from taxation and thus, the HGOs were not liable to collect and pay service tax.
The Association mentioned that about 70 per cent of the Hajis, who go for Haj through Haj Committee of India, do not pay service tax as the Government has given exemption to Hajis who go through Haj Committee of India, while Hajis who go through HGOs, were asked to pay service tax. This action was clearly discriminatory and arbitrary, it added. ILNS/SNG/JR