Citizens' Issues
Now Maharashtra service tax after Mallya for dues
Mumbai : Adding to the woes of the defunct Kingfisher Airlines boss Vijay Mallya, the Maharashtra sales tax department on Wednesday filed a plea in Bombay High Court seeking recovery of dues amounting to crores of rupees.
 
The petition was mentioned by ST department counsel Advait Sethna before Justice C.V. Bhadang who asked him to bring it up on Friday and it would be taken up for hearing.
 
The department has earlier filed two cases in a magistrate's court against Mallya claiming a liability of service tax dues of Rs.32.68 crore and Rs.23.38 crore for different periods. While one is currently being heard, the other is pending hearing.
 
However, the department has made a total disputed liability of service tax by Mallya to the tune of Rs.535 crore.
 
The department apprehends that if Mallya was absent from the trial in India, it could cause grave prejudice to its cases, coming up after various public sector banks have also moved the Supreme Court against the liquor baron.
 
It has also sought freezing of Mallya's passports, and restricting his movements abroad as media reports have said his Rajya Sabha term expires on June 30 and he was planning to spend more time abroad.
 
In its petition, the department has contended that large sums of service tax collected from passengers of the grounded KFA were not deposited with the government and hence Mallya and other airline directors are defaulters of statutory tax, so the amount must be recovered from them.
 
It has sought high court directions for Mallya's presence in the court and also before the trial in the magistrate's court till recovery of the tax dues.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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National waterways bill passed by parliament
New Delhi : Parliament on Wednesday passed the National Waterways Bill, which provides for declaring certain inland waterways as national waterways with the Rajya Sabha giving its nod to the legislation.
 
The bill, passed by Lok Sabha in December 2015, also repeals the five acts on the existing national waterways, which will not be covered under this bill.
 
Under it, 106 additional inland waterways will be added to the list of national waterways, taking the number to 111.
 
"While inland waterways are recognised as a fuel efficient, cost effective and environment friendly mode of transport, it has received lesser investment as compared to roads and railways.
 
"Since inland waterways are lagging behind other modes of transport, the central government has evolved a policy for integrated development of inland waterways," said the bill's statement of objectives.
 
Under entry 24 of the union list of the constitution's seventh schedule, the central government can make laws on shipping and navigation on inland waterways which are classified as national waterways by parliament.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Whistle-blower Hears an Echo
It pays to keep your mouth shut
 
At the end of this piece, one may well ask the question, “Whom does one trust?” If one feels that the police are to be avoided, by the innocent and the not-so-innocent, there is no misgiving. Worse, any involvement with the cops, outside one’s constitutional duties, is fraught with danger. A Gujarati saying goes thus: ‘doorthi doonger ralyamna’. It means that mountains are best seen from afar. 
 
There are clauses, in almost every Romanesque form of law, against self-condemning and self-convicting evidence. In short, it pays to keep your mouth shut. We have invalidity of confessions, except before designated magistrates. And even then, a judicial authority will ask for concrete evidence. Why? We will touch on that at some later date. Right now, we see the hazards of hobnobbing with the cops. Invitation to danger!
 
One hears of informers. In local parlance, they are called, ‘khabris’. They are the ones who pass on the ‘aaj-ki-taaji’ news to the cops. Since no one does it for free, neck-in-noose being the aftermath, it requires compensation. Payment in cash? If funds permit and accounting is possible. Otherwise, the modus operandi is implied blackmail: arm-twisting, threats, pressures on family members or worse. To the honest citizen, it may seem fair play. Is it? 
No country will have such a system as open policy. It flies in the face of democratic institutions, governed by the rule of law. Yet, it exists almost everywhere; and the cops are ingenious. They go after the soft underbelly. 
 
Zaraukas was an informer for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). His brief was to tell-tale on smuggling of contraband into the USA. The operative words being, “… into the USA.” Cross-border stuff, not native transport. He was persuaded to be the eyes and ears of the FWS. He lived in Maine, in the north-east of America. A border state, it shares a common boundary with Canada. And therein lies the rub. 
 
One bad apple spoils the others. More infectious than AIDS or Zika or Ebola, the virus of monetary greed took hold of Zaraukas. Proximity to easy cash, and the presumed shelter of being hand-in-glove with the law enforcement agencies, put our man over the line. This is how it all ended. The FWS men met Zaraukas at the Café Vivaldi. Prophetic name for a man about to sing. No opera star, Zaraukas realised that the meeting was a trap. Prevarication seemed in order. Was he there to inform or be interrogated? He was arrested on charges of smuggling and allied violations. The matter went to trial. He was convicted. He appealed.
 
Americans are, correctly, fond of their Constitution, and also in quoting its amendments. In over 200 years, they have had 27 amendments. (By contrast, we have had almost two a year!) The Yanks are especially fond of the first and the fifth amendment and rely on them incessantly. Zaraukas ‘… took the Fifth’, American lingo for relying on the law against incriminating oneself. He complained that he had a right to remain silent and the jury was prejudiced against him for that very fundamental right. 
 
You be the judge. Would you allow his appeal? Or dismiss it?
 
After some convoluted reasoning, the judges kept Zaraukas locked up for 33 months. Guilty, as charged. But the questions that were never asked, raised or thought about were these: Did the authorities suspect Zaraukas of smuggling and take him on as a khabri in order to trap him? 
 
Most informers have their problems with the police; otherwise, they would not take the risk. Did his closeness to a thriving trade, suck him in? His claim to have dealt in non-imported stuff was nullified by his emails and the volume of business he had conducted. Yet, he was not caught with the goods at the border, trafficking and transport being two different things. They were hidden in his home. Above all, was the jury prejudiced by the prosecution harping on Zaraukas insisting on keeping quiet? The judges remained unaffected by his pleas.
 
Whistle-blowing is a hazardous occupation. Zaraukas was lucky. In India, one pays with one’s life. Khabar (information) and kabar (grave) seem synonymous. Adjacent plots? 

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