Death and taxes might be the only certainty in the world, but not in Gujarat. A state body charged Goods and Services Tax (GST) on Right to Information queries, only to refund it later when the applicants filed another RTI query to ask why!
Junagadh resident Haresh Chauhan, 50, had filed an RTI plea with the Gujarat Energy Transmission Corporation Limited (Getco) on May 22 to seek details of his alleged dismissal from a contract with the utility. He was stumped when he realised he had been charged GST of Rs 23 on his plea. “I did not want my application to be rejected, so I paid up, but on June 30, I filed another RTI to find out under what rule the GST had been charged on my first plea,” Chauhan said.
“I got Getco’s reply on August 8, in which they told me that the GST on my RTI was being refunded due to changes in rules. Rs 23 was credited to my account through an online transfer,” he said. Chauhan showed DNA the receipt for the GST charge as well as Getco’s response that he would get a refund.
Chauhan said the episode got him thinking: “If I had let go of Rs 23, no one would have bothered to return it to me.” Chauhan is not the only one fighting wrong taxation by the state body.
Jitendra Joshi, also from Junagadh, took on Getco after it charged him Rs 4 GST on an RTI plea he had filed. As in Chauhan’s case, Joshi’s four rupees were also refunded when he filed a follow-up query to ask why his plea had been taxed.
“The issues is not of Rs 4 but an organisation wrongly charging GST. When I asked them for a refund, they not only refunded me the money but also sent me a reply by registered post explaining that my money had been refunded, as the rules for GST had been tweaked. The registered post sent to me would have cost the company at least five times the amount they refunded. Imagine a department wasting its time, energy and money in refunding a tax that it should not have charged in the first place,” said Joshi.
BB Chauhan, managing director, Getco, said their field office had collected GST on photocopy charges collected under the RTI Act, since this activity is not excluded from the integrated tax regime.
“Later, the GST department clarified the non-applicability of GST on RTI applications and it was conveyed to field offices. They were also asked to refund the GST collected from applicants,” Chauhan said.