GUWAHATI, Sept 19 - A PIL was heard in the Gauhati High Court on Thursday against large-scale evasion of cess as well as misappropriation of the cess leviable under the Assam Agricultural Produce Market Act 1972 during the past several years by traders, in collusion with officials of the Assam State Agricultural Marketing Board.
It was registered as PIL No.44/2015 wherein the Chief Secretary of the State of Assam, Secretary Agricultural Department, ASAMB, and NF Railway have been arrayed as respondents.
In response to the PIL, the Division Bench of Chief Justice (Acting) K Sreedhar Rao and Justice PK Saikia directed the authorities to file their response with regard to the allegations made in the PIL.
The PIL has sought a CBI probe into the large-scale evasion and misappropriation of cess leviable under the Assam Agricultural Produce Market Act 1972, which allegedly involves officials of the Board and the traders.
Senior advocate and civil rights activist Bhaskar Dev Konwar, who appeared for petitioner Sudipa Goswami Konwar, said that it was only the tip of the iceberg and only an investigation by an independent investigating agency would be able to identify the persons involved in the huge financial scam that had caused a staggering loss to the tune of several hundred crores of rupees to the State exchequer.
Surprisingly, in the information furnished under RTI, for a considerable period of time there was no record of the quantity of the goods against which the Board collected cess.
It appears that much of the cess so evaded/misappropriated was in respect of agricultural produce brought into Assam by traders through rail transport. It is alleged in the PIL that cess is not being collected at the broad-gauge points at New Guwahati, Changsari and Amingaon and also at Jorhat on the basis of the quantity and price of the goods that are brought in but cess is being allowed to be evaded and misappropriated through an understanding between the traders and the officials of the Board.
In the past three years, the PIL stated, annually there is misappropriation to the tune of Rs 300 crore. Agricultural produce is brought to Assam and shown to be destined for Meghalaya and Nagaland and in that manner cess is evaded.