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Kerala CM raises vehicle tax issue with Karnataka Govt.

Kerala CM raises vehicle tax issue with Karnataka Govt.
Kerala has become the first state to officially protest Karnataka's targeted drive against outstation registered vehicles plying or in transit through the state. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who had already written to his state counterpart Siddaramaiah about the alleged harassment of Kerala-registered vehicles in the state, on Monday sent his Transport Commissioner R Sreelekha to meet her counterpart in Bangalore as well as state Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy. 

The immediate trigger for this meeting was apparently a written plea received by Chandy from some 'victims' of RTO harassment in Karnataka while on a visit to Bangalore on Sunday, requesting him to take up the matter with the Siddaramaiah government. When Bangalore Mirror spoke to Chandy, he seemed very concerned about the developments. "Rules in Karnataka state that whoever uses the vehicle for over 30 days has to pay lifetime tax there. Sadly, some are harassing people visiting the city. There are reports of people being told to pay lifetime tax while on a day's visit to the state with family members. Moreover, paying lifetime tax is too much of a burden on vehicle owners. There is no option for them to pay the tax for one or two years, or till the time they stay there. And getting back their money is not so easy when they want to leave the city. I have already taken up the matter with the Karnataka government. The Transport Commissioner of Kerala had a meeting with Karnataka officials and the Transport Minister on Monday. I was told that there will not be any harassment of people visiting the city from our state," he said. 

During Monday's meeting, the Karnataka Transport Commissioner told his counterpart that there is legal sanction to collect lifetime tax for vehicles running on city roads for over 30 days and the lifetime tax is refundable when the owner leaves the city. This has been a consistent position of the state. Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy's assurance that Karnataka's crackdown against non-KA vehicles was primarily targeted against those who buy high-end vehicles from Puducherry without paying taxes and ply them on Bangalore roads is also not new.The only takeaway for Kerala seems to be Reddy's assurance to Sreelekha that Regional Transport Officers (RTOs) in the city will not ask vehicle owners from Kerala to pay the lifetime tax if their stay here is only for a brief period of less than 30 days. 

Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, Reddy said: "The Kerala CM had written a letter to our CM about the alleged harassment by our transport department staff of KL-registered vehicle owners. In fact, Kerala's Transport Department officials too held a meeting with us and explained that KL-registered vehicles have paid lifetime tax in their state and it was not prudent for Karnataka to penalise motorists who come to Bangalore for short visits. We have told the Kerala government that we will consider their representation." 

He added, "The Kerala government has asked us as to why we are targeting KL vehicles when the crackdown is against Puducherry-based vehicles. Kerala has stated that their vehicle lifetime tax is one per cent more than what is being charged in Karnataka and that it is not fair for officials here to impose tax on KL vehicles. Since this is a tax-related issue, I will discuss the matter with CM Siddaramaiah and take a decision." 

Transport commissioner Ramegowda said, "During the meeting we informed them that after paying the lifetime tax, if a vehicle owner wants to leave the city, he will definitely get the money back depending on how many years he stayed here. Refund will be done ranging from 25 per cent to 95 percent...." 


Waseem Memon, who had submitted the appeal to Chandy, said there have been many incidents of RTO harassment after the rule came into effect. "In one case, Vinod B from Kerala was driving a car bought by his mother-in-law on Bannerghatta Road. RTO officials who stopped the car for inspection confiscated all the car documents and other receipts. Even though Vinod informed officials that his in-laws had come to celebrate Onam, they did not listen. Finally, he was asked to submit an affidavit stating he will never bring the car back to the city and his documents were released. In another case, Anandu — a techie working in Pune — had come to city to take his wife — also a techie — to Kerala. His car was stopped at Electronic City and all the documents, including the ID of his wife, were confiscated by the officials. Their actions were totally unwarranted and unethical." 

Protests against the drive have come from many quarters following reports of harassment by RTO officials. That forced some of the victims to kick off an online campaign against the drive. The matter has even reached the Supreme Court. 
RTO officials in the city have raised slightly more than Rs 20 crore in taxes and penalty amounts by booking cases against 5,298 outside state vehicles from March to September this year. Officials have also seized 1,181 vehicles at various locations, including tech parks.