Appeal Court: 2017 Property Tax Data Collection was illegal and unconstitutional

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    The Finance Ministry says yesterday’s Court of Appeal ruling is only pertinent to the 2017 Valuation Exercise.

    According to reports, Appellate Judges Peter Rajkumar, Charmaine Pemberton and Vasheist Kokaram ruled that the move to implement a mandatory data collection exercise for the implementation of property tax in 2017 was illegal and breached citizens’ constitutional rights.

    This effectively reversed the decision of High Court Judge Jacqueline Wilson, who dismissed a lawsuit by Devant Maharaj in 2018.

    In a release, Maharaj said the judgment was “a victory for all property owners and the public at large”, adding that “Public interest litigation is not something that should be discouraged because it is vital to democracy and the preservation of the rule of law.”

    Responding to the ruling as well, the Finance Ministry insisted that the Court of Appeal’s decision made it clear that it did not apply to or affect the present data collection exercise being carried out by the Commissioner of Valuations.

    It said: “In relation to that 2017 data collection exercise, the Court of Appeal held that the Commissioner had no legal authority under section 6 of the Valuation of Land Act to require property owners to submit a VRF on or before June 10, 2017 and that prior to that date property owners were under no legal obligation to submit a VRF under the data collection exercise. The Court made it clear that their decision was solely in relation to a state of affairs which commenced on April 19, 2017 and ended on June 10, 2017.”

    The Ministry also noted that the Court was not asked to and did not pronounce upon the legality of the present exercise which is being conducted by the Commissioner of Valuations under section 29 of the Valuation of Land Act.