The Kerala High Court issued the notice to the government on a plea by the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association (KHCAA) challenging the Goods and Services Tax (GST) levied on the goods and services provided by Association to its own members.
Facts of the case:-
The Members of the Petitioner Association are Advocates enrolled on the rolls maintained by the Bar Council of India ordinarily practicing in the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala. The petitioner Association had been acting as an agent for its members in the matter of distribution of various essential items to its own members and for providing various essential facilities to its own members.
The petitioner Association constructed a multi-storied building for the chamber complex of lawyers’ and the chambers therein have been occupied by members of the first petitioner Association only, long before the coming into force of the CGST as well as KSGST Acts. The building was named as KHCAA Golden Jubilee Chamber Complex. A portion of the complex is used as a canteen for members, organic shop for members, etc given on a licensed basis. Banks run by outside agencies (Dhanlaxmi Bank, Canara Bank) for the convenience and service of the Members of the Association also occupy a small portion of the Complex on a license basis. A small hall is also given on a daily licensed basis. The income derived from the licensed premises is also used for the benefit of the members only. Hence the said income is not liable to be taxed under the Acts as the proceeds therefrom are used for the benefits of the welfare of the members.
Advocate Firoz K.M appeared for the petitioners in the matter. The primary contention of KHCAA was that such a levy of GST would attract the ‘doctrine of mutuality’ as there could be no supply of goods from it to its members.
There is no iota of reason to saddle the voluntary association of the lawyers to put under the yoke of taxation without any authority of law. The Petitioners may submit that from the legal and factual perspective the first petitioner is a lawyers’ combination for assisting themselves in exclusively conducting cases before the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala. It cannot be termed as a taxable entity under the KSGST Act or the CGST Act. The authorities under the said Act have no authority or jurisdiction to proceed against the first petitioner in any manner whatsoever. It is therefore only just and proper to stay all further proceedings against the first petitioner by issuing an appropriate stay of all proceedings against the petitioner under the CGST Act and KSGST Act.
The single bench of Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas said, “I am satisfied that the petitioners have made out a prima facie case, which merits admission.”