India: Supreme Court rejects petitions for GST exemptions on Haj, Umrah services

Tour operators claim that no tax law can be applicable to extraterritorial activities

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Published: Tue 26 Jul 2022, 3:21 PM

Last updated: Tue 26 Jul 2022, 3:23 PM

The Supreme Court dismissed a list of petitions filed by various private tour operators, who sought Goods and Services (GST) tax exemptions for their Haj and Umrah services, offered to pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia.

According to media reports, the tour operators had challenged the levy of GST on Haj and Umrah pilgrims on the grounds that no tax law could be applicable to extraterritorial activities. They cited Article 245 of the constitution, in this regard, and also argued that the levy was discriminatory, for it exempted certain pilgrims who would be undertaking the pilgrimage through the Haj Committee of India.

As per a report from India Today, a Supreme Court bench consisting of 3 judges— Justices AM Khanwilkar, AS Oka and CT Ravikumar— were appointed to this case. In its verdict, the bench, headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar, said that these services were already eligible for the exemption granted to religious activities.

However, Justice Oka, who read out the operative portion of the judgement, said:

"We have dismissed the petitions on both the grounds of exemption and discrimination. Other issue is kept pending of extra territorial operation. That hasn’t been decided."

This year is the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020 that Saudi Arabia has allowed foreign pilgrims to perform Haj, as the last two seasons were limited only to domestic pilgrims.


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