MTNL: Compelled by SC to repay Unauthorised Deduction after 18 years to Adv Sanjay Kothari

We need more Sanjay Kotharis.

Ed

Advocate wages 18-yr battle for 9 refund from MTNL

Shibu Thomas TNN

      Mumbai: In 1994, an advocate took on MTNL for charging extra service tax on his telephone bill. The case inched forward in the high court and reached the Supreme Court, but he didn’t give up. Eighteen years later, he got his due: an MTNL refund cheque for Rs 9 that he received earlier in August.

     “It was a matter of principle,” said Sanjay Kothari, the proud recipient. “MTNL is a public body and if they wrongly charge consumers, they must refund it. Otherwise, it is a case of unjust enrichment.”

    And Kothari is not done yet. He has filed a contempt petition over MTNL’s failure to refund the extra tax to other customers as the Bombay HC had ordered in 2010.

    WHAT IT’S WORTH

      9, in 1993-94, adjusted for inflation as per the wholesale price index, would be equivalent to 27.78 as of July 2012, the last month for which data is available MTNL has to refund 9 each to 1.8L people

       Mumbai: An RTI application filed by Mumbai advocate Sanjay Kothari revealed that MTNL has to refund Rs 9 to about 1.8 lakh consumers. The amount works out to over Rs 16 lakh.

       His case against the public body goes back to the early 90s when Kothari read the fine print in his bill of Rs 340 and realized that he had been charged extra service tax. MTNL refused a refund, following which Kothari, who was represented by senior advocate Arif Bookwala and advocates Sanjay Udeshi and Mahesh Londhe, filed a writ petition in 1994 before the high court.

      MTNL said Kothari’s actual bill was for Rs 380 and since he had paid a deposit of Rs 5,000 under the Own Your Telephone scheme, he was eligible for a rebate of Rs 40 in his bi-monthly bill for 20 years. The PSU stated it would consider his actual bill of Rs 380 when charging service tax, while Kothari argued that it should be calculated on his payable bill of Rs 340.

      Sixteen years later, the HC ruled in Kothari’s favour, saying the service tax should have been charged only on the gross amount reflected in the telephone bill. MTNL moved the Supreme Court a year later, but their plea was dismissed last July on grounds of delay.

     Earlier this month, he finally got the cheque for Rs 9. “MTNL could have easily adjusted the amount in my current bill, but they chose to issue a cheque which costs money,” said Kothari.

      “It seems they are not keen on paying the others. I am an advocate and could take the case to its logical conclusion, but what about the ordinary citizen?”

    Clearly, MTNL has not heard the last from him.

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