NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court dismissed a list of petitions filed by private tour operators seeking Goods and Services (GST) tax exemption for Haj and Umrah services offered to pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia.
According to media reports, tour operators had challenged the imposition of GST on Haj and Umrah pilgrims, as no tax law could apply to outdoor activities. He cited Article 245 of the Constitution in this regard. Also, He argued that the levy was discriminatory, as it exempted certain pilgrims who would undertake 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. Another issue is kept pending 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 Hajj, as the last two seasons were limited only to domestic pilgrims.