Property Tax appeal in court today

Attorneys representing Finance Minister Colm Imbert and former agriculture minister Devant Maharaj are expected to square off at the Hall of Justice this morning at hearing of an appeal against two injunctions stopping collection and processing of valuation return forms for the property tax.

The hearing comes less than a week after High Court Judge Frank Seepersad granted a second injunction to Maharaj, who claimed the State was in breach of the original order when it invited property owners to voluntarily submit their forms to the Commissioner of Valuations.

Maharaj sued the Ministry of Finance after it issued a press release calling on property owners to complete and submit valuations forms along with relevant documents by May 22. Even as Imbert extended the deadline due to long lines of property owners at Valuation Division offices, Maharaj applied for the injunction on May 19.

In granting the first injunction Seepersad had said: “The balance of convenience and the interest of justice is not weighted in favour of the respondents (AG and Commissioner) and a greater risk of prejudice lies in the continuation of a process which on the face of the existing law, may have been undertaken without measured consideration and without proper regard to the provisions of the Act.”

Imbert and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi immediately signalled Government’s intention to appeal the injunction. However, there was some controversy as Al-Rawi said the appeal would come up for hearing two days later even before it was filed in the court’s registry.

At the first hearing of the appeal on May 22, Appellate Judges Peter Jamadar, Gregory Smith and Judith Jones adjourned the case as they said they had not had time to read the documents and the appeal was not urgent.

Following the adjournment, Imbert issued a second release in which he claimed he had legal advice on the issue and voluntary submission of forms would not be in breach of Seepersad’s injunction. Imbert’s claims were raised by Maharaj’s lawyer Anand Ramlogan, SC, when the original injunction came up for review last Wednesday.

Ramlogan then applied and obtained the secondary injunction blocking the Commissioner of Valuations from receiving and processing the forms. State attorneys have since appealed the second injunction and both appeals are expected to be heard simultaneously this morning.

Maharaj’s substantive case against the State challenging the legality of Government’s enforcement of property tax is set to go on trial in September.

SOURCE: (Derek Achong)