Kerala High Court has struck down as unconstitutional the state government's decision to levy a 'Mangalya Nidi' cess on weddings and associated celebrations from auditoriums and hotels of three star category and above.
Allowing a batch of petitions filed by owners of auditoriums of Kollam and Kasaragod districts, challenging the government's decision to levy the cess, Justice K Vinod Chandran observed that the levy was not a fee and could only be treated as tax.
The court held that the legislation was ultra vires of the power of the state legislature as conferred by the Constitution and the state has 'no right to levy and collect the cess'.
The petitioners had submitted that it was a tax on marriage for which the state legislature had no jurisdiction. The cess would offend the practising religion as the functions related to marriages were part of religious ceremonies.
Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani had in the 2013 budget introduced the three per cent cess on the expenses related to celebrations held in connection with marriages.
However, later a fixed slab was introduced at Rs 10,000 for AC auditoriums and Rs 5000 for non-AC auditoriums in corporation and municipal areas. Cess of Rs 7500 and Rs 3000 were levied in panchayat areas for AC and Non-AC auditoriums respectively.
The government stated that funds generated from the cess would be used for providing financial help to those belonging to poor families to conduct marriages.