On Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied a number of applications from private tour operators asking for GST exemption for the Hajj and Umrah services they provide to pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia. The appeal made by the All India Haj & Umrah Tour Organizer Association and other tour operators was denied by a panel of judges led by Justice AM Khanwilkar. According to the court, it has rejected the applications on the basis of discrimination and exemption. The petitioners’ concern over the extraterritorial application of GST to services provided outside of India was, according to the court, held open while it is being considered by a different bench.
After hearing from the parties on May 5, the high court deferred its decision on a number of petitions by tour operators seeking a GST exemption for Hajj and Umrah services. The top court received a petition from the tour operators contesting the imposition of GST on Hajis who use their services. In accordance with Article 245 of the Constitution, the petitioner claims that no tax law can be applied to extraterritorial activity. They further criticised the taxation system for being discriminatory because it exempts some pilgrims who go by way of the Haj Committee of India. Since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, Saudi Arabia has only permitted domestic pilgrims to perform the Hajj. This year marks the first time that Saudi Arabia has allowed foreign pilgrims to perform the Hajj.
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