New Delhi: Preparations are in full swing by the government this year for the Haj pilgrimage. For the last two years, the restrictions have been relaxed by Saudi Arabia this year for the Haj pilgrimage which has been stalled due to the Corona epidemic. Meanwhile, petitions filed by private tour operators in the Supreme Court were heard. However, the apex court dismissed all these petitions. In the petitions, private tour operators had sought exemption from goods and services tax (GST) for Haj and Umrah services offered on their behalf to Haj pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia.
The tour operators had challenged the decision to impose GST on Haj pilgrims, which exploits the services offered by registered private tour operators on the ground that as per Article 245 of the Constitution, no tax law can apply to additional regional activities. He argued that GST cannot be levied on services consumed outside India. The Supreme Court rejected all his arguments and dismissed the petitions.
The operators had also argued that the liability was discriminatory as it exempted some Hajis who undertake pilgrimages through the Haj Committee of India. A GST fee of 5 per cent (with input tax credit) applies on air travel on behalf of pilgrims, who use the services of non-scheduled or charter operations for religious pilgrimages offered by the central government under a bilateral arrangement. However, if the services of a specified organisation in respect of a religious pilgrimage are facilitated under a bilateral arrangement on behalf of the Ministry of External Affairs, the rate will be zero.