Supreme Court: Deciding on the issue that whether the State Government may deny the tax exemption which was promised earlier, the bench comprising of Dr. A.K Sikri and R. F. Nariman, JJ., was of the view that the non-exercise of the power to give exemption in certain taxes is in itself an arbitrary act. The Court also, while considering the principle of promissory estoppel, observed that promissory estoppel can be the basis of an independent cause of action in which detriment does not need to be proved and it is enough that a party has acted upon the representation made.
A Government Order dated 11.07.1986 was issued by the State of Kerala, stating that tourism be declared “industry” and exemption from Building Tax levied by the Revenue Department was one of the concessions granted. The power to make exemption was granted by adding Section 3A to the Kerala Buildings Act, 1975, however the same was omitted in 1993. In the present case, the appellants relying on a government order, constructed a hotel building in the year 1991 while reasonably assuming the rightful entitled tax exemption and the government had the statutory power to grant exemption from building tax. A discretionary power was to be exercised on facts under Section 3A of the Kerala Buildings Tax Act, 1975 as the said provision was in force at that time. The non issuance of such of a notification was an arbitrary act of government which must be remedied by applying the doctrine of promissory estoppel. The Court further held that no valid public interest exist which justifies the government’s resilience from its promise. The appellants are therefore entitled to exemption till the date of existence of such exemption provision in the statute and not thereafter. (Manuelsons Hotel v. State of Kerala, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 487, decided on 11.05.2016).