Lawyer takes govt to court over departure levy

The departure levy on travellers leaving the country will come into force on Sept 1.

KUALA LUMPUR: A lawyer has filed a suit to challenge the constitutionality of the departure levy imposed on overseas travellers, including those performing pilgrimages.

R Kengadharan, in his originating summons filed at the High Court yesterday, said the Departure Levy Act 2018 and the Departure Levy Order 2019 breach his fundamental right to travel.

He is seeking a declaration that they breach Article 5 (1) of the Federal Constitution and cannot be enforced.

Kengadharan also said he is an aggrieved party as he often travels overseas to meet with clients as well as to perform pilgrimages in India.

He has named Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Putrajaya as defendants to his action in the suit filed by Messrs Srimurugan & Co.

In his affidavit to support the suit, he said any form of tax imposed, including on those who wish to go on pilgrimage or to perform the haj, is a violation of the fundamental liberties guaranteed in the constitution.

R Kengadharan.

He also said that any imposition of a departure tax in addition to the existing service and airport taxes would be burdensome and harsh.

On Aug 2, Lim said travellers flying out of the country would have to pay between RM8 and RM150 in departure levies beginning Sept 1.

The rates will depend on the destination and whether the travellers are flying in economy class.

Travellers heading to Asean countries in economy class will have to pay RM8, while a RM50 levy will be imposed on those flying in any other class.

Those flying to non-Asean countries will be charged RM20 if they fly economy class, while those flying other than economy class will need to pay RM150.

The Dewan Rakyat passed the controversial Departure Levy Bill 2019 in April.

The departure levy was initially proposed by Putrajaya in Budget 2019. The government said it was to encourage the development of domestic tourism.