A court decision vindicating a 78-year-old man for refusing to pay cemetery tax to Oroklini council, may put other municipalities in Cyprus between a rock and a hard place, the lawyer which won the case told the Cyprus Mail on Friday.
“We’ve been fighting this for ten years. It’s justice served,” said Monica Sophocleous, the lawyer who represented Andreas Gregoriades.
Gregoriades, 78, took up the case over decade ago in 2010 when he refused to pay an annual €80 cemetery tax imposed by the Oroklini council, arguing he had a family plot in a cemetery outside the village boundaries which is where he was going to be buried.
Though the tax was later lowered to €60 due to him being a pensioner, Gregoriades argued the fight for him was a matter of principle.
On Wednesday, an administrative court ruled that Gregoriades had no obligation to pay the sum to the council and he should be paid €2000 in expenses, in addition to VAT.
“I feel justice has been served. Finally, a decision which represents logic and justice. It took years and a lot of determination from my part,” Gregoriades told the Cyprus Mail.
The premise of the argument which allowed him to win the case is that though the council called it a tax, court determined it to in fact be a levy. The implication where a levy is concerned is that the payment must be met with an exchange in service.
In this case, court found that the fee the council was seeking from its residents was in fact to cover the expenses Oroklini council undertook to purchase the land that houses the cemetery and any other accompanying expenses.
As such, because Gregoriades has his own plot of land and will not benefit from the council’s ‘service’ of the cemetery, he is under no obligation to pay the sum of money.
“This decision has definitely opened Pandora’s box for other municipalities,” Sophocleous told the Cyprus Mail. As it stands, the decision is still at administrative court level and as such lacks the binding powers of the Supreme Court.
Nonetheless, she maintains it is still the only decision on the case for now and time will tell how the case will develop. Oroklini council has 45 days to appeal the decision.
“Whatever happens, we will fight it. The judge read the case with the same interpretation of the levy as we did – and this is based on EU regulations,” Sophocleous added.
“The judge viewed this case in a more logical, pragmatic and realistic way than the council did.”
Oroklini council was not immediately available to comment on the case and elaborate if it would be taking any steps.