Invalidation of One-Line Order for Delay in Appeal Submission: Usha Gupta vs. Assistant Commissioner of State Tax
The High Court overturns the appellate authority’s order, which dismissed the appeal due to a filing delay.
In the case of M/s. Usha Gupta vs. Assistant Commissioner of State Tax, the petitioner, M/s. Usha Gupta, contested the disputed order dated July 28, 2022, issued by the revenue department. The primary grievance in this writ petition was that the revenue department’s adjudication summary lacked explicit reasoning and failed to provide the full text of the order. The contentious order was a concise one-liner, dismissing M/s. Usha Gupta’s appeal based on the grounds of delayed submission.
Was the one-line order issued by the revenue department, dismissing the petitioner’s appeal due to a submission delay, legally valid?
The petitioner argued that the delay in filing the appeal was due to unforeseen circumstances and that they became aware of the summary order only when their bank account was debited. They also contended that a significant portion of the delay was incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic, which should be protected according to a Supreme Court order.
Court’s Observations and Judgment:
The Court noted that the department’s summary order lacked sufficient explanation or justification. Similarly, the order dismissing the appeal was a one-liner that did not delve into the merits of the case. The Court deemed it appropriate to set aside the disputed order and remand the matter to the department for a fresh, comprehensive decision based on the merits of the appeal. The Court explicitly directed that the issue of limitation should not be a focal point. This fresh decision was to be made within eight weeks from the date of communication of the Court’s order, with no unwarranted delays.
The Court also emphasized that the department must grant the petitioner a personal hearing when disposing of the appeal. Furthermore, the petitioner was granted the liberty to submit an appropriate application, following legal procedures, for the refund of any excess amount collected by the department in relation to the pre-deposit. Such refund applications should be processed in accordance with the law.
In summary, this case centered around the petitioner’s inability to present their case due to delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The department’s issuance of one-line orders to set aside the appeal and dismiss it, without providing valid reasons and without affording the petitioner an opportunity to present their case, was found to be legally untenable by the Court. Consequently, the Court annulled the revenue department’s orders and instructed the department to handle the case afresh, adhering to the law. This included providing the petitioner with a personal hearing and addressing the matter of excess pre-deposit in accordance with legal procedures.