SC: No penalty shall be imposed for non-transportation of goods within validity of E way bill due to agitation and blocked traffic
Fact and Issue of the case
This petition has been filed by the Revenue Department, being aggrieved of the judgment passed by the Hon’ble Telangana High Court in Satyam Shivam Papers Pvt. Ltd. v. Assistant Commissioner ST & Ors. wherein, the Court set aside the order passed by the Petitioner in Form GST MOV-09, imposing tax and penalty on Satyam Shivam Papers Pvt. Ltd. (“the Respondent”) due to the expiry of the e-way bill and deprecated the Petitioner for blatant abuse of power in detaining goods by treating validity of the expiry on the e-way bill as amounting to evasion of tax compelling the Petitioner to pay INR 69,000/- by such conduct. It was held that, no presumption can be drawn that there was an intention to evade tax on account of non-extension of the validity of the e-way bill by the Respondent. Further, directed the Petitioner to refund the amount collected from the Petitioner with interest @6% p.a. and imposed fine of INR 10,000/- payable to the Respondent. The Petitioner contended that, the questions of law is involved in the matter w.r.t. the operation and effect of Section 129 of Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 (“the CGST Act”) and violation by the Respondent.
Observation of the court and Conclusion
The consideration of the High court in the order impugned and the material placed on record leaves nothing to doubt that the attempted inference on the part of petitioner No.2, that the writ petitioner was evading tax because the e-way bill had expired a day earlier, had not only been baseless but even the intent behind the proceedings against the writ petitioner was also questionable, particularly when it was found that the goods in question, after being detained were, strangely, kept in the house of a relative of the petitioner No.2 for 16 days and not at any other designated place for their safe custody.
Having said so, the High Court has set aside the levy of tax and penalty of Rs. 69,000/- (Rupees Sixty-nine Thousand) while imposing costs of Rs. 10,000/- (Rupees Ten Thousand), payable by the petitioner No.2 to the writ petitioner within four weeks.
The analysis and reasoning of the High Court commends to us, when it is noticed that the High Court has meticulously examined and correctly found that no fault or intent to evade tax could have been inferred against the writ petitioner. However, as commented at the outset, the amount of costs as awarded by the High Court in this matter is rather on the lower side. Considering the overall conduct of the petitioner No.2 and the corresponding harassment faced by the writ petitioner we find it rather necessary to enhance the amount of costs.
Upon our having made these observations, learned counsel for the petitioners has attempted to submit that the questions of law in this case, as regards the operation and effect of Section 129 of Telangana Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 and violation by the writ petitioner, may be kept open. The submissions sought to be made do not give rise to even a question of fact what to say of a question of law. As noticed hereinabove, on the facts of this case, it has precisely been found that there was no intent on the part of the writ petitioner to evade tax and rather, the goods in question could not be taken to the destination within time for the reasons beyond the control of the writ petitioner. When the undeniable facts, including the traffic blockage due to agitation, are taken into consideration, the State alone remains responsible for not providing smooth passage of traffic.
Having said so; having found no question of law being involved; and having found this petition itself being rather mis-conceived , we are constrained to enhance the amount of costs imposed in this matter by the High Court. The High Court has awarded costs to the writ petitioner in the sum of Rs. 10,000/- (Rupees Ten Thousand) in relation to tax and penalty of Rs.69,000/- (Rupees Sixty-nine Thousand) that was sought to be imposed by the petitioner No.2. In the given circumstances, a further sum of Rs. 59,000/- (Rupees Fifty-nine Thousand) is imposed on the petitioners toward costs, which shall be payable to the writ petitioner within four weeks from today. This would be over and above the sum of Rs. 10,000/- (Rupees Ten Thousand) already awarded by the High Court. Having regard to the circumstances, we also make it clear that the State would be entitled to recover the amount of costs, after making payment to the writ petitioner, directly from the person/s responsible for this entirely unnecessary litigation.