Bombay High Court rules in support of the petitioner
No right to cross-examine witnesses before a response to the show cause notice
The Bombay High Court has granted a petitioner to file a final reply to the show-cause notice-cum-demand notice within a fortnight. It felt that no one had the right to cross-examine the witness before the response to the show-cause notice was filed and before the adjudication commenced.
The division bench of Chief Justice Deepankar Dutta and Justice M S Karnik held that only after the statements of the witnesses were recorded by the relevant authority in course of adjudication of proceedings that the evidence would be regarded as relevant. A fair, reasonable and adequate opportunity has to be provided to the defence, it said.
The petitioner had denied every allegation made in the show-cause notice. He made a categorical statement that the letter ought not to be treated as his reply to the show-cause notice.
Referring to the statements of witnesses (recorded prior to the issuance of the show-cause notice) based whereon the show-cause notice was issued, the petitioner called upon the Commissioner to produce witnesses for being cross-examined by him.
The action, according to the petitioner, flowed from the statutory mandate. While asking the Commissioner, the petitioner had referred to another show-cause notice of last year. This was addressed to the deputy commissioner of the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST), Division IV, Kolhapur Commissionerate. The petitioner requested that both notices be adjudicated together.
However, the commissioner responded by stating that the petitioner had not replied to the show-cause notice, therefore, his request for cross-examination of the witnesses, was premature. It was also stated that as and when the petitioner filed his reply, his request for cross-examination of the witnesses would be examined.
Aggrieved by the denial of the opportunity, the petition was filed.