Orissa High Court says Justice Ought Not To Be Constrained By Hyper Technical Requirement The court felt that the appeals could be condoned if it was accompanied by an ordinary downloaded copy of the order appealed against due to the pandemic situations The Orissa High Court has set aside an order of the Income Tax Appellate Authority that had rejected the Petitioner's appeal on a...
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Orissa High Court says Justice Ought Not To Be Constrained By Hyper Technical Requirement
The court felt that the appeals could be condoned if it was accompanied by an ordinary downloaded copy of the order appealed against due to the pandemic situations
The Orissa High Court has set aside an order of the Income Tax Appellate Authority that had rejected the Petitioner's appeal on a technical ground.
The Appellate had rejected the appeal on the ground of delay after considering the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. and allowed the accompaniment of an ordinary downloaded copy of the order appealed against, rather than a certified one as mandated under the law.
The matter titled M/s Shree Jagannath Traders v Commissioner of State Tax Odisha was placed before the Division Bench of the High Court of Orissa, comprising Chief Justice Dr S. Muralidhar and Justice K.R. Mohapatra.
The Court did not go into the facts of the matter but the primary issue which was dealt with in this petition was the dismissal of Petitioner – Company's appeal by the Income Tax Appellate Authority due to the appeal not being presented within the time prescribed under law.
The Court noted that the last date for the filing of the appeal against the order of the Adjudicating Authority was 17 November 2020 and the Petitioner had filed the appeal on 13 November 2020 electronically, accompanied by a downloaded copy of the order appealed against.
However, Rule 108 (3) of the Orissa Good and Services Tax Rules, 2017 (OGST Rules) was pointed out to the bench which states that the appeal had to be accompanied by a certified copy of the order appealed against. It was also noted that if the certified copy was submitted after seven days, the date of filing of the appeal would be the date of submission of such certified copy.
The Court found that the Petitioner had submitted the certified copy of the order of appealed against, more than three months and 21 days after the filing of the appeal.
The Petitioner – Company submitted that the certified copy of the order could not be accompanied since the lawyer, who had filed the appeal, was in self-quarantine as he had come into contact with a client who had tested positive for COVID-19.
Section 107(1) and Section 107 (4) of the Orissa Good and Services Tax Act, 2017 (OGST Act) were referred by this bench in order to deal with this issue. The Court found the wording of Section 107 (4) was such that the authority was not precluded from condoning a delay of a longer period.
The Court understood the difficulties faced by lawyers and litigants in the COVID-affected times, where the functioning of the Courts and Tribunals was limited in applying for and obtaining certified copies of orders. It was observed that the explanation offered for the delay in furnishing such certified copy ought to have been accepted by the Appellate Authority and the delay should have been condoned.
The Court made the following observation while considering the Petitioner's reason for the delay:
"Considering that the explanation offered by the petitioner is a plausible and not an unreasonable one, especially in these Covid times, and further considering that a downloaded copy thereof was in fact submitted along with the appeal which was otherwise filed within time, this Court is of the view that the mere delay in enclosing a certified copy of the order appealed against along with the appeal should not come in the way of the Petitioner's appeal for being considered on merits by the Appellate Authority. This is a case of substantial compliance and the interests of justice ought not to be constrained by a hyper-technical view of the requirement that a certified copy of the order appealed against should be submitted within one week of the filing of the appeal."
The petition was allowed by setting aside the order of the Appellate Authority rejecting the appeal on the ground of delay. The Court while concluding clarified that the Appellate Authority may adopt a liberal approach considering the restricted functioning of courts and tribunals due to the COVI-19 pandemic and directed that the appeals could be condoned as long as the appeal was accompanied by an ordinary downloaded copy of the order appealed against, verified as a true copy by the Advocate for the Appellant.