Supreme Court Pulls Up Central Govt Over Delayed Revenue Appeals FilingTrend The Supreme Court of India (SC) bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah was hearing an appeal u/s 35L of Central Excise and Salt Act, 1944 (Act) by the Commissioner of Central Excise and Sales Tax, Surat against a CESTAT order, which had been filed with a delay of 536 days. While hearing an appeal on 10...
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Supreme Court Pulls Up Central Govt Over Delayed Revenue Appeals FilingTrend
The Supreme Court of India (SC) bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah was hearing an appeal u/s 35L of Central Excise and Salt Act, 1944 (Act) by the Commissioner of Central Excise and Sales Tax, Surat against a CESTAT order, which had been filed with a delay of 536 days.
While hearing an appeal on 10 February 2021 in the case of C.C.E. and S.T Surat-I (Petitioners) v. Bilfinder Neo Structo Construction Ltd. (Respondent), Justice Chandrachud noted that repeatedly, the attention of the Court has been drawn to the fact that appeals in revenue matters are being filed with gross delay, accompanied with an application for condonation of delay.
It was further observed that when the Court rejects to entertain the plea, the officers then justify their action by stating that though they had moved the Court, the Supreme Court did not condone the delay and rejected the appeal.
The SC bench recorded the submission of Advocate SA Haseeb, who was being led in the matter by ASG Balbir Singh that the delay had occurred on account of a misapprehension at the level of the Commissionerate that the appeal was to lie before the Gujarat High Court (HC).
The advocate further submitted that the petitioner approached the SC only after the appeal was dismissed by the HC and then they immediately approached the Top Court.
The SC bench said that the legal position that the appeal is to lie before the Apex Court cannot be a matter of doubt and it should not be done just for the reason that as the SC has rejected the appeal, hence nothing else can be done.
The bench further noted, "The central government in the revenue department must find an answer for such conduct of its officer and ensure that the matters which are to be litigated are dealt with by necessary dispatch."
It was further requested by the Apex Court from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to appear before it and apprise it of the steps to be taken by the Union Government that litigations are conducted in observance of timelines instead of officers putting up such kinds of excuses.
Justice Chandrachud observed at the outset that "It seems that the Union of India files appeals only to get the 'chhaap' or the stamp that it had appealed before the Supreme Court."
Justice MR Shah stated "We should call Solicitor General. In all matters, there is 400 to 500 days' delay." It was considered initially that officers at the secretary-level in the CBDT and the CBIC also be called as regards corrective measures. He further remarked that "In every matter of taxation, be it customs, be it income tax, there is a delay of 300 to 400 days!"
Justice Chandrachud said to Mr Hasseb "Why would the Union of India file an appeal in the High Court when it knows that the appeal has to come before the Supreme Court? You are not an uninitiated person."
The bench was also surprised to note that when Mr Haseeb sought to advance, by way of explanation, that there might not be sufficient legal knowledge at the Commissionerate level. It was further explained by the SC that he had intended to imply that the officers perhaps miss that their remedy lies before the SC and not before HCs.
Justice Shah commented that "There is a deliberate delay! To get the seal of the Supreme Court!" It was further mentioned that "We are noticing this in the matter after matter. There are hundreds of crores involved. The officers just say that the Supreme Court did not condone the delay."
Justice Chandrachud stated "They are taking us for a ride and also this is an abuse of the process by the officers. When there is a question of an inspector being promoted to a higher level, the appeals are filed on time!"
He further stated that "How can the Commissionerate not know that the appeal lies before the Supreme Court? The Union of India cannot take the view that the officers don't know how to file an appeal!"
Justice Shah said, "If you see the statistics, you will be shocked, 80 to 90 per cent of the appeals are filed with such gross delay."
The appeal is listed on 15 February 2021 before the SC.