Introduction: The case of Shambhu Synthetics Pvt. Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Customs, as adjudicated by the Delhi High Court, pertains to the critical issue of whether the Commissioner or Appellate Authority possesses the power to condone delays in Customs Act appeals beyond the prescribed 30-day limit. This article provides an analysis of the court’s ruling, emphasizing the interpretation of Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963, in the context of customs appeals.
The Legal Question: The core question addressed in this case is whether the provisions of Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963, can be invoked for appeals presented under Section 128 of the Customs Act, 1962.
CESTAT’s Perspective: The Customs, Excise, and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) had previously interpreted the relevant provisions, determining that appeals should be filed within a maximum period of 90 days. Section 128(1) of the Customs Act allows appeals to be presented within 60 days, but a Proviso grants the Commissioner discretion to extend the limitation period by an additional 30 days if sufficient cause is demonstrated.
Precedent from the Supreme Court: The CESTAT relied on a Supreme Court judgment in Singh Enterprises vs. Commissioner of Central Excise, Jamshedpur & Ors. [(2008) 3 SCC 70], which dealt with a provision in the Central Excise Act, 1944, similar to the one in question. The Supreme Court ruled that the Commissioner and the Appellate Tribunal do not have the authority to condone delays beyond the stipulated timeframe.
Exclusion of Section 5 of the Limitation Act: The Supreme Court’s reasoning was based on the language and intent of the relevant provision. It made it clear that the appeal must be filed within 60 days, and the Proviso only allows an additional 30-day extension if sufficient cause is demonstrated. Consequently, there is no scope for invoking Section 5 of the Limitation Act, and delays beyond 30 days cannot be condoned.
Conclusion: The Delhi High Court’s ruling in the case of Shambhu Synthetics Pvt. Ltd. vs. Commissioner of Customs underscores the importance of adhering to prescribed timelines in Customs Act appeals. The judgment reaffirms that the Commissioner or Appellate Authority lacks the power to condone delays beyond the 30-day extension provided by the statute. This decision has significant implications for parties involved in customs-related disputes and upholds the strict adherence to statutory timeframes for filing appeals.
FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF DELHI HIGH COURT
1. The solitary question which appears to arise in the instant appeal is whether the provisions of Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 could have been resorted to for the purposes of an appeal presented under Section 128 of the Customs Act, 1962 [‘Act’].
2. The Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal [‘CESTAT’] has taken note of the language as employed in that provision to hold that the appeal could have been preferred within the maximum period of 90 days. This since while sub-section (1) of Section 128 of the Act enjoins that an appeal may be presented within 60 days, the Proviso thereto confers a discretion on the Commissioner to extend the period of limitation by a further period of 30 days provided sufficient cause is shown.
3. The CESTAT has rested its conclusions on the judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in Singh Enterprises vs. Commissioner of Central Excise, Jamshedpur & Ors. [(2008) 3 SCC 70] which while construing Section 35 of the Central Excise Act, 1944, which clearly comes forth as a pari materia provision, and has held as follows: –
“8. The Commissioner of Central Excise (Appeals) as also the Tribunal being creatures of statute are not vested with jurisdiction to condone the delay beyond the permissible period provided under the statute. The period up to which the prayer for condonation can be accepted is statutorily provided. It was submitted that the logic of Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 (in short “the Limitation Act”) can be availed for condonation of delay. The first proviso to Section 35 makes the position clear that the appeal has to be preferred within three months from the date of communication to him of the decision or order. However, if the Commissioner is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from presenting the appeal within the aforesaid period of 60 days, he can allow it to be presented within a further period of 30 days. In other words, this clearly shows that the appeal has to be filed within 60 days but in terms of the proviso further 30 days’ time can be granted by the appellate authority to entertain the appeal. The proviso to sub-section (1) of Section 35 makes the position crystal clear that the appellate authority has no power to allow the appeal to be presented beyond the period of 30 days. The language used makes the position clear that the legislature intended the appellate authority to entertain the appeal by condoning delay only up to 30 days after the expiry of 60 days which is the normal period for preferring appeal. Therefore, there is complete exclusion of Section 5 of the Limitation Act. The Commissioner and the High Court were therefore justified in holding that there was no power to condone the delay after the expiry of 30 days’ period.”
4. In view of the aforesaid, we find no merit in the instant appeal.
The same shall stand dismissed.