Dive into the landmark case of Tata Steel Limited vs Union of India & Ors in the Calcutta High Court, focusing on the crucial question of whether a quasi-judicial authority has the power to pass non-speaking orders. This judgement has implications not only in GST and income tax but also in other areas where similar actions occur.
The appellant contested the final assessment of bill of entries, citing a violation of natural justice principles due to the disregard of objections/representations. The court deemed the order non-speaking, lacking in rationale, and merely a computation sheet. The case relied on the precedent set by a constitution bench decision of the Supreme Court (S N Mukherjee vs Union of India) that stated administrative authorities exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions are required to provide reasons for their decisions.
The Calcutta High Court’s ruling in the Tata Steel vs Union of India case establishes that unless expressly or implicitly waived, an administrative authority exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions must provide reasons for its decisions. This decision emphasizes the importance of transparency, fairness, and the rule of law in administrative processes, and it has wider implications for various sectors involving quasi-judicial actions.
FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF CALCUTTA HIGH COURT
Written instructions dated 1st August, 2023, issued by the Deputy Commissioner of Customs, Mini Custom House, Haldia, West Bengal filed by Mr. Maiti, learned Advocate appearing for the respondents be kept with the record.
Heard learned advocates appearing for the parties.
By these writ petitions, petitioner has challenged the impugned final assessment of Bill of Entries being Annexures P-10, P-24 and P-18 respectively to the writ petitions, on the ground that the same is in violation of principles of natural justice by not taking into consideration the objections/representations made by the petitioner from time to time and the order is a non-speaking order containing no reason at all and it is merely a piece of computation sheet.
Mr. Banerjee, learned advocate appearing on behalf of the respondents submits that no recorded reason is required to be given in the final assessment of the Bill of Entries in question and as such the impugned purported assessment orders cannot be called a non-speaking orders.
It is a well-settled principle of law that every order by an administrative authority in exercise of its judicial or quasi-judicial function must be supported by reason. Such principles of law has been settled by the Five Judges Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of S. N. Mukherjee Vs. Union of India reported in (1990) 4 SCC 594 and particularly paragraph 40 of the said judgment is relevant which is quoted herein: –
“For the reasons aforesaid, it must be concluded that except in cases where the requirement has been dispensed with expressly or by necessary implication, an administrative authority exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions is required to record the reasons for its decision.”
Considering the facts and circumstances of the case and in view of the impugned orders being patently non-speaking orders and by affidavits the same cannot be improved and keeping the matters pending will serve no purpose, this Court thinks it fit to remand the matters back to the adjudicating authority concerned to pass fresh assessment orders by passing a reasoned and speaking order in accordance with law and after giving an opportunity of hearing to the petitioner or its authorized representatives, within 8 weeks from the date of communication of this order.
The respondent authorities concerned shall pass composite assessment orders relating to Bill of Entries referred in Annexures P-10, P-24 and P-18 respectively to the writ petitions.
With this observation and direction, these writ petitions being WPA 15455 of 2023, WPA 18414 of 2022 and WPA 2960 of 2022 are disposed of.