An Excise Officer issuing summons to appear with records could not be ‘deprivation’ of liberty of an individual, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has ruled. Hearing writ petitions from partners of a Virudhunagar-based company, V.V. Vanniaperumal & Sons, challenging the summons dated September 28, issued by the Superintendent, Office of the Commissioner of Central Excise, Madurai, Mr Justice K. Chandru held that this Court did not find any acceptable legal ground raised in the writ petitions.
It could be presumed that it was for egoistic reasons and not on any concrete legal foundation.
The petitioners, who were carrying on business as partners, contended that the Central Board of Excise and Customs had issued a circular that personal appearance need not be insisted upon, and hence, it was unnecessary to appear.
There was no requirement in law to appear on summons when the petitioners themselves could depute a person who was familiar with their accounts to make clarification to the officers. Hence, the summons impugned were totally uncalled for and nothing but harassment.
The Judge observed that the Court was unable to accept the contentions advanced by the petitioners. Under the Central Excise Act, no proceeding had been initiated, and the petitioners had come before this Court even before any statutory proceedings to culminate into a concrete finding.
Their only problem was that they did not want to appear before the officer for inexplicable reasons. “I do not find any ground to forestall the summons unless there was a deprivation of liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the Judge added.
The Judge said that even while dealing with the power of search and seizure provided under the Income-Tax Act, when a challenge was made about the likelihood of abuse of power by the authorities, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had rejected such contentions (judgment in Pooran Mal vs Director of Inspection (Investigation) reported in (1974) 1 SCC 345). “…Therefore, in the interest of the community, it is only right that the fiscal authorities should have sufficient powers to prevent tax evasion,” the Bench ruled.
Under such circumstances, the writ petitions were misconceived, and hence they stood dismissed, the Judge held.