Agarwal Foundries Private Limited Rama Towers Vs Union of India (Telangana High Court)
Decision: Officials belonging to GST Intelligence Department cannot resort to physical violence while conducting interrogation of Petitioners and their employees in connection with inquiry proceedings.
Issue: Physical violence by the GST Intelligence Department
- Petitioner is a Private Limited Company incorporated under the Companies Act,
- Involved in the business of steel
- On 11.12.2019, officials attached to the Directorate General of G.S.T. Intelligence, New Delhi conducted simultaneous raids on business units and the residential house at around 08:30 a.m
- Search started from 8.30 am on December 11, 2019 and continued past midnight and summons issued to appear at 00:30 hrs on December 12, 2019
- Petitioner had always adhered to all G.S.T. and other taxation compliances and that it was filing its tax returns regularly.
- Petitioner was recognized as the highest G.S.T. payer for the State of Telangana within the TMT Steel Industry.
- It is the contention of petitioners that the employees of the petitioner co-operated with the search operations
- All the phones of petitioner were seized during the course of questioning.
- Respondent allegedly abused petitioner in filthy language for not giving satisfactory replies and physically assaulted petitioner repeatedly
- Petitioner was unable to stand and with the help of employees of the petitioner, he was rushed to the Sunshine Hospital as a Medico-Legal case. Copy of the Out-Patient Discharge advice is filed
- The petitioners are not cooperating with the investigating agency
- Petitioner did not agree for appearing before the officers
- Inquiries are being conducted in a fair manner by the respondents strictly in accordance with law under the supervision of senior officers.
- Preliminary investigation in the matter has revealed evasion of GST of Rs.5,00,00,000/- and this quantum is expected to increase substantially as analysis of all kacchi parchis, digital documents and fake invoices is being conducted.
- It is contended that during the course of search operation petitioners 2 to 4 tried to hamper and obstruct by way of physical assault on two officers of the rank of Deputy Directors; that 3 rdpetitioner allegedly fled away from the scene with crucial evidence
- Relying upon SC ruling in D.K. Basu v. State of W.B, right to life and liberty enshrined in Constitution of India & Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, claims that “In view of this statutory regime already in place, it would be futile for the respondents to claim any liberty to torture or use physical violence during the course of search, investigation or interrogation under the CGST Act, 2017 against persons suspected of tax evasion like the petitioners or their employees”;
- “there is no presumption in law that Doctors in private hospitals do not speak the truth and only Government doctors speak the truth”;
- HC infers that “in view of the material on record, we are constrained to observe that the possibility of the use of violence by respondent …. Against petitioner ….and the other employees of petitioner …. Cannot be entirely ruled out”;
- Refers to decision in P.V. Ramana Reddy, opines that Revenue’s act of keeping Petitioner in their custody for indefinite period can be construed as “informal custody and the law relating to an accused in custody has to be expressly or impliedly applied”;
- Further, allows Petitioner’s plea for transfer of investigation and presence of a lawyer at the time of examination of Petitioner: Telangana HC