Introduction: In the case of Mahalaxmi Exports vs. Commissioner of Delhi GST and Another & Ors., the Delhi High Court addressed an essential issue concerning the timely filing of Input Tax Credit (ITC) refund applications under Section 54(1) of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 (CGST Act). The High Court directed the processing of the refund application within the stipulated time.
Background of the Case: Mahalaxmi Exports (referred to as “the petitioner”) filed a petition challenging the orders dated 28.01.2022 and 21.06.2023, which pertained to the denial of refund of its unutilized Input Tax Credit (ITC) related to zero-rated supplies.
The petitioner had submitted a refund application on 28.11.2021, seeking a refund of unutilized ITC totaling ₹9,45,816/- (₹4,72,908/- under the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 and ₹4,72,908/- under the State Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017). This refund was claimed for the period from April 2018 to March 2019.
The authorities acknowledged the petitioner’s application on 30.12.2021 by issuing the necessary GST-RFD-02 form. However, on the same day, they issued a Show Cause Notice (SCN) in Form GST-RFD-08, proposing to reject the application as time-barred.
Issue of Timeliness: The authorities contended that the petitioner’s application was not filed within the prescribed period of two years from the relevant date, as required by Section 54(1) of the CGST Act.
The petitioner responded to the SCN on 13.01.2022, explaining that the delay was due to genuine reasons. They cited the COVID-19 pandemic, which had disrupted normal operations since March 2020, as a valid reason for the delay.
However, the authorities rejected the petitioner’s refund application through the impugned order dated 28.01.2022. The petitioner then appealed this decision, but the appellate authority also dismissed the appeal on 21.06.2023, citing limitation as the reason.
Impact of Supreme Court Order and CBIC Notification: The petitioner argued that they were entitled to the refund based on orders issued by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3 of 2020 in Re: Cognizance for Extension of Limitation. Additionally, they pointed to a notification dated 05.07.2022 issued by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).
Notification no. 13/2022-Central Tax dated 05.07.2022 explicitly excluded the period from 1st March 2020 to 28th February 2022 for various purposes, including filing refund applications under Section 54 or Section 55 of the CGST Act.
Court’s Decision: In light of the facts presented, the Delhi High Court set aside the impugned orders. The Court directed the authorities to process the petitioner’s refund application, including applicable interest, within two weeks from the date of the order.
Conclusion: The Delhi High Court’s decision in the Mahalaxmi Exports case underscores the importance of adhering to statutory timelines for filing refund applications. It also highlights the impact of legal precedents and government notifications on such matters, emphasizing the need for taxpayers to stay informed about relevant developments that may affect their claims for refunds.
FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF DELHI HIGH COURT
1. Issue notice.
2. The learned counsel for the respondents accept notice.
3. The petitioner has filed the present petition impugning orders dated 28.01.2022 and 21.06.2023.
4. The petitioner is essentially aggrieved by the denial of refund of its unutilised Input Tax Credit (hereafter ‘ITC’) in respect of zero-rated supplies.
5. The petitioner had filed an application on 28.11.2021, seeking refund of the unutilised ITC of a sum of ₹9,45,816/- (₹4,72,908/– under the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 and ₹4,72,908/-under the State Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017), for the period from April, 2018 to March, 2019.
6. The petitioner’s application was acknowledged by the concerned authorities on 30.12.2021 by issuing requisite form (GST-RFD-02). Thereafter, on the same date, the concerned authorities issued a Show Cause Notice (hereafter ‘SCN’) in Form GST-RFD-08, proposing to reject the petitioner’s application as being barred by time.
7. According to the concerned authorities, the petitioner’s application was not filed within the stipulated period of two years from the relevant date as required under Section 54(1) of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 (hereafter ‘CGST Act’).
8. The petitioner responded to the said SCN on 13.01.2022. The petitioner contended that the delay was for bona fide and genuine reasons as the pandemic was raging since March, 2020, and the petitioner could not file his application for refund, due to the disruption caused as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19.
9. However, the petitioner’s refund application was rejected by the impugned order dated 28.01.2022.
10. The petitioner preferred an appeal against the impugned order dated 28.01.2022 passed by the adjudicating authority. However, the appellate authority also dismissed the petitioner’s appeal by an order dated 21.06.2023, on the ground that it was barred by limitation.
11. It is the petitioner’s case that it was entitled to the refund in view of the orders passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3 of 2020 in Re: Cognizance for Extension of Limitation, as well as the notification dated 05.07.2022, issued by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (‘CBIC’).
12. The notification no. 13/2022-Central Tax dated 05.07.2022 expressly provides that the period commencing from the 1st day of March, 2020 to 28th February, 2022, would be excluded, inter alia, for the purposes of filing the refund application under Section 54 or Section 55 of the CGST Act.
13. Undisputedly, the petitioner’s application for refund was within the time limit as prescribed under Section 54(1) of the CGST Act, if the said period is excluded.
14. The benefit of the said circular has not been provided to the petitioner, as the same was issued after the petitioner’s refund application was rejected.
15. In view of the above, the impugned orders are set aside.
16. The petition is, accordingly, allowed.
17. The respondents are directed to process the petitioner’s refund application along with the applicable interest within a period of two weeks from today.