Follow Us :

Case Law Details

Case Name : SL Lumax Limited Vs Deputy Commissioner of State Taxes-II (Madras high court)
Appeal Number : W.P. Nos.5066, 5067, 5070 & 5071 of 2024 W.M.P.Nos.5577, 5578, 5582, 5582, 5585, 5588 & 5587 of 2024
Date of Judgement/Order : 01/03/2024
Related Assessment Year :

SL Lumax Limited Vs Deputy Commissioner of State Taxes-II (Madras high court)

This case involves SL Lumax Limited challenging a demand notice issued by the Deputy Commissioner of State Taxes-II (Madras High Court). The dispute centers around the classification of goods manufactured by SL Lumax under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime in India.

Detailed Analysis

Background: SL Lumax Limited, a registered entity under GST laws, classified its goods under chapter heading 8512 of the Central Excise Tariff. However, after the introduction of GST, the tax rates changed. Initially, the goods attracted 28% GST and later 18%, effective from November 16, 2017.

GST Implementation and Classification Change: After GST implementation, the classification of SL Lumax’s goods was disputed by the authorities, who claimed they should fall under Chapter 8708, attracting a higher tax rate.

Show Cause Notice and SL Lumax’s Contentions: SL Lumax received a show cause notice stating that the goods should be classified under chapter 8708, contrary to their classification under 8512 and demands payment of the alleged tax difference and penalty.  The petitioner objected to this, leading to the issuance of show cause notices in January 2024.They challenged this notice, arguing:

  • Pre-judgment by the authorities.
  • Incorrect classification based on a misinterpretation of HSN codes and notes.
  • Failure to consider relevant materials and judicial precedents.

Department’s Response: The department defended the show cause notice, stating:

  • Classification is the responsibility of the assessing officer.
  • The show cause notice is merely a starting point for assessment.
  • SL Lumax will have an opportunity to present their case during the assessment process.

Conclusion

The Madras High Court acknowledged the concerns raised by SL Lumax regarding the possibility of pre-judgment. The Court directed SL Lumax to respond to the show cause notices and ordered the assessing officer to:

  • Consider the submitted materials, including HSN notes and judicial precedents, with an open mind.
  • Provide SL Lumax a reasonable opportunity to be heard before finalizing the assessment.

This case highlights the importance of proper classification of goods under GST and the rights of assessees to challenge classification decisions by authorities.

FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF MADRAS HIGH COURT

In all these writ petitions, show cause notices issued in respect of distinct assessment periods are challenged. The petitioner is engaged in the business of manufacturing and supplying electrical lighting or signaling equipment used in motor vehicles. As a registered person under applicable GST laws, the petitioner was filing returns and paying applicable taxes by classifying the goods under chapter heading 8512 of the then Central Excise Tariff. After the introduction of GST, the rate of CGST payable on various goods were notified under Notification No.1/2017 Central Tax (Rate) dated 28.06.2017. In the initial period commencing from 01.07.2017, the parts manufactured by the petitioner and falling under Chapter 8512 attracted 28% GST in the aggregate. With effect from 16.11.2017, under Notification No.41/2017 Central Tax (Rate) dated 14.11.2017, the rate of tax was reduced to 18% in the aggregate. Therefore, the petitioner was paying taxes on these items at 18% from 14.11.2017.

2. In these facts and circumstances, the petitioner received an intimation in Form DRC-01A on 11.12.2023 stating that the goods manufactured by the petitioner are classifiable under chapter 8708 and not under 8512 and indicating the amount payable by the petitioner. The petitioner replied thereto on 18.12.2023 and stated that the goods are correctly classified under chapter 8512. The show cause notices impugned herein were issued on 31.01.2024 upon receipt of the petitioner’s reply.

3. Learned counsel for the petitioner contends that the show cause notices were issued by pre-determining and pre-judging that the goods fall within Chapter 8708 and not 8512. By referring to the notes under Section XVII, particularly notes 2 and 3 to chapter 85, learned counsel submitted that these notes, which appear prima facie to be conflicting, are required to be interpreted in the light of the HSN Explanatory Notes. He also submits that the show cause notices were issued by relying on the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Westinghouse Saxby Farmets Ltd. v. Commissioner of Central Excise, Calcutta. By referring to instruction No.1/2022 Customs dated 05.01.2022, he submits that instructions were issued to take into consideration all facts, details of individual cases and all decisions on the subject before arriving at the appropriate classification. Since the impugned show cause notices are in the nature of a demand for payment, learned counsel submits that interference by this Court is warranted.

4. In response to these submissions, Mr.C.Harsha Raj, learned Additional Government Pleader, who accepts notice on behalf of the respondent, submits that classification should be undertaken either by the assessing officer or the authority for advance rulings. He also points out that a show cause notice is merely a starting point and that upon receipt of the assessee’s reply, the assessing officer would complete the assessment only upon taking into consideration all relevant material. He also submits that the issue of classification should be left to the wisdom of the assessing officer and that the exercise of quasi-judicial functions in such regard should not be shackled by this Court.

5. He also submits that the petitioner’s apprehensions are misplaced and that the assessing officer would duly take into consideration all materials placed on record by the assessee, including all precedents.

6. Ordinarily, a show cause notice is not interfered with unless issued by a person without jurisdiction or unless no case is made out even proceeding on the assumption that the statements in the show cause notice are correct. Obviously, the above principles are not cast­-in-stone. In paragraph 14 of the impugned show cause notices, the assessing officer recorded as under:

“14. Therefore it is proposed to levy the above said turnover at the rate of 28% as such supply should have fallen under HSN 8708 for the tax period July-2017 to March-2018. Moreover, since you are an automobile industry you cannot claim that you genuinely classify your product with right HSN code. To suppress the tax payable to Government treasury you willingly reduce the tax rate from 28% to 18% with intention to suppress the fact that you are manufacturing commodity of 28% that is why section 74 has been involved here. Hence, you are requested to pay the difference amount as detailed below:-

Year
Details
TAX
Penalty at 100%
Interest u/s 50(1)
Grand Total
CGST
SGST
Total
CGST
SGST
Total
CGST
SGST
Total
2017-18
Short Payment of Tax
17,88, 50,824
17,88, 50,824
35,77, 01,647
17,88, 50,824
17,88, 50,824
35,77, 01,647
18,28, 39,442
18,28, 39,442
36,56, 78,884
1,08,10, 82,177.7 3
Grand Total
17,88, 50,824
17,88, 50,824
35,77, 01,647
17,88, 50,824
17,88, 50,824
35,77, 01,647
18,28, 39,442
18,28, 39,442
36,56, 78,884
1,08,10, 82,178

Please note that interest have been calculated till 22/01/2 024 only and the same shall be calculated till the date of payment.

Personal Hearing:-

You are requested to pay the amount of tax as ascertained above along with the amount of aforesaid interest and penalty under section 74 of the TNGST Act 2017 and also submit objection if any against the proposals in DRC01 within 30 days from the date of receipt of this notice and you may also avail the opportunity of personal hearing on 05.03 .2024 at 11.00 AM before the undersigned.”

7. The above extract is prima facie indicative of pre-judgment in as much as the assessee has been called upon to pay the quantified sum and not show cause as to why the said amounts are not payable. Therefore, I am of the view that these writ petitions are liable to be disposed of by making a few observations.

8. The petitioner has placed on record the notes under Section XVII, which deals with chapter 85. He has also placed on record the HSN Explanatory notes. In multiple judgments of this Court and the Supreme Court, the HSN Explanatory notes have been referred to and relied upon as an authoritative guide to issues relating to classification. The petitioner has also placed for consideration Instruction No.1/2022, which refers to several judgments of the Supreme Court. If the petitioner / assessee placed this material before the assessing officer, it is needless to say that the assessing officer is under an obligation to consider this material with an open mind in an objective manner before concluding the assessment.

9. Therefore, W.P.Nos.5066, 5067, 5070 and 5071 of 2024 are disposed of by directing the petitioner to reply to the respective show cause notices. Upon receipt thereof, the assessing officer is directed to provide a reasonable opportunity to the petitioner, including a personal hearing, and thereafter conclude the assessments by taking note of the observations set out above. No costs. Consequently, W.M.P.Nos.5577, 5578, 5582, 5582, 5585, 5588 & 5587 of 2024 are closed.

Join Taxguru’s Network for Latest updates on Income Tax, GST, Company Law, Corporate Laws and other related subjects.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search Post by Date
April 2024
M T W T F S S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930