Commercial Tax Officer shall pay costs of Rs.25,000/- (Rupees Twenty Five Thousand only) to the petitioner, which shall be recovered from the salary of the 1st respondent, and disciplinary action shall be initiated against 1st respondent for non-consideration of material filed by petitioner before passing the impugned Assessment Order on 31-03-2021.
FULL TEXT OF THE HIGH COURT ORDER /JUDGEMENT
This Writ Petition is filed challenging the Assessment Order AO No.45549 dt.31-03-2021 passed by 1st respondent under the Central Sales Tax Act 1956 (for short ‘the Act’) for the period April, 2016 to March, 2017.
2. According to the petitioner, it was originally on the rolls of the 2nd respondent and was filing monthly returns before him under the Act.
3. Petitioner contends that it had filed ‘F’ and ‘C’ forms through letters dt.07-08-2017, 02-12-2017 and 05-03-2018 before the 2nd respondent’s office.
4. Later, petitioner’s file was transferred from 2nd respondent to 1st respondent.
5. On 04-06-2019, a show cause notice was issued by 1st respondent proposing to assess the petitioner under the Act for the above period.
6. Petitioner contends that petitioner did not receive any reminder notice dt. 01-02-2021 and no opportunity was provided for the petitioner for a personal hearing, and the impugned Assessment Order was passed on 31-03-2020 by 1st respondent ignoring the ‘C’ and ‘F’ declaration forms filed by petitioner on 07-08-2017, 02-12-2017 and 05-03-2018 before the 2nd respondent.
7. Learned counsel for petitioner contends that it was incumbent on the part of 1st respondent, to whom jurisdiction to make the impugned assessment was transferred from 2nd respondent, to get the record from the 2nd respondent, to look into it, and then pass the Assessment Order, and the 1st respondent also ought to have provided a personal hearing to the petitioner, which has not been done.
8. Petitioner also refers to Ex.P-7 letter dt.08-04-2021 filed by petitioner before the 1st respondent mentioning about ‘C’ and ‘F’ forms already filed by petitioner previously and requesting him to redo the assessment by taking into account this material.
9. Sri Sai Krishna, learned Assistant Government Pleader attached to the Office of the learned Advocate General appearing for respondents states that 1st respondent did not call for the record from 2nd respondent, and could not notice this material which the petitioner had filed, and did not consider the same while passing the Assessment Order.
10. He contends that the reminder notice dt.01-02-2021 has been served on petitioner, but he does not dispute that personal hearing was not afforded to the petitioner.
11. During the period from March, 2020 till December, 2020, this Bench had to notice several Assessment Orders being passed by the Assessing Officers under the Act for the period 2015-16 after 22-03-2020, the day when lockdown was imposed by the State Government and Central Government on account of Covid-19 pandemic, numbering to more than 200, where (a) show cause notices have not been served, (b) reminder notices were not issued, (c) personal hearing was not afforded, and (d) even in cases where show causes notice were served and explanation has been furnished, such explanations and documents filed along with explanations, were not considered. All these Assessment Orders had been set aside and the matters were remitted to the respective Assessing Officers.
12. It was pointed out to the learned Special Counsel appearing for Commercial Taxes in those cases that this sort of disposal by the Assessing Officers, in violation of principles of natural justice is shocking. Some of this Court’s orders were also directed to be communicated by the Bench to the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes, Government of Telangana.
13. In spite of these events, we are distressed that history is repeating itself, and we are again starting to see Assessment Orders being passed by the Assessing Officers in violation of principles of natural justice without considering the material which is already filed with the Department.
14. In these facts and circumstances of the case, we record our dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes and the Officials working under him/her are discharging their duties to the detriment of all the Assessees and compelling several assessees to run to the High Court to set right the injustice caused to them on account of non-compliance with the principles of natural justice by the respective Assessing Officers.
15. Therefore, the Writ Petition is allowed; the impugned Assessment Order A.O.No.45549 dt.31-03-2021 passed by 1st respondent is set aside on the ground of violation of principles of natural justice and non-consideration of material filed by petitioner on 07-08-2017, 02-12-2017 and 05-03-2018 before the 2nd respondent; matter is remitted to the 1st respondent for fresh consideration; the 1st respondent is directed to serve show cause notice under Rule 64(1)(b) of the Telangana VAT Rules on petitioner indicating the turnover proposed to be assessed and the tax proposed to be levied thereon; petitioner is granted six (06) weeks time from the date of receipt of such show cause notice to file objections hereto along with supporting material; a personal hearing shall afforded to the petitioner by 1st respondent; and 1st respondent shall then pass a reasoned order in accordance with law and communicate it to the petitioner.
16. The 4th respondent shall pay costs of Rs.25,000/- (Rupees Twenty Five Thousand only) to the petitioner, which shall be recovered from the salary of the 1st respondent, and disciplinary action shall be initiated against 1st respondent for non-consideration of material filed by petitioner before passing the impugned Assessment Order on 31-03-2021.
17. Consequently, miscellaneous petitions, pending if any, shall stand closed.