Introduction: The Allahabad High Court, in the case of Anil Enterprises vs Commissioner of Commercial Tax UP, delivered a judgment on the delay condonation plea filed by the revenue against the order of the Commercial Tax Tribunal. The court critically examined the grounds for delay and the applicability of the Supreme Court’s decision in Chief Post Master General & Ors. vs. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr.
1. Background of the Case: The case involves a revision filed against the order of the Commercial Tax Tribunal, Agra Bench, rejecting the objection filed by Anil Enterprises to the application by the revenue seeking condonation of a significant delay of 530 days in filing the appeal.
2. Question of Law: The central question posed before the High Court was whether the Tribunal was legally justified in condoning the delay, considering the precedent set by the Supreme Court in Chief Post Master General & Ors. vs. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr.
3. Examination of Delay Explanation: The court examined the explanation provided for the delay, which cited reasons such as a shortage of manpower, excess work, and the assignment of B.L.O. duty to a senior assistant. The court found the explanation to be vague, generic, and lacking in necessary details regarding the claimed shortage of manpower and the excess of work.
4. Supreme Court’s View on Delay Condonation: The judgment cited the Supreme Court’s perspective in Chief Post Master General & Ors. vs. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr., emphasizing that the government departments cannot expect condonation of delay merely due to bureaucratic red tape. The court stressed that a genuine and acceptable explanation is crucial for condoning delay.
5. Decision of the High Court: The High Court, considering the inadequacy and lack of substance in the explanation provided, allowed the revision in favor of Anil Enterprises. The court answered the question of law negatively, asserting the inadequacy of the revenue’s explanation for the delay.
Conclusion: The Allahabad High Court’s decision in the Anil Enterprises case emphasizes the significance of a genuine and plausible explanation for delay condonation. The court’s analysis aligns with the Supreme Court’s stance on government departments’ accountability in ensuring diligent and committed performance of their duties. The judgment sets a precedent for future cases involving delay condonation pleas.
FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT
1. Heard Sri Suyash Agarwal, learned counsel for the assessee and Sri A.C. Tripathi, learned Standing Counsel for the revenue.
2. Present revision has been filed against the order dated 14.09.2020 passed by the Commercial Tax Tribunal Agra Bench, Agra in Defective Appeal No. 9 of 2020 for A.Y. 2014-15 (U.P.). By that order, the Tribunal has rejected the objection filed by the assessee to the application filed by the revenue seeking condonation of delay of 530 days in filing the above appeal.
3. The revision has been heard on the following question of law:
“Whether the Tribunal was legally justified in condoning the delay of 530 days in filing the appeal of revenue before Tribunal contrary to the decision of Supreme Court in the matter of Chief Post Master General & Ors. Vs. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr. ?”
4. On specific query, learned counsel for the assessee states, the aforesaid appeal is pending before the Tribunal.
5. Having heard learned counsel for the parties and having perused the record, the undisputed facts of the case are, the above appeal carries a delay of 530 days. The entire explanation furnished to seek condonation of inordinate delay is as below:
6. It is that explanation alone, that was supported by the affidavit of the assessing officer, Sri D.B. Ram, Deputy Commissioner, Agra. Its copy has been appended to the counter affidavit filed in the present proceedings.
7. Thus, the delay of 530 days has been explained on wholly vague and generic grounds of – (i) shortage of manpower and; (ii) excess work. In the affidavit of the assessing officer, besides the above, it was further stated, the senior assistant had been assigned B.L.O. duty, resulting in the delay. Neither the application nor the affidavit bring out necessary facts pertaining to shortage of manpower claimed or the excess of work claimed. Then, the date of election and date of assignment of duty of the senior assistant has also not been disclosed. In any case, in the context of delay of 530 days, it is wholly unacceptable that such delay could have been caused owing to conduct of election or assignment on the election duty to certain officials. That explanation is inherently inadequate.
8. Though there is no doubt, day to day explanation of the delay is not required to be made, however, that explanation must be genuine and such as may bring out bona fide of the litigant, seeking condonation of delay as also the plausibility of the reason disclosed. Further, such explanation may also bring out its proximity to the result of the delay sought to be explained. By merely stating vague and generic facts, a litigant may never expect the Court to exercise its discretion to condone the delay.
9. Therefore, the nature of explanation remains ever relevant and primary for consideration of the Court. It must inspire confidence as to truthfulness and completeness as to the delay sought to be explained. Only then, the Court may act and condone the delay. Where however, as in the instant case, that explanation is found to be lacking in particulars and substance as also intent, the Court may never act on the same. The law in that regard is fairly well settled. The Supreme Court in Postmaster General & Ors. Vs. Living Media India Ltd. & Anr., (2012) 3 SCC 563, has held as below:
“27. It is not in dispute that the person(s) concerned were well aware or conversant with the issues involved including the prescribed period of limitation for taking up the matter by way of filing a special leave petition in this Court. They cannot claim that they have a separate period of limitation when the Department was possessed with competent persons familiar with court proceedings. In the absence of plausible and acceptable explanation, we are posing a question why the delay is to be condoned mechanically merely because the Government or a wing of the Government is a party before us.
28. Though we are conscious of the fact that in a matter of condonation of delay when there was no gross negligence or deliberate inaction or lack of bona fides, a liberal concession has to be adopted to advance substantial justice, we are of the view that in the facts and circumstances, the Department cannot take advantage of various earlier decisions. The claim on account of impersonal machinery and inherited bureaucratic methodology of making several notes cannot be accepted in view of the modern technologies being used and available. The law of limitation undoubtedly binds everybody, including the Government.
29. In our view, it is the right time to inform all the government bodies, their agencies and instrumentalities that unless they have reasonable and acceptable explanation for the delay and there was bona fide effort, there is no need to accept the usual explanation that the file was kept pending for several months/years due to considerable degree of procedural red tape in the process. The government departments are under a special obligation to ensure that they perform their duties with diligence and commitment. Condonation of delay is an exception and should not be used as an anticipated benefit for the government departments. The law shelters everyone under the same light and should not be swirled for the benefit of a few.”
10. Seen in that light, the explanation furnished by the revenue was neither bona fide nor it appears to be otherwise sufficient or such as may have been relied by the Tribunal to condone the delay of 530 days.
11. Accordingly, the present revision is allowed. Question of law, framed above, is answered in the negative i.e. in favour of the assessee and against the revenue.