Case Law Details

Case Name : Globe Panel Industries India Pvt Ltd Vs State of U.P. And Others (Allahabad High Court)
Appeal Number : Writ Tax No. 141 of 2023
Date of Judgement/Order : 05/02/2024
Related Assessment Year :

Globe Panel Industries India Pvt Ltd Vs State of U.P. And Others (Allahabad High Court)

Introduction: In a landmark judgment, the Allahabad High Court provided significant relief to Globe Panel Industries India Pvt Ltd, setting a precedent on the implications of an expired GST E-Way Bill during transportation of goods. This decision, stemming from the case against the State of U.P. and Others, delves into the intricacies of tax and penalty imposition under the Uttar Pradesh Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, specifically Section 129(3).

Detailed Analysis

The petitioner found itself ensnared in legal proceedings due to the expiration of one of its E-Way Bills, despite the vehicle carrying valid e-Invoices and matching goods descriptions. Highlighting a lack of intent to evade tax, the petitioner demonstrated due diligence by providing evidence of vehicle breakdown and subsequent repairs, supported by a mechanic’s letter and ‘fast tag’ movement tracking. However, these critical pieces of evidence were overlooked by the authorities, leading to the imposition of a penalty.

The contention revolved around whether the mere expiration of an E-Way Bill, in the absence of any intention to evade tax, warrants the imposition of a penalty. Citing precedents in M/s Pepsico India Holdings Limited Lucknow v. Commissioner of Trade Tax and Jain Shudh Vanaspati Limited Ghaziabad and Others v. State of U.P. and Others, the petitioner argued against the penalty for technical violations not indicative of tax evasion.

The court, referencing its earlier decisions in M/s Hindustan Herbal Cosmetics v. State of U.P. and Others and M/s Falguni Steels v. State of U.P. and Others, underscored the necessity of proving mens rea, or intent to evade tax, for penalty imposition under Section 129(3) of the Act. It found the authorities’ focus on the expired E-Way Bill, without establishing any intent to evade tax or misuse of the bill, to be unjust.

Conclusion: The Allahabad High Court’s decision to quash the penalty orders and mandate a refund of the tax and penalty amounts to Globe Panel Industries India Pvt Ltd reinforces the principle that technical violations, absent any intent to evade tax, should not lead to punitive measures. This ruling not only provides relief to the petitioner but also serves as a guide for future cases, emphasizing the need for a balanced approach in assessing technical discrepancies in GST compliance. It marks a pivotal moment in GST jurisprudence, offering clarity on handling expired E-Way Bills and the significance of intent in tax evasion cases.

FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT

1. This is a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India wherein the petitioner is aggrieved by the penalty order dated January 16, 2023 passed by the respondent 3/Assistant Commissioner, State Tax Department, Sector 1, Mobile Squad, Deoria under Section 129(3) of the Uttar Pradesh Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 (hereinfater referred to as “the Act”) and the appellate order dated January 30, 2023 passed by the respondent No.2/Additional Commissioner, Grade-2 (Appeal)-I, State Tax, Judicial Division, Gorakhpur.

2. Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner submitted that the particular vehicle was accompanied by two e-Invoices and two E-Way He further submitted that the goods matched the description in the e- Invioices and the E-Way Bills. The only descrpency that was found at the time of detention was that one of the E-Way Bills had expired. Apart from this discrepancy, there is no other finding with regard to intention of the petitioner to evade tax. He relied upon the documents to indicate that the vehicle had broken down. The same is evidenced by the letter of the mechanic, who had repaired the particular vehicle. Furthermore, the movement of the goods have been traced by way of the ‘fast tag’ chart. He further submits that none of these documents were considered by the authorities. He further relies upon the judgments in M/s Pepsico India Holdings Limited Lucknow v. Commissioner of Trade Tax reported in 2003 U.P.T.C. 856 and Jain Shudh Vanaspati Limited Ghaziabad and Others v. State of U.P. and Others reported in 1983 U.P.T.C. 198 to buttress his arguments that the penalty cannot be imposed merely for the reason that the said goods were not accompanied by requisite documents.

No Penalty for Expired E-Way Bills if no Tax Evasion Intent Allahabad HC

3. Learned Additional Chief Standing Counsel submitted that the E-Way Bill is the necessary part of the documents and the expired E-Way Bill does not fullfil the requirments of the He further submitted that the authorities have considered the arguments raised by the petitoner and the orders indicate that the E-Way Bill has expired ten days before the date of detention. He further submitted that the petitioner could not explain the reason for not issuing a fresh E-Way Bill even though it was obvious that the petitoner was aware of the said expiry. He thus submitted that the penalty was in order.

4. This Court in M/s Hindustan Herbal Cosmetics v. State of U.P. and Others (Writ Tax No.1400 of 2019 decided on January 2, 2024) and M/s Falguni Steels v. State of U.P. and Others (Writ Tax No.146 of 2023 decided on January 25, 2024) held that mens rea to evade tax is essential for imposition of penalty. The factual aspect in the present case did not indicate any intention whatsoever to evade tax. Furthermore, the documents that have been relied upon by the petitioner have not been considered by the The authorities have dealt with the issue with regard to the expiry of the E-Way Bill and held that no explanation was offered by the petitioner with regard to the fresh generation of the E-Way Bill, as the same had expired ten days before the detention. However, it is to be noted that the goods in the vehicle were for two e-Invoices and two E-Way Bills and only one E-Way Bill had expired. There is no dispute with regard to the consignor and consignee nor any dispute with regard to the description of the goods in the vehicle. In relation to the e-Invoices and the E-Way Bills, the authorities have not been able indicate any intention whatsoever on behalf of the petitioner to evade tax. Indubitably, there is a technical violation that has been committed by the petitioner. However, the authorities have not been able to indicate in any manner that the E-Way Bill had been used repeatedly nor have they made out any case with regard to an intention to evade tax by the petitioner. Accordingly, this Court is of the view that such a technical violation by itself without any intention to evade tax cannot lead to imposition of penalty under Section 129(3) of the Act. This view is fortified by a catena of judgments as indicated above.

5. In light of the same, this Court is unable to agree with the findings of the authorities, and accordingly, the impugned orders dated January 16, 2023 and January 30, 2023 are quashed and set aside.

6. This Court directs the respondents to refund the amount of tax and penalty deposited by the petitioner within a period of four weeks from date.

7. The instant writ petition is allowed in aforesaid terms. There shall be no order as to the costs.

Date: 05.02.2024

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