In the present Writ Petition, challenge is to the order of assessment bearing A.O. No.206662 dated 31.03.2020 passed by the Commercial Tax Officer, Tenali, 1st respondent herein.
2. Heard Sri Srinivasa Rao Kudupudi, learned counsel for the petitioner and Sri T.C.D.Sekharl, learned Government Pleader for Commercial Taxes for the respondents, apart from perusing the material available on record.
3. Initially, the Assessing Authority passed an order of assessment dated 30.07.2016 and questioning the said order, the petitioner preferred a statutory appeal before the Appellate Deputy Commissioner, Tirupati. By way of an order dated 27.04.2017, the Appellate Deputy Commissioner, while setting aside a part of the assessment, remanded the matter to the Primary Authority. After the said remand, the 1st respondent-Assessing Authority issued a show cause notice dated 24.02.2020. In response to the said show cause notice, the petitioner herein filed objections on 04.03.2020. Vide endorsement dated 07.03.2020, the 1st respondent-Assessing Authority called upon the petitioner to appear for personal hearing on 12.03.2020. According to the learned counsel for the petitioner, the petitioner appeared before the 1st respondent and sought time and the matter stood posted to 20.03.2020 and on which date, according to the petitioner, a representation was submitted, requesting to grant four working days’ time for the purpose of furnishing necessary information of the customers who purchased the damaged Dal, which needs to be treated as cattle feed.
4. According to the petitioner, subsequently, due to the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, the petitioner herein could not approach the Assessing Authority for the purpose of furnishing the above said information, which eventually, resulted in passing of the impugned order of assessment dated 31.03.2020.
5. According to the learned counsel for the petitioner, though the Appellate Authority specifically directed the Assessing Authority to look into the aspect of damaged Dal, the Assessing Authority, without taking into consideration the said aspect, passed the order of assessment.
6. Per contra, reiterating the contents of the counter affidavit, deposed by the Commercial Tax Officer, Tenali, Guntur District, it is vehemently contended by the learned Government Pleader that as against the orders passed by the Assessing Authority, which are impugned in the present Writ Petition, the petitioner herein has effective alternative remedy of appeal before the Appellate Deputy Commissioner under Section 31 of the Andhra Pradesh Value Added Tax Act, 2005 (for short, ‘the AP VAT Act). It is further submitted that the present Writ Petition is liable to be rejected on the said ground. It is also submitted by the learned counsel that approximately half of the amount has already been paid.
7. It is also brought to the notice of this Court that the petitioner herein is also entitled for the benefit of the order of the Hon’ble Apex Court dated 08.03.2021 in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.3 of 2020.
8. According to sub-section (1) of Section 31 of the AP VAT Act, 2005, any VAT dealer or TOT dealer or any other dealer objecting to any order passed or proceeding recorded by any authority under the provisions of the Act other than an order passed or proceeding recorded by an Additional Commissioner or Joint Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, may within thirty days from the date on which the order or proceeding was served on him, is entitled to file appeal. According to proviso to sub-section (1) to Section 31 of the Act, the appellate authority is also empowered to grant further period of 30 days to admit the appeal after expiry of the said 30 days, provided the Appellate Authority is satisfied that the VAT dealer or TOT dealer or any other dealer has sufficient cause for not preferring appeal within that period.
9. In the instant case, the Assessing Authority passed the order on 31.03.2020. The Hon’ble Apex Court, having regard to the situation which arose due to Covid-19 pandemic, took up the issue suo motu vide Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.3 of 2020 and initially, by order dated 27.03.2020, the Hon’ble Apex Court extended the period of limitation prescribed under the general law or special laws compoundable or not with effect from 15.03.2020 till further orders and the same came to be extended from time to time. Eventually, the Hon’ble Apex Court, vide order dated 08.03.2021, disposed of the said Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.3 of 2020 and paragraph Nos.2 and 3 of the said order read as under:
“2. We have considered the suggestions of the learned Attorney General for India regarding the future course of action. We deem it appropriate to issue the following directions: –
1. In computing the period of limitation for any suit, appeal, application or proceeding, the period from15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 shall stand excluded. Consequently, the balance period of limitation remaining as on 15.03.2020, if any, shall become available with effect from 15.03.2021.
2. In cases where the limitation would have expired during the period between 15.03.2020 till14.03.2021, notwithstanding the actual balance period of limitation remaining, all persons shall have a limitation period of 90 days from15.03.2021. In the event the actual balance period of limitation remaining, with effect from15.03.2021, is greater than 90 days, that longer period shall apply.
3. The period from 15.03.2020 till 14.03.2021 shall also stand excluded in computing the periods prescribed under Sections 23(4) and 29A of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, Section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 and provisos(b) and (c) of Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 and any other laws, which prescribe period(s) of limitation for instituting proceedings, outer limits (within which the court or tribunal can condone delay) and termination of proceedings.
4. The Government of India shall amend the guidelines for containment zones, to state.
“Regulated movement will be allowed for medical emergencies, provision of essential goods and services, and other necessary functions, such as, time bound applications, including for legal purposes, and educational and job-related requirements.”
3. The Suo Motu Writ Petition is disposed of accordingly.”
10. It is very much evident from a reading of the above order of the Hon’ble Apex Court that the period from 15.03.2020 to 14.03.2021 is liable to be excluded from the period of limitation.
11. Having regard to the provisions of Section 31 of the AP VAT Act, 2005 and in view of the order of the Hon’ble Apex Court, this Court deems it appropriate to relegate the petitioner herein to the alternative remedy of appeal to the Appellate Deputy Commissioner.
12. For the aforesaid reasons, the Writ Petition is disposed of, leaving it open for the petitioner herein to avail the alternative remedy under Section 31 of the AP VAT Act, 2005, within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of this order and having regard to the factual scenario, there shall be no coercive action against the petitioner herein for a period of four weeks from today. There shall no order as to costs of this appeal.
Miscellaneous Petitions pending, if any, in this case shall stand closed.