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Case Law Details

Case Name : A. V. Bhanoji Row Vs. Assistant Commissioner (ST) (Andhra Pradesh High Court)
Appeal Number : W.P. No. 2830 of 2023
Date of Judgement/Order : 14/02/2023
Related Assessment Year :

A. V. Bhanoji Row Vs. Assistant Commissioner (ST) (Andhra Pradesh High Court)

In a landmark judgment, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has declared that orders and notices under the Goods and Service Tax Act, 2017, which lack the signature of the issuing authority, are to be considered void and inoperative. The case of A. V. Bhanoji Row vs. Assistant Commissioner (ST) brought this significant issue to light, emphasizing the legal requirements for the validity of official documents under the GST framework.

Analysis

The controversy stemmed from the issuance of an order and notices by the tax authority under Section 74(9) of the Goods and Service Tax Act, 2017, alongside various other provisions, which were uploaded to the GST common portal without the requisite signatures of the officers concerned. The petitioner challenged these actions on the grounds of their validity, leading to a crucial legal scrutiny of Sections 160 and 169 of the GST Act, which relate to the rectification of defects and the service of notices, respectively.

The High Court’s analysis clarified that the protections offered under Section 160, intended to safeguard proceedings from invalidation due to minor mistakes or omissions, could not apply to the absence of signatures. Furthermore, Section 169, detailing the methods of service for notices and communications, does not implicitly allow for the omission of signatures on such documents. The court decisively ruled that the digital presence of documents on the common portal does not negate the need for them to be duly signed by the issuing authority.

This judgment has significant implications for the administrative procedures followed by tax authorities, reinforcing the importance of adhering to all procedural requirements for the legality of tax orders and notices. It underscores the necessity for tax authorities to ensure that all communications, especially those bearing legal consequences, are fully compliant with the requirements of the law, including having the appropriate signatures.

Conclusion

The Andhra Pradesh High Court’s ruling sets a precedent that emphasizes the sanctity of procedural compliance in the administration of tax laws. This decision not only serves as a reminder to tax authorities of their obligations under the law but also offers reassurance to taxpayers about the legal standards that govern tax administration. Moving forward, this ruling may prompt a review of administrative practices to prevent similar oversights and ensure the validity of tax-related documents, thereby fostering a more transparent and accountable tax system. 

FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF ANDHRA PRADESH HIGH COURT

Heard, Sri S. Dwarakanath, learned Senior Counsel representing Sri Karthik Ramana Puttam Reddy, learned counsel for Writ Petitioner and Sri T.C.D Sekhar, learned Government Pleader for Commercial Taxes.

2. The issue in the present Writ Petition arises under the Goods and Service Tax Act,2017.

3. Challenge in the present Writ Petition is to the order of the 1st respondent, dated 23-11-2022 under Section 74(9) of Goods and Service Tax Act (for short ‘the act’) read with 142(5) of the GST Rules 2017 and DRC-07, notice dated 23-11-2022, for the tax period 20 17-18, 2018-19 and 20 19-20, as well as the show cause notice dated 22-10-2022 and DRC-01 notice dated 02-10-2022 issued by the 1st respondent and uploaded in the GST common portal.

4. The essence of the case of the petitioner, in the present Writ Petition is, since the impugned proceedings do not contain the signature of the officers concerned, the same are required to be treated as void and in-operative.

5. Sri T.C.D.Shekar, learned Government Pleader, seeks to justify the impugned action by contending that, in view of the language of Section 160 and 169(d) of the Act,2017, the objection of the learned Senior Counsel is untenable and unsustainable. Lack of signatures on the impugned proceedings is not in controversy. In order to consider the sustainability and the contentions advanced by the learned Government Pleader, it would be appropriate and apposite to refer to Sections 160 and 169 of the Goods and Service Tax Act,2017. The said provision of law is as follows:-

Section 160 of the Goods and Service Tax Act, 2017:

(1) No assessment, re-assessment, adjudication, review, revision, appeal, rectification, notice, summons or other proceedings done, accepted, made, issued, initiated, or purported to have been done, accepted, made, issued, initiated in pursuance of any of the provisions of this Act shall be invalid or deemed to be invalid merely by reason of any mistake, defect or omission therein, if such assessment, re-assessment, adjudication, review, revision, appeal, rectification, notice, summons or other proceedings are in substance and effect in conformity with or according to the intents, purposes and requirements of this Act or any erstwhile law.

(2) The service of any notice, order or communication shall not be called in question, if the notice, order or communication, as the case may be, has already been acted upon by the person to whom it is issued or where such service has not been called in question at or in the earlier proceedings commenced, continued or finalized pursuant to such notice, order or communication.

Section 169 of the Goods and Service Tax Act, 2017:

(1) Any decision, order, summons, notice or other communication under this Act or the rules made thereunder shall be served by any one of the following methods, namely: —

    • (a) by giving or tendering it directly or by a messenger including a courier to the addressee or the taxable person or to his manager or authorized representative or an advocate or a tax practitioner holding authority to appear in the proceedings on behalf of the taxable person or to a person regularly employed by him in connection with the business, or to any adult member of family residing with the taxable person; or
    • (b) by registered post or speed post or courier with acknowledgement due, to the person for whom it is intended or his authorized representative, if any, at his last known place of business or residence; or
    • (c) by sending a communication to his e-mail address provided at the time of registration or as amended from time to time; or
    • (d) by making it available on the common portal; or
    • (e) by publication in a newspaper circulating in the locality in which the taxable person or the person to whom it is issued is last known to have resided, carried on business or personally worked for gain; or
    • (f) if none of the modes aforesaid is practicable, by affixing it in some conspicuous place at his last known place of business or residence and if such mode is not practicable for any reason, then by affixing a copy thereof on the notice board of the office of the concerned officer or authority who or which passed such decision or order or issued such summons or

(2) Every decision, order, summons, notice or any communication shall be deemed to have been served on the date on which it is tendered or published or a copy thereof is affixed in the manner provided in sub-section (1).

(3) When such decision, order, summons, notice or any communication is sent by registered post or speed post, it shall be deemed to have been received by the addressee at the expiry of the period normally taken by such post in transit unless the contrary is proved.

6. A reading of Section 160 of the Act makes it very much clear and candid that the safeguards contained therein cannot be made applicable for the contingency in the present case. Section 169 of the Act, which deals with the service of notice, enables the department to make available any decision, order, Summons, Notice or other communication in the common portal. In the guise of the same, the signatures cannot be dispensed with. In the considered opinion of this court, the aforesaid provisions of law would not come to the rescue of the respondent herein, for justifying the impugned action.

7. For the aforesaid reasons, this Writ Petition is allowed, setting aside the impugned order of the 1st Respondent, dated 23-11-2022 and the DRC-07 notice, dated 23-11-2022 for the tax period 2017-18,2018-19 and 2019-20, as well as the show cause notice dated 22-10-2022 and DRC-01 notice, dated 22-10-2022 issued by the 1st Respondent and uploaded in the GST common portal. However, this order will not preclude the respondents from proceeding in accordance with law, in the light of the observations made Supra. There shall be no order as to costs.

As a sequel thereto, miscellaneous petitions, if any pending, shall also stand closed.

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