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Case Law Details

Case Name : Union of India Vs Rajasthan Spg. & Wvg. Mills (Supreme Court of India)
Appeal Number : Civil Appeal No. 3527 of 2009
Date of Judgement/Order : 12/05/2009
Related Assessment Year :


18. One cannot fail to notice that both the proviso to sub section 1 of section 11A and section 11AC use the same expressions: “….by reasons of fraud, collusion or any wilful mis-statement or suppression of facts, or contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or of the rules made thereunder with intent to evade payment of duty,…”. In other words the conditions that would extend the normal period of one year to five years would also attract the imposition of penalty. It, therefore, follows that if the notice under section 11A (1) states that the escaped duty was the result of any conscious and deliberate wrong doing and in the order passed under section 11A (2) there is a legally tenable finding to that effect then the provision of section 11AC would also get attracted. The converse of this, equally true, is that in the absence of such an allegation in the notice the period for which the escaped duty may be reclaimed would be confined to one year and in the absence of such a finding in the order passed under section 11A (2) there would be no application of the penalty provision in section 11AC of the Act. On behalf of the assessees it was also submitted that sections 11A and 11AC not only operate in different fields but the two provisions are also separated by time. The penalty provision of section 11AC would come into play only after an order is passed under section 11A(2) with the finding that the escaped duty was the result of deception by the assessee by adopting a means as indicated in section 11AC.

19. From the aforesaid discussion it is clear that penalty under section 11AC, as the word suggests, is punishment for an act of deliberate deception by the assessee with the intent to evade duty by adopting any of the means mentioned in the section.

20. At this stage, we need to examine the recent decision of this Court in Dharamendra Textile (supra). In almost every case relating to penalty, the decision is referred to on behalf of the Revenue as if it laid down that in every case of non-payment or short payment of duty the penalty clause would automatically get attracted and the authority had no discretion in the matter. One of us (Aftab Alam,J.) was a party to the decision in Dharamendra Textile and we see no reason to understand or read that decision in that manner. In Dharamendra Textile the court framed the issues before it, in paragraph 2 of the decision, as follows:

“2. A Division Bench of this Court has referred the controversy involved in these appeals to a larger Bench doubting the correctness of the view expressed in Dilip N. Shroff vs. Joint Commissioner of Income Tax, Mumbai & Anr. [2007 (8) SCALE 304]. The question which arises for determination in all these appeals is whether Section 11AC of the Central Excise Act, 1944 (in short the `Act’) inserted by Finance Act, 1996 with the intention of imposing mandatory penalty on persons who evaded payment of tax should be read to contain mens rea as an essential ingredient and whether there is a scope for levying penalty below the prescribed minimum. Before the Division Bench, stand of the revenue was that said section should be read as penalty for statutory offence and the authority imposing penalty has no discretion in the matter of imposition of penalty and the adjudicating authority in such cases was duty bound to impose penalty equal to the duties so determined. The assessee on the other hand referred to Section 271(1)(c) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (in short the `IT Act’) taking the stand that Section 11AC of the Act is identically worded and in a given case it was open to the assessing officer not to impose any penalty. The Division Bench made reference to Rule 96ZQ and Rule 96ZO of the Central Excise Rules, 1944 (in short the `Rules’) and a decision of this Court in Chairman, SEBI vs. Shriram Mutual Fund & Anr.[2006(5) SCC 361] and was of the view that the basic scheme for imposition of penalty under section 271(1)(c) of IT Act, Section 11AC of the Act and Rule 96ZQ(5) of the Rules is common. According to the Division Bench the correct position in law was laid down in Chairman, SEBI’s case (supra) and not in Dilip Shroff’s case (supra). Therefore, the matter was referred to a larger Bench.”

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