The Central Board of Excise and Customs (the Board) vide Instruction F. No. 207/07/2014-CX-6 dated January 20, 2015 has issued an instruction in respect of issuance of summons in the Central Excise and Service tax matters wherein summons have been issued to the officials of the companies to enforce recovery of dues, which are under dispute.
The Board has emphasized that the summons need not to be issued always when a simple letter, politely worded, can also serve the purpose of securing documents relevant to investigation.
The Board has issued the following guidelines regarding summons matters:
1. Summons should be issued by the Superintendents with the prior approval of the officer not below the rank of Assistant Commissioner with the reasons recorded in writing;
2. Where for operational reasons, it is not possible to obtain such prior written,oral or telephonic permission may be obtained from such officer and the same should be reduced to writing and intimated to the officer at the earliest opportunity;
3. The officer issuing summons should submit a report or should record a brief of the proceedings in the case file and submit the same to the officer who authorised the issue of summons.
4. Senior management officials such as CEO, CFO, General Managers of a large company or a PSU should not generally be issued summons at the first instance unless there are indications of their involvement in the decision making process which led to loss of revenue.
Our Comments: The Board wants strict compliance by the field officers. Non observance of the instructions will be viewed seriously butit is not a new Instruction as there are other instructions also issued around 25 years ago vide Circular F.No 208/122/89-CX.6 dated October 13, 1989, which states that:
“Complaints have been received from the trade that in some of the Collectorates summons under Section 14 of the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944 are being issued to the Managing Directors and other high officers with a view to enforce recovery of dues which are under dispute. Action under this section is to be taken only as a last resort in cases where assessees are not cooperating or investigations are to be completed expeditiously. This section should not be used for harassing the top management for forcing them to pay up demands which are disputed by them. For recovery of demands normal procedure under the law should be followed.
If any instance of issue of summons to Managing Directors and other Directors without justification is noticed, a serious view will be taken by the Board. Collectors will be held personally responsible for enforcing these instructions in their charges.”
Even 8 years ago vide F. No. 137/39/2007-CX.4 dated February 26, 2007, the Board issued some instructions on summons and firmly declared, Non-observance of these instructions would be viewed seriously.
Let’s pray these instructions are religiously followed by the Revenue Officers.