Case Law Details

Case Name : M/s. Rosalinds Mediretta Institutional Foundation Vs. CST (CESTAT Delhi)
Appeal Number : Service Tax Appeals Nos. 55737 to 55740/2013, 58438/2013 (DB)
Date of Judgement/Order : 18/01/2018
Related Assessment Year :
Courts : All CESTAT (716) CESTAT Delhi (254)

M/s. Rosalinds Mediretta Institutional Foundation Vs. CST (CESTAT Delhi)

Post 2008, the appellants discontinued the course in collaboration with the Thames Valley University, UK. They have started a 3 year course of BA (Hons) in International Hospitality Administration approved by IGNOU, leading to an award of degree by IGNOU, which is, admittedly, a recognized open university under UGC Act. It is common knowledge that when institutes are running approved courses, affiliated to recognized universities, the degree on completion of such course are awarded by the universities not by the institute or college running such courses. As such, as long as the course results in the award of recognized degree by an approved university, the same is excluded from the tax entry of Commercial or Coaching Service. Section 65(27) defines “Commercial Training or Coaching Center”. The said definition excludes any institute or establishment , which issues any certificate or diploma or degree or any educational qualification recognized by law for the time being in force. In the present case, the admitted facts are that IGNOU is a recognized university issuing the degree on completion of the course conducted by the appellant, as per the approval granted by the university. In the face of such facts, we find that for the period, during which the appellants were conducting courses results in the award of degree by a recognized university, they are not covered by the scope of “Commercial Training or Coaching Center”.

In view of the above reasoning, we find that the impugned orders confirming service tax liability on the assessee/appellant are not legally sustainable.

FULL TEXT OF THE CESTAT ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:-

This bunch of six appeals are on common dispute and hence, are taken up together for disposal. 5 appeals are by the assessee/appellant against the 2 impugned orders dated 2.11.2012 and 14.03.2013 of Commissioner of Central Excise (Adj.), Delhi-I. The Revenue filed an appeal against the impugned order dated 2.11.2012 against dropping of demand for extended period.

2. The brief facts of the case are that the appellant/assessee is an educational Trust running the institute in collaboration with the Thames Valley University, UK They were offering their students a 4 year BA (Hons) in International Hotel Management, involving both the academic and practical training in all aspects of hotel management. On completion of the course, the students were granted BA (Hons.) degree by the Thames Valley University, a recognized university under the law in UK. From 2008 on wards, the appellant/assessee stopped the above course and instead conducted a 3 year BA (Hons.) in International Hospitality Administration, as an approved Institute of India Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). A degree was awarded by IGNOU, an open university recognized under the UGC Act.

3. The Revenue entertained a view that the appellants are liable to service tax under the category of commercial training or coaching center in terms of Section 65(27) read with Section 65(105) (zzc) of the Finance Act, 1994. The period covered is from 1.4.2008 to 30.09.2011 and 4 show cause notices were issued proposing demand of service tax along with penalties. The notices were adjudicated resulting in the issue of these two impugned orders. Except for holding that the demand for extended period is barred by limitation and a quantum of tax demanded is redetermined extending cum tax benefit in terms of Section 67(2), the Original Authority otherwise confirmed the tax demands and imposed penalties on the appellant.

3. Ld.Counsel for the appellant submitted a letter dated 30.12.2017 enclosing a written note along with various decided case laws with a request to decide the case based on the submissions made in the appeal without the need for hearing the appellant in person.

4. Accordingly, we heard ld. AR. Ld. AR submitted that the impugned orders examined the nature of course conducted by the appellant/assessee and arrived at the tax liability correctly. The degree awarded by the Thames Valley University is not shown to have been recognized in India in terms of any law time being in force. Regarding the appeal by Revenue, he submitted that the Original Authority erred in dropping the demand for extended period. He submitted that the appellant/assessee did not disclose the particulars of training conducted by them and the demand confirmed should have covered all the periods.

5. We have heard ld. AR and perused the appeal records including the written submissions along with various case laws relied upon by the appellant/assessee. The whole demand proceedings resulting in the two impugned orders cover two periods viz. prior and post 2008. The appellant /assessee were conducting courses in International Hotel Management in collaboration with the Thames Valley University, UK. On completion of 4 year course, a degree of BA (Hons) was awarded by the said university. The plea of the appellant is that the courses are for training the students in specialized field of profession involving both academic and practical training in all aspects of hotel management and are squarely covered by the category of vocational courses. They claimed exemption for such courses conducted by vocational training institute in terms of Notification No. 24/2004-ST. We note that the Original Authority recorded that the BA(Hons) degree in hotel management granted by the Thames Valley University is a professional qualification and the person cannot go for self-employment like a tailor, draftsman, etc. We note that the exemption notification no. 24/2004-ST dated 10.09.2004 defines “Vocational Training Institute” as a commercial training or coaching center, which provides vocational coaching or training that imparts skills to enable the trainee to seek employment or undertake self-employment, directly after such coaching or training. The Original Authority interpreted the scope of the exemption under the said notification by applying the provisions of amending notification no. 3/2010-ST dated 27.02.2010. He noted that the amending notification clarified the scope of the exemption to cover development of skills in specified trades, which enables a person to earn his livelihood. The finding of the Original Authority is that BA (Hons) degree in hotel management is not a vocational course. We are not in agreement with such a summary conclusion. First of all, relied on the provisions of amending notification no. 3/2010-ST dated 27.02.2010 to apply retrospectively the scope of meaning of vocational training institute. The same is not legally tenable. Admittedly, w.e.f 1.3.2010, the scope of such training institute has been specifically defined and restricted linking the same to the provisions of Apprentice Act. Further, the Original Authority erred in holding that such vocational training should impart skill to the trainee to undertake self-employment. The definition as mentioned above is “to seek employment or undertakes self-employment”. In other words, it is not correct to say that vocational courses should result in trainee undertaking self-employment. No such meaning can be imposed on the above statutory definition. The Tribunal in Wigan and Leigh College (India) Ltd. – 2012 (27) STR 377 (Tribunal) examined the scope of exemption provided under notification no. 24/2004-ST. Dispelling the contention of the Revenue to the effect that training in areas like welding, carpeting, etc., where the level of education required is low only qualifies to be “vocational training”, the Tribunal held that there is no such restricted scope for the said exemption. The said decision of the Tribunal was based on the earlier decisions in Ashu Exports Promoters Pvt. Ltd. – 2012 (25) STR 359 (Tribunal) and Wigan and Leigh College (India)Ltd. – 2007 (8) STR 475 (Tribunal). The decisions of the Tribunal in Ashu Exports Promoters Pvt. Ltd. (supra) and Wigan and Leigh College (India) Ltd. (supra) were confirmed by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in 2015 (38)STR J 207 Delhi.

6. We note that the Original Authority did not accept claim of the appellant/assessee for exemption under notification no. 24/2004 on the ground that the course conducted by the appellant/assessee has resulted in professional degree awarded by a foreign university and the same is not a vocational course. It is not clear what is the basis of such conclusion. If the trainee can seek employment directly after such training or coaching, the institute providing such coaching shall fall under “vocational training Institute”. Admittedly, the course offered by the appellant is in the specialized area of hospitality industry and are intended for seeking employment in that specified area of hotel management. We note that the Hon’ble Delhi High court in Ashu Exports (supra) held as below:-

“11. It is evident that the term “vocational training institute” included the commercial training or coaching centers which provide vocational coaching or training meant to “impart skills to enable the trainees to seek employment or to have self-employment directly after such training or coaching”. The notion of such training institute having been recognized or accredited to nowhere emerges from such a broad definition. The further Notification of 2010 substitutes the existing explanation to the term “vocational training institute” and narrowing it to those institutes affiliated to National Council for Vocational Training offering courses in designated trade in fact supports the assessee. Had the intention been to exempt only such class or category of institutions, the appropriate authority would have designed such a condition in the original Notification of 2003 and Notification No. 10 of 2004 which had been relied upon in this case.

12. For these reasons, this Court is of the opinion that the Tribunal did not fall into error in following its previous ruling in Wigan & Leigh (supra). The question of law framed is accordingly answered against the Revenue and in favor of assessee.”

7. In view of the above analyses, we hold that the courses conducted by the appellant in collaboration with the Thames Valley University, UK in international hotel management is covered by exemption notification no. 24/2004. No service tax liability can be fastened on the appellant for this period.

8. Post 2008, the appellants discontinued the course in collaboration with the Thames Valley University, UK. They have started a 3 year course of BA (Hons) in International Hospitality Administration approved by IGNOU, leading to an award of degree by IGNOU, which is, admittedly, a recognized open university under UGC Act. It is common knowledge that when institutes are running approved courses, affiliated to recognized universities, the degree on completion of such course are awarded by the universities not by the institute or college running such courses. As such, as long as the course results in the award of recognized degree by an approved university, the same is excluded from the tax entry of Commercial or Coaching Service. Section 65(27) defines “Commercial Training or Coaching Center”. The said definition excludes any institute or establishment , which issues any certificate or diploma or degree or any educational qualification recognized by law for the time being in force. In the present case, the admitted facts are that IGNOU is a recognized university issuing the degree on completion of the course conducted by the appellant, as per the approval granted by the university. In the face of such facts, we find that for the period, during which the appellants were conducting courses results in the award of degree by a recognized university, they are not covered by the scope of “Commercial Training or Coaching Center”.

9. In view of the above reasoning, we find that the impugned orders confirming service tax liability on the assessee/appellant are not legally sustainable. The same are set aside and the appeals by the assessee/appellants are allowed.

10. As we have held against the Revenue on merit, in the above appeals, we dismiss the appeal of the Revenue regarding demand for extended period.

[Order pronounced on 18.01.2018]

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