Proceedings initiated u/s 67 of CGST Act not illegal or improper says Kerala HC
Forum: Kerala High Court
The Petitioners filed a writ petition before the Hon’ble Kerala HC alleging that illegal proceedings were taken against them, purportedly under the CGST Act, 2017, wherein their residences and offices were raided, both of them kept under illegal custody and an amount of Rupees One Crore extorted from them.
The Petitioners, in the writ petition prayed for;
(i) setting aside Exhibit notice, requiring them to provide information issued by the Senior Intelligence Officer;
(ii) invalidation of search and seizure proceedings initiated under Section 67 of the CGST Act;
(iii) refund of Rupees One Crore collected by Respondent Nos. 4 & 5;
(iv) a declaration that the petitioners are not liable to pay on the revenue share retained by the Local Cable Operator [‘LCO’];
(v) compensation for the damage to the reputation of the petitioners and the mental agony suffered.
The allegations raised of harassment and high-handedness cannot be considered in a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution. An operation carried out by a statutory authority invested with the powers of search, inspection and seizure, by reason only of such activities having been carried out in the residences and offices of any person under investigation for a long time, cannot be labeled as harassment or high-handed. The Petitioners, if desirous, could take appropriate proceedings with substantiating material.
Section 67 (1) empowers an officer not below the rank of Joint Commissioner with the authority to inspect, search and seize as also empowers such officer to authorize in writing any other officer to inspect any place of business or other premises of a taxable person.
Likewise, sub-section enables any officer below the rank of Joint Commissioner to carry out by himself, or authorize in writing, any other officer to search and seize such goods, documents, books or things. In the present case the authorization has been issued after recording the fact that the Directorate General has reason to believe, on information presented, that goods liable to confiscation/documents relevant to the proceedings under the Act are secreted in the business/residential premises detailed therein.
The Hon’ble HC had informed the learned Senior Counsel for the Petitioners as also the Instructing Counsel that if the Petitioners require the cheque back on the assertion of a coercion having been effected, we would so direct especially when the cheque is remaining unencashed. We also directed that an affidavit be filed to the said effect by the appellants themselves. No such affidavit has been filed and no insistence for the return of the cheque has been made. We have also found that the issuance of the cheque is voluntary and its receipt by the SIO, is sanctioned by the statute and the rules prescribed there under. Hence, the Department could proceed for encashment of the cheque in accordance with the procedure prescribed.
The writ petition was thus dismissed.
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