Non-appearance of the Assessee for personal hearing on the date fixed by the GST Officer is not a violation of natural justice

By:

The Hon’ble Andhra Pradesh High Court in the case of the TSN Old Iron Scrap Mechants v. Deputy/Assistant Commissioner of State Tax [Writ Petition No. 32206 of 2023 December 15, 2023] held that even though the copy of the information received was not supplied but the contents were disclosed to the assessee in the Show Cause Notice (“SCN”).  The Assessee had no justifiable reason for not appearing for personal hearing on date fixed.  The Assessee had statutory alternative remedy of appeal and the writ petition was dismissed.

Facts:

TSN Old Iron Scrap Merchants (“the Petitioner”) were issued a SCN issued on May 27, 2023 where it was mentioned that a letter was sent to NAHI vide reference 6th cited i.e. March 1, 2023 for passing tollgate data, the same data was received from them and on the same basis the Order (“Impugned Order”) was passed under Section 74 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017 (“the CGST Act”) on August 3, 2023. However, the information or the report so received from NAHI was not supplied to the Petitioner.   

The Petitioner contended that the notice for personal hearing was served on July 17, 2023, and the date of personal hearing was also decided to be July 17, 2023. Therefore, the Petitioner could not appear on the said date.

Subsequently, the Deputy/Assistant Commissioner of State tax (“the Respondent”) issued another Notice for the personal hearing on July 21, 2023, and fixed July 24, 2023. The Petitioner could not appear before them for the reason that July 22, 2023, and July 23, 2023, were Saturday and Sunday and the time was not sufficient for personal appearance. Further, the Petitioner was at Vijayawada and the place of personal hearing was also at Vijayawada. Therefore, there is no justification for not availing the opportunity of personal hearing.

Hence, aggrieved by the Impugned Order the present writ petition was filed by the Petitioner.

Issue:

If the Assessee fails to appear before the GST Officer on the date fixed for personal hearing does it amount to the violation of natural justice?

Held:

The Andhra Pradesh High Court in­­­­­­­­­­ Writ Petition No. 32206 of 2023 December 18, 2023 held as under:

  • Opined that, with respect to the violation of principles of natural justice of providing the opportunity of personal hearing is concerned, the notice dated July 21, 2023, was given to the Petitioner fixing the date July 24, 2023 (Monday). It could not be demonstrated before that why the Petitioner did not appear on the date fixed. The explanation of Saturday and Sunday is not for the date fixed. The Petitioner had no justifiable reason for not appearing for the personal hearing on the date fixed. If a person does not avail the opportunity of personal hearing, he cannot later on complain about the same.
  • Held that, even if the copy of the information received was not supplied but the contents thereof were disclosed in the SCN, there would be no violation of the principles of natural justice as the material was disclosed to the Petitioner. The Petitioner had also submitted the reply to the SCN on July 7, 2023. On consideration of the Petitioner’s reply, the Impugned Order was passed.
  • Held that, on the supra aspect the High Court of Andhra Pradesh found that there is no violation of principles of natural justice. The Petitioner has got the statutory alternative remedy of appeal. If so advised, the Petitioner can seek such an alternative remedy in accordance with the law. Hence, the writ petition was dismissed.

(Author can be reached at info@a2ztaxcorp.com)

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