Ker HC | Power of detention under S. 129, GST Act to be exercised only on contravention of statute, not simply because tax payment details absent in relevant documents

Kerala High Court: A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar, J. allowed the writ petition and quashed the series of detention notices issued against the petitioner.

The petitioner challenged a series of notices of detention, whereby a consignment of goods transported at the instance of the petitioner was detained by the respondent on the allegation that there was a discrepancy in the e-way bill that accompanied the transportation of the goods. The Court on reviewing the series of notices inferred that the reason for the detention was that, while the consignment was supported by an invoice which contained the details of the goods transported as also the tax paid in respect of the goods, there was no mention of the tax amounts separately in the e-way bill that accompanied the goods. The Court further inferred that the respondents, therefore, detained the goods on the ground that there was no valid e-way bill supporting the transportation in question.

Meera Menon and Harisankar Menon, counsel on behalf of the petitioner argued that the transportation was covered both by a tax invoice, as also an e-way bill in FORM GST EWB-01, and when both the documents are perused together, it was amply clear that the transportation was covered by documents that clearly indicated the fact of payment of tax on the goods that were being transported. Thus, the detention under Section 129 was unfounded and baseless.

Dr Tushara James, counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent contended that as per Section 33 of the GST Act, there is an obligation on every person, who makes supply for consideration and who is liable to pay tax for such supply, to prominently indicate in all documents relating to assessment, tax invoice and other like documents, the amount of tax which shall form part of the price at which such supply is made. Referring to the provisions of Section 129, the respondent further contended that the goods in question were being transported under cover of documents that had been raised in contravention of the provisions of Section 33. It was further argued that, the e-way bill being a document akin to a tax invoice, in relation to an assessment to tax, and not having carried the details regarding the tax amount, the transportation itself had to be viewed as in contravention of the Act and Rules for the purposes of Section 129.

As per the statutory provisions applicable to the instant case, a person transporting goods is obliged to carry only the documents enumerated in Rule 138(A) of GST Rules, during the course of transportation. The said documents are

  • the invoice or bill of supply or delivery challan, as the case may be and
  • the copy of e-way bill in physical form or e-way bill number in electronic form etc.

The Court pointed out that if a prescribed form under the GST Act does not contain a field for entering the details of the tax payable in the e-way bill, then the non-mentioning of the tax amount cannot be seen as an act in contravention of the GST Rules.

Nevertheless, the Court held that the e-way bill has to be in FORM GST EWB-01, and in that format, there is no field wherein the transporter is required to indicate the tax amount payable in respect of the goods transported and that the transpiration was covered by a valid tax invoice, which clearly showed the tax collected in respect of the goods and an e-way bill in the prescribed format.[M.S Steel and Pipes v. Asst. State Tax Officer, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 3214, decided on 12-08-2020]

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