Gujarat High Court: While deciding the petition, the division bench of Sonia Gokani, J., and Sandeep N. Bhatt, J., quashed the reassessment order and notice of assessment issued by the Authority under Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, after taking note of the fact that petitioner was unable to get Form-F due to COVID-19 lockdown.
In the case at hand the petitioner has filed a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, challenging the re-assessment order and the final notice of assessment passed under Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, on the ground of the same being invalid due to final hearing not being given despite the acknowledgment of the lock down due to COVID-19 virus.
The question before the Court is whether this petition is maintainable under Article 226 of the Constitution of India when there is an appeal provided against the reassessment order and secondly, whether the circumstances existed at the relevant point of time that breached principles of natural justice.
The Court said that the officer concerned, having taken a note of the fact that the request has been made by the petitioner to the Rajasthan Authority for issuance of Form-F, he has chosen not to accommodate the petitioner, nor was he given an opportunity to tender the Form-F, nor any opportunity of hearing was accorded. Therefore, this petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India can be entertained bearing in mind the fact that this is a clear violation of principle of natural justice.
The Court further said that even if, while not accepting and acceding to the request of adjournment, there was an absence of any intent for wilful disobedience to settled position of law on the part of the officer, the fact remains that the proper opportunity as required under the law is missing.
The Court noted that availability of alternative remedy in the form of appeal this stage would not serve the purpose for this being a violation of the principle of natural justice. It was an unprecedented situation where people had suffered and no one was sure as what is going to be the future. In such circumstances, when people were struggling to save the human lives, the request for the petitioner to get the Form-F from the authority was a mere impossibility.
The Court concluded that having recognized the fact that it was impossible for the petitioner to get the Form-F in a situation that prevailed at the relevant time, the officer continued to reassess the order and therefore, this petition not only under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is maintainable for the action being in breach of principle of nature justice, but the same deserves to be allowed quashing and setting aside the order of reassessment with all consequential reliefs.
Hence, the Court allowed the petition and set aside the reassessment order and the final notice of assessment.
[Kavita Krushna Kumar v. UOI, 2023 SCC OnLine Guj 234, decided on 19-01-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Counsel for Petitioner:- Advocate Jimi S Patel;
Counsel for Respondents:- Advocate Trupesh Karathiya, Advocate PY Divyeshvar.