Committees are bound to hear tax payers in case of any discrepancies if a statute directs them to do so: Chhattisgarh High Court

In a petition filed with respect to levy of tax which was claimed under Form SVLDRS-1 i.e., the claim under the Scheme of Sabka Vishwas (Legacy Dispute Resolution) Scheme 2019, the Hon’ble Shri Justice Goutam Bhaduri ruled that, “The order which is on record whereby the declaration of the petitioner was rejected, meaning thereby he would be liable to pay the additional amount, which would be a levy imposed. In order to impose such levy, the designated committee was duty bound to hear the petitioner by giving him an opportunity of hearing. Considering the benevolent scheme which has been set into motion by the respondents, the petitioner was required to be heard even otherwise under the statutory mandate” in the case Chhattisgarh Cement Carriers Vs. Union Of India and others [WPT No. 70 of 2021]

The brief facts of the case are, the petitioner filed the service tax returns and had duly paid the admissible service tax but after the deadline. He did not pay any penalty for the late filing since he had applied for the SVLDRS scheme which promised to give a waiver from any such penalties. The respondent without giving an opportunity to hear the petitioner passed an order which rejected the form submitted under the scheme. Aggrieved by this, the petitioner filed a case before the High Court of Chhattisgarh, Bilaspur.

The scheme was introduced under Section 125 of the SVLDRS scheme which prescribes the eligible persons to make declaration under the scheme except certain categories. The scheme was predominantly was in nature of benevolent legislation and was aimed to put an end to existing or previous disputes. Asper the scheme, once such a declaration is filed by the assessee, the designated committee must verify this declaration and issue a statement. Section 127(3) of the SVLDRS scheme states that, “After the issue of the estimate under sub-section (2), the designated committee shall give an opportunity of being heard to the declarant, if he so desires, before issuing the statement indicating the amount payable by the declarant: Provided that on sufficient cause being shown by the declarant, only one adjournment may be granted by the designated committee.”

Since such a mandate is provided in the statute, the authorities are duty bound to listen to the petitioner. The court adhered to the principles of natural justice by directing the designated committee to listen to the petitioner and then pass orders at liberty but in accordance with law.

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