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The rules framed under Tripura Value Added Tax Act do not envisage virtual hearing of assessment proceedings: High Court Of Tripura

The case of the department appeared to be that office value was nothing but it was the value of the goods indicated in the transport permit granted from time to time. Such an opinion was held by The Hon’ble High Court Of Tripura before The Hon’ble Chief Justice Mr. Akil Kureshi and The Hon’ble Mr. Justice S.G. Chattopadhyay regarding the case of  ITC Limited vs. . The State of Tripura and Ors [W.P.(C) No. 340 of 2021]. 

The facts of the case were related to a challenge made by the petitioner against the order dated 26.02.2021 passed by the Superintendent of Taxes, Agartala. A sum of Rs.1,18,79,583/- was demanded by way of unpaid taxes with interest and penalty for the assessment year 2015-16 under Tripura Value Added Tax Act. Another order dated 23rd March 2021 was also challenged by the petitioner. It seemed the petitioner challenged these orders on the ground of breach of principles of natural justice. Further, it appeared in the first half of 23rd November 2020 no one was present on behalf of the petitioner before the Assessing Officer. Moreover, the Assessing Officer had other commitments due to which the hearing could not be conducted. The petitioner was sent many notices regarding new dates of hearing but nobody participated from their side. The Assessing Officer had no choice and concluded the hearing upon which the impugned order of assessment was passed. 

The advocate representing the Government contended that the proposal of hearing of assessment proceedings was not mentioned in the rules under the Tripura Value Added Tax Act. Hence, the Assessing Officer had no facility for conducting the same. Furthermore, the petitioner stated that his representative was present during the hearing dated 23.11.2020 before the Assessing Officer, which the officer didn’t deny. Also, the officer did not conclude the proceedings on 23.11.2020. It was found strange that the company suddenly abandoned the assessment proceedings and incurred the risk of substantial ex-parte liability after duly attending all previous hearings. The Hon’ble Court stated “In a given case, we will examine the provisions under the relevant statute more closely and will also take into account the viewpoint of the administration in resisting such virtual hearings. In the present case, however, in the interest of justice, we would permit such virtual hearing.” The Court also stated that it revoked the very order due to inadequate hearing, so to examine the legality of the case was unnecessary. 

Thus,  The Hon’ble High Court Of Tripura after considering all the submissions stated that “… he assessment proceedings are revived and restored to file of the Assessing Officer. To avoid any confusion regarding intimation of the date of next hearing, it is provided that such hearing shall take place before the Assessing Officer on 8th November, 2021 at 11 am if so convenient to the Assessing Officer… The petitioner shall not ask for adjournment of the hearing. If, however, the Assessing Officer requires the hearing to take place on some other day in addition to the hearing of 8th November, 2021 it would be open for him to do the same so however, that the subsequent hearing shall also take place virtually in the same manner provided above… The assessment shall be framed afresh latest by 28th February, 2022… Petition disposed of accordingly. Pending application(s), if any, shall also stand disposed of.”

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Judgment reviewed by Bipasha Kundu

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