2023 (1) TMI 1028 - HC - GST
Seeking return of money recovered / taken away during search - It is contended by the petitioner that the concerned officers could have no reason to believe that any goods liable for confiscation were lying in the premises of the petitioners - whether cash can be seized by the officers under Section 67(2) of the GST Act? - HELD THAT:- Prima facie, a plain reading of Section 67(2) of the GST Act indicates that the seizure is limited to goods liable for confiscation or any documents, books or things, which may be “useful for or relevant to any proceedings under this Act”. Clearly, cash does not fall within the definition of goods. And, prima facie, it is difficult to accept that cash could be termed as a ‘thing’ useful or relevant for proceedings under the GST Act. The second proviso to Section 67(2) of the GST Act also provides that the books or things so seized would be retained by the officer only so long as may be necessary “for their examination and for any inquiry or proceedings under the Act.”
Clearly, the petitioners had not handed over the cash to the concerned officers voluntarily. Undisputedly, the action taken by the officers was a coercive action. There are no provision in the GST Act that could support an action of forcibly taking over possession of currency from the premises of any person, without effecting the same. The powers of search and seizure are draconian powers and must be exercised strictly in terms of the statute and only if the necessary conditions are satisfied - In the present case, the GST officers have dispossessed the petitioners of the currency found in their premises during search operations conducted under Section 67(2) of the GST Act but have not seized the currency under the said provision. Plainly, their action in doing so is without authority of law.
Insofar as the action of the officers of dispossessing the petitioners of their currency is concerned; it is clear that the said action of taking away currency was illegal and without any authority of law. The amount of ₹18,87,000/- has already been returned to petitioner no.1. The respondents are directed to forthwith return the balance amount along with the interest accrued thereon to the petitioners. The bank guarantee furnished by petitioner no.1 for release of currency is directed to be released forthwith.
List on 20.02.2023.