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2023 (3) TMI 528 - HC - GST
Levy of penalty - failure to produce a valid e-way bill - petitioner contends that the imposition of penalty is illegal as the petitioner did not have any deliberate intention to evade tax - Reasonable opportunity of hearing was not granted to the petitioner - Principles of natural justice (audi alterem partem) - HELD THAT:- The petitioner admits that when the vehicle was intercepted, the e-way bill was invalid. The petitioner, being aware of the legal consequences, did not raise objection and paid the penalty that was imposed. The appeal filed was also very formal and the petitioner was unable to rebut the charge of transporting goods without a valid e-way bill - From the documents available before the Court it does not appear that the petitioner genuinely intended to contest the charge brought against her. On the contrary, the petitioner without any objection deposited the penalty amount. It seems that the petitioner is raising all the issues for the first time before the High Court in the present proceeding.
The practice and procedure to obtain way bill electronically from the portal suggests that there is minimal manual interference and there is no scope to exercise discretion at any stage. Opportunity of hearing is given to allow the person in charge of the goods and/or the conveyance to produce relevant documents to rebut the charge and not for examining the reason or ground for not being able to act in accordance with law - In RAMJI JAISWAL & ANR VERSUS STATE TAX OFFICER, BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (SOUTH BENGAL) KHARAGPUR ZONE & ORS. [2022 (7) TMI 1384 - CALCUTTA HIGH COURT] the Hon’ble Court opined that the respondents could not make out any case of deliberate or wilful intention to avoid and evade payment of tax.
In GULJAG INDUSTRIES VERSUS COMMERCIAL TAXES OFFICER [2007 (8) TMI 344 - SUPREME COURT] while considering the provision of Section 78 and its various sub-Sections of Rajasthan Sales Tax Act, 1994, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that in penalty for statutory offences, there is no question of proving of intention or of mens rea as the same is excluded from the category of essential element for imposing penalty. Penalty is attracted as soon as there is contravention of statutory obligations. Intention of parties committing such violation is wholly irrelevant.
The Supreme Court on repeated occasions has held that a statutory authority does not have any power to do anything unless such powers are specifically enumerated in the Statute which creates it. The authority merely performs the statutory obligation - Here, it does not appear that the authority acted in any manner contrary to law. Travelling without a proper e-way bill attracts penalty. The authority assessed the penalty amount and the petitioner deposited the same without a murmur.
There is hardly any reason to interfere in the instant proceeding - Petition dismissed.