The observations were made by a division bench of Justice G.S. Kulkarni and Justice Jitendra Jain in a plea filed by the Indian MNC United Phosphorus Ltd (UPL) against the MoF and Central GST, Mumbai West Commissionerate.
The UPL had challenged the casual approach of the Central GST for not adjudicating a show-cause notice issue 13 years ago – in October 2010 – alleging non-payment of service tax of around Rs 7.79 crore on the import of bank charges under banking and financial services and professional fees under management consultancy services.
The UPL contended that for five years, from August 2011 to February 2016, there was no movement by the department during the period prior to the implementation of GST regime in the country.
In March 2011, the company had already deposited an amount of Rs 83,49,786, towards service tax and interest under the banking and financial services, under protest.
The division bench said that they took judicial notice of a series of petitions reaching the court on the grounds that the concerned jurisdictional officers exercising such enormous powers – for reasons which are totally ill-conceived and contrary to law – have not adjudicated and/or taken forward the show-cause notice for unduly long periods, and in some cases even more than 10 years.
In its August 22 verdict, the court also noted that there was no material available on record, including an affidavit filed by Mumbai CGST Deputy Commissioner Akshay Patil, that could in any manner justify such non-adjudication for prolonged periods.
“We wonder as to why the Commissioner who has issued the show cause notice has kept himself away from the court and has not bothered to respond to this petition when whatever was happening with show cause notice, was to the knowledge of this officer only. It can never be conceived that the Deputy Commissioner who has filed the reply affidavit is a person competent to file such an affidavit,” said the bench.
The bench also said that the long delay itself was sufficient to set aside the show-cause notice, and observed how the officials had ‘forgotten’ the show-cause notice though there were several occasions when it could have been adjudicated.
With the Damocles sword hanging in the form of the show-cause notice, the UPL finally moved the court in March 2021, seeking that since no action was taken on it, the notice should be quashed and set aside, which the court allowed.