Commissioner and his officials are playing blame game - this must be immediately stopped: High Court
By TIOL News Service
MUMBAI, FEB 17, 2017: IN the case of ICICI Reality, the Bombay High Court in a scathing order [2017-TIOL-84-HC-MUM-CX] while dismissing the appeal (for the delay of 776 days) and the notice of motion observed –
+ Waking up after more than two and half years after such a dismissal and seeking restoration of the appeal would not be fair and proper. It is clear that there is no cause shown, much less some change in the panel of advocates. No details are provided and a vague statement is made in the affidavit-in-support.
+ It is noticed on several occasions by this Court that the advocates employ registered clerks who keep track of such matters and which remain pending in the Registry for compliance with the procedural rules.
+ The Revenue/Department has not learnt its lessons and though being the largest litigant, has not engaged the services of court clerks, much less registered court clerks. Therefore, those advocates who are engaged by the Revenue on more occasions than one have not been informed about lack of the procedural compliances.
+ The advocates who are panel advocates also do not have their own paraphernalia including clerks. We do not think that the High Court should condone such lapses and utter negligence on the part of the Revenue officials and their advocates.
It seems more was on its way.
In the present set of appeals filed in the year 2014 by CCE, Pune-III , notices of motions were filed seeking time to remove the office objections.
The High Court remarked –
++ While filing a cryptic affidavit in support, initially we had observed that the Commissioner and his officials are playing a blamegame. To cover up their lapses and deficiencies, they turned around and blamed their Advocates. They are of the opinion that their Advocates ought to inform them and at every stage of the matter, particularly as to which office objections have to be complied with or are to be removed. If no such communication is made by the Advocates, then the Commissioner feels that he and his officers are not at fault.
++ We are sorry to say that this is not what was expected from the Commissioner of Service Tax. If the officers are unaware of legal procedures, then, they have to be in touch with their Advocates and periodically. They cannot expect that the Advocate himself comes to their office and apprise them as to what further has to be done after the filing of an Appeal. Earliest this impression is removed from their mind as it is the duty of the officers to follow up the case, then, the better it would be for our system. This blamegame must be immediately stopped. We are expecting that this game will not be played further and as assured … in the light of a circular which is issued.
++ There is a Legal Coordination Cell, Pune Zone and it would hereafter take care in terms of its Office Order dated 10.01.2017 and which has been circulated to all concerned. We would expect better coordination which was completely lacking earlier. We would also appreciate that the Revenue officials communicate with their Advocates periodically or rather regularly apprise themselves of the stages in which their Appeals have to go through.
Accepting the explanation placed on the additional affidavit filed "on purely and in larger public interest", both the motions were allowed and four weeks time was granted to remove all office objections.
No costs were imposed since the counsels for the Revenue had "taken pains" to apprise the Commissionerate of all the lapses pointed out.