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Calcutta High Court Affirms Appellate Authority’s Power to Condone Delay under WBGST Act

Introduction

In the case of Sujit Das v. Senior Joint Commissioner of Revenue, State Tax[i], the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta (‘HC’) contemplated the significant issue of whether the Adjudicating Authority (‘AA’) possesses the jurisdiction for allowing condonation of delay beyond the limitations period prescribed under s. 107 of the West Bengal Goods and Services Act, 2017 (‘WBGST’), invoking s. 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 (‘LA’).

Brief Facts

  • In this case, the petitioner was aggrieved by a determination under s. 74 of the WBGST Act and challenged the Appellate Authority’s (‘AA’) refusal to condone the delay in filing an appeal under s. 107 of the WBGST Act.

  • The appeal was filed beyond the prescribed limitation period, so the petitioner also moved an application for condonation of delay under s. 5 of the LA. The AA dismissed the application for condonation and disposed of the appeal.

  • Consequently, the petitioner argued that the AA overlooked sufficient grounds for condonation and failed to exercise its jurisdiction. The respondents contended that the AA could not condone delays beyond one month from the prescribed period, asserting that the WBGST Act is a self-contained code excluding s. 5 of the LA.

Held

  • The HC condoned the delay and restored the petitioner’s appeal, holding that the AA had failed to exercise its power by not condoning the delay beyond the prescribed one-month period.

  • The HC emphasised that the AA had the power to condone the delay beyond the period of one month prescribed under s. 107(4) of the WBGST Act. Reliance was placed on a Division Bench judgment in S. K Chakraborty & Sons v. Union of India[ii], wherein the court interpreted that in the absence of specific exclusion of s. 5 of the LA, the AA is not denuded of its power to condone the delay beyond one month from the prescribed period of limitation. Therefore, the WBGST Act and s. 5 of the LA were held to be compatible.

  • The HC itself found the petitioner’s explanation for the delay satisfactory, thereby setting aside the order of the AA and directing the AA to hear and dispose of the appeal on merits within one month without unnecessary adjournments.

Our Analysis

This judgment underscores the AA’s obligation to consider applications for condoning delays as provided under s. 107(4) of the WBGST Act. It affirmed the importance of procedural fairness and adherence to legal principles. By ensuring that the AA’s power includes the ability to condone delays beyond the specific period, the HC reinforces the importance of a thorough and fair adjudicating process. The decision highlights the interpretation that the WBGST Act does not implicitly exclude the application of s. 5 of the LA with reference to s. 29(2) of the LA.

It was clarified that there is no exclusion of s. 5 of the LA in the WBGST Act in view of s. 29(2) of the LA and in the absence of a non-obstante clause in the WBGST Act. This decision exemplifies the judiciary's role in interpreting and applying statutory provisions to ensure equitable outcomes and judicial discretion in ensuring justice over procedural rigidity. If justified, the ruling may impact future cases by providing a precedent for condoning delays beyond statutory periods, thus ensuring substantive justice.








End Notes

[i] 162 Taxmann.Com 376 (Calcutta).

[ii] (2023) SCC Online 4759.







Authored by Siddharth Jha, Advocate at Metalegal Advocates. The views expressed are personal and do not constitute legal opinion.

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