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CESTAT Order without disposing case on Merits should be Re-adjudicated: Madras HC [Read Judgment]

By Fathima Nihala -

The High Court of Madras has recently remanded a matter back to the Central Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) for the reason that the appeal was allowed only on the ground of limitation and without considering the case on merits.

The Respondent is a Customs Broker viz., M/s.Sea Queen Shipping Services Private Limited, whose Customs Broker Licence was revoked by the Appellant/Revenue by an order passed by the Commissioner of Customs, Chennai for an offense of smuggling.

As per the provisions of the Customs Brokers License Regulations, 2013 the limitation of 90 days prescribed is to be strictly followed. However, in respect of the final order of revocation of the license to be passed under Regulation 20(7), the same was passed beyond 90 days.

The licensee contended that the order was passed beyond the period of limitation and therefore, is not legally sustainable.

The department contended that the order was passed beyond the limitation period only because of the attitude and approach of the Respondent and not by the inaction of the Revenue.

The CESTAT, on appeal, concluded that the order of the Revenue revoking the Customs Broker Licence of the Respondent/Customs Broker was beyond the Statutory Limitation Period, accordingly the said order was set aside and the appeal of the custom was allowed by the impugned order of the CESTAT.

Felt aggrieved over the said order of the CESTAT, the Revenue preferred this Appeal.

The division bench comprising of Justices, Dr. Vineeth Kothari and R. Suresh Kumar observed that merely because of this 159 days in between these two dates, as referred can straight away construe that the final order of revocation of license passed by the Revenue was beyond the 90 days limitation.

While setting aside the order of the CESTAT, the bench held that “the mandatory requirement of the limitation has never been ignored by the Revenue. Even in respect of the 90 days limitation under Regulation 20(7) of CBLR, 2013, the Revenue was very conscious and was very particular about the limits within which, they wanted to pass the final order. However, it was the Respondent/Custom Broker/Licensee should voluntarily be given up its right to insist the limitation clause by making a request to the Revenue to keep the file in abeyance awaiting the orders to be passed in the related/parallel proceedings initiated by the Customs Authorities where the Licensee expected some favorable orders.”

“Since these aspects have not at all attempted to be considered by the CESTAT in the impugned order, we are of the considered view that, in fact, we are fully satisfied that, the given facts and circumstances of the case in hand, makes it abundantly clear that, the order of the CESTAT is liable to be interfered with. As we were aware that the Tribunal since has passed the impugned order only on the basis of limitation and merits of the issue since has not been discussed, we are constrained to remit this matter to the CESTAT for the fresh hearing to decide the issue on merits without going into the limitation point,” the bench said.

To Read the full text of the Judgment CLICK HERE