While clarifying the legal position on the liability of the owner of vehicle for any mis-declaration by the owner of goods, the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Vijay Mamgain Vs State of Haryana in 2022 LiveLaw (PH) 34 and Case No. – CWP-1564-2022 (O&M) delivered as recently as February 15, 2022 has held that the owner of the vehicle who is seeking only release of the vehicle is not liable to pay fine for the confiscated goods. It must be apprised here that the Division Bench of Justice Ajay Tewari and Justice Pankaj Jain has observed without mincing any words that to force the owner of the vehicle to pay the tax, penalty and fine on the goods would mean that the owner of the vehicle is also foisted with the vicarious liability of any mis-declaration/fraud by the owner of the goods despite the proviso engrafted on to Sub Section 2 of Section 130 of the Central Goods And Services (CGST) Act, 2017. The goods and conveyance were confiscated by the Tax Authorities during transit as the tax against the goods was not paid. The proceedings under Section 130 were initiated for the reason that the fine and penalty was not paid for 14 days.
To start with, this learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment authored by Justice Ajay Tewari for a Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court comprising of himself and Justice Pankaj Jain sets the ball rolling by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “By this petition the petitioner has challenged the action of the respondents in not releasing the conveyance even though he had paid the fine prescribed under Section 130 (2) proviso of the Central Goods and Services Act, 2017 (for short ‘the Act’).”
Be it noted, the Bench then discloses in para 2 that, “It is his contention that the scheme of Section 130 of the Act makes it clear that the owner of the goods and the owner of the conveyance are two separate entities and the liability of one can not be foisted upon the other. Section 129 and 130 of the Act, are reproduced herein below:-
“129. Detention, seizure and release of goods and conveyances in transit
“(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, where any person transports any goods or stores any goods while they are in transit in contravention of the provisions of this Act or the rules made thereunder, all such goods and conveyance used as a means of transport for carrying the said goods and documents relating to such goods and conveyance shall be liable to detention or seizure and after detention or seizure, shall be released, —
(a) on payment of the applicable tax and penalty equal to one hundred per cent of the tax payable on such goods and, in case of exempted goods, on payment of an amount equal to two per cent of the value of goods or twenty-five thousand rupees, whichever is less, where the owner of the goods comes forward for payment of such tax and penalty;
(b) on payment of the applicable tax and penalty equal to the fifty per cent of the value of the goods reduced by the tax amount paid thereon and, in case of exempted goods, on payment of an amount equal to five per cent of the value of goods or twenty-five thousand rupees, whichever is less, where the owner of the goods does not come forward for payment of such tax and penalty;
(c) upon furnishing a security equivalent to the amount payable under clause (a) or clause (b) in such form and manner as may be prescribed:
Provided that no such goods or conveyance shall be detained or seized without serving an order of detention or seizure on the person transporting the goods.
(2) The provisions of sub-section (6) of section 67 shall, mutatis mutandis, apply for detention and seizure of goods and conveyances.
(3) The proper officer detaining or seizing goods or conveyances shall issue a notice specifying the tax and penalty payable and thereafter, pass an order for payment of tax and penalty under clause (a) or clause (b) of sub section (1).
(4) No penalty shall be determined under sub- section (3) without giving the person concerned an opportunity of being heard.
(5) On payment of amount referred in sub-section (1), all proceedings in respect of the notice specified in sub-section (3) shall be deemed to be concluded.
(6) Mere the person transporting any goods or the owner of the goods fails to pay the amount of penalty under sub-section (1) within fifteen days from the date of receipt of the copy of the order passed under sub-section (3), the goods or conveyance so detained or seized shall be liable to be sold or disposed of otherwise, in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed, to recover the penalty payable under sub-section (3):
Provided that the conveyance shall be released on payment by the transporter of penalty under sub-section(3) or one lakh rupees, whichever is less:
Provided further that where the detained or seized goods are perishable or hazardous in nature or are likely to depreciate in value with passage of time, the said period of fifteen days may be reduced by the proper officer.”
“130. Confiscation of goods or conveyance and levy of penalty
“(1) [Where] any person-
(i) supplies or receives any goods in contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or the rules made thereunder with intent to evade payment of tax; or
(ii) does not account for any goods on which he is liable to pay tax under this Act; or
(iii) supplies any goods liable to tax under this Act without having applied for registration; or
(iv) contravenes any of the provisions of this Act or the rules made thereunder with intent to evade payment of tax; or
(v) uses any conveyance as a means of transport for carriage of goods in contravention of the provisions of this Act or the rules made thereunder unless the owner of the conveyance proves that it was so used without the knowledge or connivance of the owner himself, his agent, if any, and the person in charge of the conveyance, then, all such goods or conveyances shall be liable to confiscation and the person shall be liable to penalty under section 122.
(2) Whenever confiscation of any goods or conveyance is authorised by this Act, the officer adjudging it shall give to the owner of the goods an option to pay in lieu of confiscation, such fine as the said officer thinks fit:
Provided that such fine leviable shall not exceed the market value of the goods confiscated, less the tax chargeable thereon:
Provided further that the aggregate of such fine and penalty leviable shall not be less than the [penalty equal to hundred per cent of the tax payable on such goods]:
Provided also that where any such conveyance is used for the carriage of the goods or passengers for hire, the owner of the conveyance shall be given an option to pay in lieu of the confiscation of the conveyance a fine equal to the tax payable on the goods being transported thereon.
(3) Mere any fine in lieu of confiscation of goods or conveyance is imposed under sub-section (2), the owner of such goods or conveyance or the person referred to in sub-section (1), shall, in addition, be liable to any tax, penalty and charges payable in respect of such goods or conveyance.
(4) No order for confiscation of goods or conveyance or for imposition of penalty shall be issued without giving the person an opportunity of being heard.
(5) Mere any goods or conveyance are confiscated under this Act, the title of such goods or conveyance shall thereupon vest in the Government.
(6) The proper officer adjudging confiscation shall take and hold possession of the things confiscated and every officer of Police, on the requisition of such proper officer, shall assist him in taking and holding such possession.
(7) The proper officer may, after satisfying himself that the confiscated goods or conveyance are not required in any other proceedings under this Act and after giving reasonable time not exceeding three months to pay fine in lieu of confiscation, dispose of such goods or conveyance and deposit the sale proceeds thereof with the Government.””
To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, “The facts are that in this case an order of penalty and tax was made against the goods but since the same was not paid within 14 days proceedings under Section 130 of the Act were initiated. At that stage also the owner of the goods did not come forward to pay the tax and penalty or the fine in view of the confiscation. However, the owner of the conveyance i.e. the petitioner went and paid the fine imposed on the vehicle but, since the vehicle was not released he has filed the present writ petition.”
As we see, the Bench then states in para 4 that, “Learned State counsel states that a perusal of Sub Section 1 of Section 129 of the Act clearly shows that on detention the goods and the vehicle can only be released on the payment of the applicable tax and penalty and the mere fact that Section 130 of the Act is subsequently invoked would not take away the rigour of Section 129 (1). She has further argued that there is no warrant for the proposition that the owner of the goods and the owner of the conveyance are two separate entities because as per her under the main Sub Section 2 of Section 130 of the Act it is clear that whoever wants the goods or the vehicle to be released has to pay the tax, penalty and fine imposed for all the things i.e. to say for the goods also as well as for the conveyance also. As per her, the proviso would not affect this basic provision.”
It is worth noting that the Bench then hastens to add in para 5 that, “In our opinion, if this argument is to be accepted then the Section might well be rendered unconstitutional. In CWP No.18392 of 2021 titled as M/s Shiv Enterprises Vs. State of Punjab and others, decided on 04.02.2022 this Court held as under :-
“21. Section 129 deals with contravention of the provisions of the Act by person transporting goods or storing goods while in transit. The provision provides for consequence of contravention of the provisions of the Act in form of detention or seizure of goods. In case, transport of goods in transit is found to be in contravention of the provisions of the Act, the same are liable to detention/seizure. On the other hand, Section 130 provides for S different situations in which the goods or conveyances are liable to confiscation and the person is liable to penalty under Section 122. Reading of Section 131 further makes it clear that Section 130 is a penal clause and confiscation is a form of punishment over and above other punishments prescribed under the Act. Section 130 is more stringent as compared to Section 129.
25. Men the aforesaid principles of law and the bare provisions of law are applied to the present case, we find that the investigation report relied upon by the respondents to initiate proceedings under Section 130 against the petitioner lacks sting. Under the 2017 Act, a trader is either a ‘supplier’ qua ‘outward supply’ or is a ‘recipient’ of ‘inward supply’. The alleged ‘intent to evade tax’ must have a direct nexus with the activity of trader. The opinion formed by the authorities must reflect such nexus before proceeding under Section 130 of 2017 Act. A trader cannot be accused of having intention to evade payment of tax for act or omission on part of a person not immediately linked to his activity. Learned counsel for the State agreed that even if a trader wants to be prudent, there is no system in place from where he can check as to whether his predecessors in supply chain have paid input tax credit or not. Meaning thereby, it is virtually impossible for a trader to ascertain as to whether input tax has been paid by his predecessors or not and it is for this reason also that the claim to input tax credit has been made subject to scrutiny and assessment. It is the fundamental legal principle embedded in legal maxim “LEX NON COGIT AD IMPOSSIBILIA”-That the law does not compel a man to do that which he cannot possibly perform”. Once a person cannot be compelled to do something not possible, definitely he cannot be penalized for not doing so.””
As a corollary, the Bench then most commendably holds in para 6 that, “By this judgment this Court has held that the principle of vicarious liability can not be extended indefinitely. In the present case also to force the owner of the conveyance to pay the tax, penalty and fine on the goods would mean that the owner of the conveyance is also foisted with the vicarious liability of any mis-declaration/fraud by the owner of the goods despite the proviso engrafted on to Sub Section 2 of Section 130 of the Act.”
As a consequence, the Bench then directs in para 7 that, “Consequently, the argument of the learned State counsel is rejected and it is directed that the conveyance be released forthwith. The goods obviously would be confiscated and disposed of by the respondents in accordance with law.”
Furthermore, the Bench then states in para 8 that, “Petition stands allowed.”
Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 9 that, “Since the main case has been decided, the pending Misc. Application, if any, also stands disposed of.”
In conclusion, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has rightly, rationally and robustly held that owner of vehicle is not vicariously liable for any mis-declaration by owner of goods. It has adequately explains also the reasons for it as discussed herein aforesaid. No denying it in any way!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate
By this judgment this Court has held that the principle of vicarious liability can not be extended indefinitely. In the present case also to force the owner of the conveyance to pay the tax, penalty and fine on the goods would mean that the owner of the conveyance is also foisted with the vicarious liability of any mis-declaration/fraud by the owner of the goods despite the proviso engrafted on to Sub Section 2 of Section 130 of the Act.
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Disproportionate assets case: Delhi High Court stays Lokpal proceedings initiated against Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren
On Monday, the Delhi High Court has stayed the proceedings initiated by Lokpal of India under the provisions of the Lokpal & Lokayuktas Act, 2013 against Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) Chief and Rajya Sabha MP Shibu Soren in connection with a disproportionate case of assets.
The bench comprising of Justice Yashwant Varma observed and has passed an order on Soren’s plea challenging the validity of the said proceedings, claiming that the same was ex facie bad in law and without jurisdiction.
In the present case, the proceedings were initiated by Lokpal of India pursuant to a complaint dated August 5, 2020 filed by BJP’s Nishikant Dubey. Therefore, it has been directed by the CBI to make a preliminary enquiry into the Complaint under section 20(1)(a) of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. It was claimed by Soren that the said order was not served on him.
While claiming the complaint was false, frivolous and vexatious, Soren in his plea submitted that according to section 53 of the Act and there is a statutory bar against the Lokpal of India assuming jurisdiction to investigate or inquire into any Complaint made after the expiry of seven years from the offence alleged.
The plea reads that the initiation of the proceedings under the Complaint, or at the very least, continuation thereof, once it has been demonstrated by the preliminary inquiry that it pertains to alleged acquisitions prior to the 7-year period and is clearly barred by statute, without jurisdiction and the same is liable to be quashed.
Further, the petition filled submits that the maximum period of 180 days for completion of preliminary enquiry from the date of Complaint expired on February 1, 2021. In this backdrop, it has been stated that by this time, only on July 1, 2021, the comments were sought from Soren which is beyond the prescribed statutory period.
The plea adds that the final preliminary enquiry report was submitted by the CBI on 29.06.2022, about a year and a half after expiry of the 180- day period. Such purported report is void and null and non-est in the eyes of law and cannot be received or considered by the Respondent No.1.
Thus, the court took note of the order passed by Lokpal of India dated August 4, 2022 directing that proceedings under section 20(3) of the Lokpal Act be initiated to determine whether a prima facie case existed to be proceeded against Soren. It is Soren’s case that the order was passed without considering the preliminary objection on jurisdiction being raised by him.
In the said order, the court noted that all the Lokpal of India recorded was that the comments received from the petitioner were forwarded to CBI so as to examine and submit an enquiry report.
It was ordered by the court that the challenge to assumption of jurisdiction by respondent no. 1 (the Lokpal of India) has neither been answered and nor dealt with. Matters require consideration. Subsequently, there will be a stay of proceedings pending before the Lokayukta.
Accordingly, the court will now hear the matter on 14 December.
DELHI HC SETS ASIDE MURDER CONVICTION & LIFE SENTENCE OF MAN WHO WAS UNPRESENTED BY LAWYER; REMANDS CASTE BACK TO TRIAL COURT
The Delhi High Court in the case Narender @ Lala v. State Of NCT Of Delhi observed and has set aside the orders of conviction for murder and sentence of life imprisonment awarded to a man in 2018 who was unrepresented by a lawyer before the Trial Court. Thus, the Delhi High Court has remanded the case back to the Trial Court for cross examination of certain prosecution witnesses.
The division bench comprising of Justice Mukta Gupta and Justice Anish Dayal observed and was of the view that there had been a grave miscarriage of justice to the man as when number of witnesses were examined, he was not represented by a counsel and that the legal aid counsel, who was present before Trial Court and was appointed on the same day and asked to cross- examine the witnesses on the same day.
On March, 2018, Narender was convicted for offence of murder punishable under section 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. On 4th May, 2018, he was sentenced by the Trial Court for life imprisonment and also to pay a fine of Rs. 10,000.
In the present case, the case of the prosecution was that the man had committed murder of his wife by strangulating her to death.
In a appeal, it was argued by the man that during the substantial course of trial, he was not represented by a lawyer and hence the trial in the absence of a lawyer had seriously prejudiced him. He thus sought recalling of all the prosecution witnesses and thereby ensuring a fair trial.
The Court observed that the manner in which the trial is conducted, there was a serious denial of fair trial to the appellant and the appellant is required to be given an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses i.e., the witnesses examined in the absence of the lawyer, or the lawyer having been appointed on the same day from the legal aid and is asked to cross-examine the witnesses.
Further, the court remanded the back to Trial Court for cross-examination of ten prosecution witnesses. Also, the court directed the Trial Court Judge to follow due process of law and also to record the statement of the man under Section 313 CrPC and permit leading the defence evidence if so required.
The Court ordered that the case be listed before the learned Trial Court on 26th September, when Superintendent Tihar Jail will product the appellant before the learned Trial Court and the learned Trial Court is requested to expedite the trial and conclude the same preferably within four months.
SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO ENTERTAIN PLEA CHALLENGING EXCLUSION OF SC/ST RESERVATION IN JHARKHAND DISTRICT JUDGES APPOINTMENT
The Supreme Court in the case Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Educational And Cultural Trust v. Hon’ble High Court Jharkhand And Ors. observed and has refused to entertain a plea challenging the non-inclusion of reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes communities in the process of appointment of District Judges in pursuant to an advertisement issued in March, 2022 by the High Court of Jharkhand. The present petition claimed that the exclusion of reservation violates Jharkhand State Reservation Policy and constitutional guarantee under Article 16(4). Apart from this, it is also in derogation of a resolution being passed by the High Court vouching to implement reservation in the Jharkhand Superior Judicial Service.
The bench comprising of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and the Justice Hima Kohli observed and has granted liberty to the petitioner to file a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution before the Jharkhand High Court.
The court while considering that the process of appointment as per the concerned notification is underway, Justice Chandrachud asked the petitioner to approach the High Court with respect to future appointments.
It stated that “For the future you can file a petition before the High Court… We will give you liberty to approach the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.”
The bench of Justice Chandrachud observed that the Decisions of the Administrative side of the High Court can be challenged before the judicial side of the High Court. You can move the High Court.
In the present case, a writ petition challenging a similar notification was filed in 2017 before the High Court, which was eventually dismissed. It was observed by the High Court that there is no duty vested in the authorities to reserve seats for all posts, more particularly in higher judiciary. Moreover, it had already initiated the appointment process, the High Court opined that it cannot alter the rules midway. Thus, the appeal filed before the Apex Court was also dismissed.
However, in 2018 the Full Court of the Jharkhand High Court had agreed in principle to grant reservation in the recruitment for Jharkhand Superior Judicial Service. The advocates belonging to the SC/ST/OBC communities in 2021 had made representations to the Chief Justice of the High Court requesting for the implementation of the Reservation policy in appointment of District Judges (direct entry from Bar)/ superior judicial service. The impugned notification was issued without incorporating reservation for SC/ST/OBC communities in March 2022.
Mr. Arvind Gupta, Advocate on Record has filled the present petition.
Right to contest election is not a fundamental right; it is only a right conferred by statute: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court in the case Vishwanath Pratap Singh vs Election Commission of India observed that the right to contest an election is not a fundamental right but only a right conferred by a statute.
The bench comprising of Justice Hemant Gupta and the Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia observed while dismissing a Special Leave Petition filed by Vishwanath Pratap Singh that an individual cannot claim that he has a right to contest election and the said stipulation violates his fundamental right, so as is required under the Act, to file his nomination without any proposer.
Also, the court imposed a cost of Rupees one lakh on Singh.
In the present case, Singh had first approached the Delhi High Court challenging a notification issued by Election Commission of India for election to Rajya Sabha after he was not allowed to file his nomination without a proper proposer being proposing his name. His contentions were rejected by the High Court that his fundamental right of free speech and expression and right to personal liberty has been infringed.
While dismissing the SLP, the Apex Court observed that the writ petition before the High Court was entirely misconceived.
The bench observed while referring to earlier judgments viz Javed v. State of Haryana, (2003) 8 SCC 369 and Rajbala v. State of Haryana (2016) 2 SCC 445 wherein it was stated that the right to contest an election is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right. It is a right conferred by a statute.
However, the Supreme Court in Javed (supra) had made the following observations: Right to contest an election is neither a fundamental right nor a common law right and it is a right conferred by a statute. At the most, in view of Part IX having been added in the Constitution of India that a right to contest election for an office in Panchayat may be said to be a constitutional right and a right originating in the Constitution and given shape by a statute. But even if, it cannot be equated with a fundamental right. It is stated that there is nothing wrong in the same statute which confers the right to contest an election also to provide for the necessary qualifications without which a person cannot offer his candidature for an elective office and also to provide for disqualifications which would disable a person from contesting for, or from holding, an elective statutory office.
It was held in Rajbala (supra) that the right to contest for a seat in either of the two bodies is subject to certain constitutional restrictions and could be restricted further only by a law which the parliament made.
Further, the court added that Singh did not have any right to contest election to the Rajya Sabha in terms of the law made by the Parliament.
The Court stated while dismissing the SLP that the Representation of People Act, 1950 read with the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 has contemplated the name of a candidate to be proposed while filling the nomination form. However, it cannot be claimed by an individual that he has a right to contest election and the said stipulation violates his fundamental right, so as to file his nomination without any proposer as is required under the Act.
Post-conviction compounding of offences is permissible: Himachal Pradesh High Court
The Himachal Pradesh High Court in the case Shri Kantu Ram v Shri Beer Singh recently observed that a court, while exercising powers under Section 147 of the Negotiable Instruments Act and can proceed to compound the offences even after recording of conviction by the courts below.
The bench comprising of Justice Sandeep Sharma observed in a case where the revision Petitioner, who was convicted under Section 138 of the NI Act by the Magistrate Court and was aggrieved by subsequent dismissal of appeal by the Sessions Court and had agreed to pay the amount due and settle the matter.
Thus, the petitioner had sought compounding of offences.
In the present case, the respondent admitted the factum with regard to receipt of the amount due from the accused and expressed that the prayer made on behalf of accused for compounding of offence can be accepted.
However, the High Court allowed the prayer and the offence committed by the Petitioner under Section 138 NI Act was ordered to be compounded.
The Court observed that the Reliance was placed on Damodar S. Prabhu V. Sayed Babalal H. (2010) 5 SCC 663, wherein the Apex Court has categorically held that court, while exercising power under Section 147 of the NI Act and can proceed to compound the offence even after recording of the conviction by the courts below.
‘Pensionary benefits to employee, who is removed from service for misconduct, is not at par with those who retire on superannuation’
The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court in the case Bashir Ahmad Wani v Jammu and Kashmir Grameen Bank and Another recently observed and stated that an employee who is removed from service for misconduct is not at par with those who is being retired on superannuation.
The bench comprising of Justice Sanjeev Kumar observed while dismissing the pension claim made by a former employee of the J&K Grameen Bank, who was removed from service in 2011.
In the present case, the petitioner had sought benefit of the J&K Grameen Bank (Employees) Pension Regulations, 2018 whereby provision was made for terminal benefits.
However, the court disallowed the claims on two grounds:
Firstly, that at the time of removal of the petitioner from service when there were no norms, rules or regulations providing for the benefit of pension to the employees of the respondent-Bank.
In the year 2011, the employees of the respondent-Bank were governed by the J&K Grameen Bank ( the Officers and Employees) Service Regulations, 2010… it is abundantly clear that it does not prescribe imposition of a penalty of removal along with the pensionary benefits.
Secondly, it was opined by the court that though the 2018 Regulations had been made applicable to those employees who were in service between 1st day of September, 1987 and 31st day of March, 2010 and the employees retired from the services of the Bank before 31st day of March, 2018, however, this leeway cannot come to aid of the Petitioner.
The Curt observed that the reason for finding that the Petitioner was not an employee who had “retired” on superannuation from the bank. Rather, he was “removed” for misconduct.
The Court stated that the regulations apply to those employees who retired from the service of the Bank before 31.03.2018 and not the employees who were terminated for misconduct. Viewed thus, the order of removal of the petitioner dated 02.09.2011 holding the petitioner entitled to terminable benefits and cannot, by any stretch of reasoning, be construed to be an order of removal with the benefit of the pension. Neither, the petitioner, at the time of his removal from service, nor with the promulgation of Pension Regulations of 2018, is entitled to the benefit of pension.
Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition.
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