1. This is a revision application (hereinafter called "appeal") filed before the Central Government which under Section 35P of the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944, stands transferred to this Tribunal to be disposed of as if it were an appeal presented before the Tribunal.
2. When the matter was called, Shri Dinesh Parekh, advocate, appeared for the appellants. It was put to him by the Bench that prima facie the appeal did not disclose any grievance on the part of the appellants calling for a decision by the Tribunal. It was observed that the course of events in this case as seen from the records was as follows :- 21-3-1977 Price-list in part I proforma (for other than related persons) for their goods (synthetic resins) filed by the appellants.
30-3-1977 Discussion between Shri Rebello of the appellants and the Assistant Collector.
11-4-1977 Letter issued by Assistant Collector holding that transactions between the appellants and three wholesale dealers were not at arm's length and that the price-list should be filed in Part IV proforma (for related persons).
4-5-1977 Price-list in Part I proforma returned to appellants by Superintendent, referring to Assistant Collector's order dated 11-4-1977.
16-5-1977 (Exact date not shown) - Price-list for the same goods filed by the Around appellants in Part IV proforma "under protest" and showing assessable values as in their previous price-list and not as applicable to a case of related persons.
3. In the Appellate Collector's order which has been impugned before us, the Appellate Collector observed as follows :- "I have also considered the fact submitted by the appellants that there is no change in the price but they anticipated that the Assistant Collector would perhaps in future take advantage of declaring their selling agents as related persons and also change the price. The appellants admitted that there was no adverse effect on them by the order of the Assistant Collector at the present moment. I consider that this appeal is premature as the order of the Assistant Collector has not adversely affected them. The appeal seems to be only anticipatory in nature and 1 do not consider it necessary to go into the merits of the appeal at this stage. The appeal is rejected." 4. Shri Parekh confirmed before us that the second price-list which was approved on 30-5-1977 showed precisely the same assessable values as were shown in the first price-list filed on 21-3-1977, which was not accepted by the Central Excise Authorities on the ground that the buyers of the goods were related persons. Accordingly there was no direct adverse impact on the appellants so far as that particular price-list was concerned. Shri Parekh further clarified that all the subsequent price-lists of the appellants had been filed only in Part I proforma (that is, for other than related persons), and that all those price-lists had been accepted and the values shown therein approved.
Thus the controversy had arisen only with reference to the single price-list which has given rise to the present proceedings.
5. It was therefore put to Shri Parekh that the Appellate Collector seemed to have been justified in his view that there was no adverse effect on the appellants at that time by the order of the Assistant Collector. Further, during the period of over 7 years between the date of the Appellate Collector's order and today, no attempt had been made to act on the basis of the Assistant Collector's finding that the appellants and their buyers were related persons. In fact, by accepting the second price-list which purported to be in Part IV proforma but was in fact a repetition of the earlier price-list in Part I proforma, the Assistant Collector had virtually gone back on his finding in this regard. We therefore asked Shri Parekh whether there was any real grievance arising out of the Assistant Collector's order which needed rectification by the Tribunal at this stage.
6. Shri Parekh readily admitted that no adverse consequences to the appellants in the shape of rejection or enhancement of the values declared by them had ensued during the 7 years following the Assistant Collector's order. The reason why they had appealed to the Appellate Collector and subsequently to the Central Government was that the Assistant Collector's order contained a finding that the appellants and their purchasers ,were related persons. If this finding was left unchallenged and unmodified, it could be invoked at some future date to the prejudice of the appellants, for the purpose of rejecting or enhancing the assessable values declared by them.
7. We have given consideration to this aspect of the matter. After the Assistant Collector and the Appellate Collector passed their orders, there have been several judicial decisions with reference to the interpretation of Section 4 of the Central Excises and Salt Act and of the expression "related person". If any Assistant Collector or other Central Excise authority had now to consider the admissibility of the assessable value as declared by the appellants, he would certainly have to take into account the present state of the law on the subject and not the brief finding of the Assistant Collector made in 1977. We also think it unlikely that the Central Excise authorities would be so unreasonable as to invoke at a future date the finding made in 1977 by the Assistant Collector, which was not given effect to even on the very price-list which was the occasion for that decision, nor for several years afterwards. The fact that the appellants had appealed against the decision of the Assistant Collector even then would also be a sufficient answer in case it is argued against them that the Assistant Collector's decision was not challenged and had therefore become final.
8. The facts set out above further confirm the Appellate Collector's view that the appeal before him was premature and in the nature of an academic exercise. In these circumstances we consider that it would be an equally academic exercise for us to go into the basis of the Assistant Collector's finding. We have no doubt that in case the issue is sought to be re-opened by the Central Excise Authorities at a future date, they would examine the issue on its merits without invoking the Assistant Collector's decision of 11-4-1977. In this view we hold that the Appellate Collector's order was justified and we accordingly reject the appeal against it.