1. The three appeals, cap-tioned above, are directed against a consolidated order passed by the Collector of Central Excise (Appeals), New Delhi, on 5-9-1984. Appellants 1 and 3 are some associations of 'Stainless Rollers Association' at Delhi and Jagadhari, respectively ; whereas appellant No. 2 is shown to be a mill at Bhiwani under the name and style 'M/s. Haryana Steel Re-Rolling Mills'. The appeals being against a common order, and the appellants having been represented by common Counsel-Shri J. Banerjee, Advocate and Shri J.S. Agarwal, Consultant ; all the three appeals were taken up together for hearing; the Department having been represented by Shri V. Laxmikumaran. Though the Bench had reservations to the locus standi of the Associations to file appeals to the Tribunal but when this was put to the learned Counsel of the appellants, it was stated that since the Collector (Appeals) had decided the matter, and appeals against his order being maintainable to the Tribunal, there could be no bar in the way of filing of these appeals, or the Tribunal hearing them. It was further added that, in any case, the third appellant being an individual mill, and the order being a combined one, all the three appeals could be heard by the Tribunal. Thereupon the Bench proceeded with the hearing and the matter was argued at length by both the sides.
2. However, while going through the files, we find that, irrespective of the fact that appeals to the Tribunal are maintainable under Section 35B of the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944 against, inter alia, an order passed by the Collector (Appeals) under Section 35A of the Act, and in that view of the matter, the appeals against any orders passed by him are maintainable, and for that reason, the present appeals were also entertained and heard; but the question still remains as to whether the order passed by the Collector (Appeals) and, for the matter of that, his act of proceeding to entertain and dispose of all the appeals was sustainable at law, having regard to the provisions of the Central Excise Act and Rules. As this order is first of its type, we feel it incumbent upon us to examine this issue first so that scope of the appellate provisions qua the Collector (Appeals), is properly appreciated. On a careful resume of all the relevant provisions, our reply would be that such type of appeals on the part of an association would not be maintainable. We set out our reasons below : 3. It is inhered in the concept of excisability that the liability to pay excise duty rests on a manufacturer of 'excisable goods'.
Consequently, it is the individual manufacturer who is required to observe the rules and procedure of Excise Law, and subject himself to its dictates. Therefore, it is that manufacturer who can be called upon to operate under a Central Excise Licence, file classification or price lists, and subject to the orders passed by the Excise authorities, competent to do so under the Act or the Rules, and to pay duty accordingly. Correspondingly, any direction to comply with the requirements of the Act and Rules has to be addressed to the individual manufacturers.
4. In face of the basic position as laid out above, the first and foremost question that arises for consideration is as to whether the Superintendent could call upon the Associations of manufacturers of certain goods, by means of a communication, addressed to the President, as he did by letter dated 11-6-1984 (Annexure 'A' in this case), to see that every manufacturer of the specified goods takes out an L-4 licence. A relatable question would be as to whether the Superintendent was competent to issue such a direction which had the effect of revision of the previous classification list, which one can assume, must have been approved by an Assistant Collector. Another pertinent question is as to whether this type of administrative direction, issued to an office-bearer of an association consisting of more than 300 members, could be treated to be an adjudication order. It is also manifest from a reading of this order, from which the entire proceedings emanated, that it is based on some trade notice having been issued by the Collectorate on 4-6-1984. Thus, obviously, the revision of classification list was ex-parte, and apart from the question as to the competence of the Superintendent to do so, it was not a result of any quasi-judicial determination of the issue but a mechanical follow up of the trade notice.
5. We are firmly of the view that the Collector (Appeals), before proceeding to dispose of the appeals, ought to have adverted to all these questions and seen as to whether the Association, through their President, had a right of appeal to the Collector or as to whether this letter furnished any cause of action for filing an appeal, or could be treated as an appealable order, and whether or not the appeal filed before him by the Association was premature, 6. We have addressed ourselves to all these basic questions, after entertaining the appeals filed before us under Section 35B of the Act, and find that there were no proper proceedings by way of revision of classification, or demand of duty, addressed to the individual manufacturers. We, therefore, are of the view that so far as the appeal of these two Associations are concerned, they having had on face of it no locus standi to go in appeal to the Collector (Appeals) under the provisions of the Act, and further, the letter dated 11-6-1984 seemingly not being an adjudication order furnishing any cause of action for going in appeal, we strongly feel that the Collector (Appeals) be required to address himself to basic issues, as highlighted in paragraph 3 above.
7. We have, thus, no option but to remit the matter back to the Collector of Central Excise (Appeals), New Delhi, for a fresh consideration of the entire matter in the light of the questions, indicated by us.
8. We are alive to the fact that Appeal No. 1873 purports to have been filed by M/s Haryana Steel Re-Rolling Mills, Bhiwani and, as such, the objection as to the locus standi may not be arising but we are constrained to remark that the Collector (Appeals) has not applied his mind at all while disposing of all the appeals (5 in number), filed before him, by a consolidated order.
9. We find, in the first instance, that except for the fact that the said mill is shown as appellants in the Memorandum of Appeal, the appellants, or their learned Counsel who drafted an appeal, have taken the matter in a wholly mechanical manner. For instance, we do not find in the body of the appeal any reference to this individual Mill, and the para-1 of the Statement of Facts describes the appellants as 'Association of Re-Rollers of Stainless Steel Patties, with headquarters at Jagadhari'. Not only that, even the copy of the Memorandum of Appeal to the Collector (Appeals) (Annexure-B page 16) reveals that the appellants before the Collector (Appeals) were shown as 'President, Stainless Steel Re-Rollers Association', which description was repeated in the Statement of Facts where the appellants were described as 'Association of Re-Rollers of Stainless Steel Patties at Delhi'. There is no indication at the end as to who had signed or verified the appeal on behalf of the said appellants. Even the cause of action for this appeal, which has been annexed as 'A' (page 15), bearing date 19-6-1984, is not shown to be addressed to the mill, who is purported to have filed this appeal. We, therefore, find that there is no proper application of mind by the Collector (Appeals) even in this case; apart from the fact, that all other observations in regard to the merits of this letter issued by the Superintendent, as made by us in para 3 above, apply wholly to this case also.
10. In view of this, and in view of the fact that there was no proper appeal filed by this party, either before the Collector (Appeals) or before us, and no appealable order addressed to the appellants having been shown to exist on the record of our appeal, and all the matters having been disposed of by a combined order, covering Associations as well as individual mills, we have no alternative but to set aside the whole of the order-in-appeal and remit the matter to the Collector (Appeals) for fresh consideration in the light of the issues highlighted in this order, after notice to parties.