1. The original application, preferred as revision application before the Central Government, has been transferred to the Tribunal. The matter is being treated as an appeal. The said appeal is directed against the order dated 31-3-1980 passed by the Appellate Collector of Central Excise, Madras.
2. On the last date of hearing, the learned SDR had submitted that there had been changes in the jurisdictions of various Collectorates in the Southern Zone, and if necessary, the cause title with reference to the respondent may have to be changed. Shri Rangaswamy, Advocate for the appellants, submits that the matter relates to the CCE, Cochin and there is no need for any change in the cause title. We have referred to the position and the cause title needs no change.
3. Shri Rangaswamy has narrated the facts of the case to us at some length. For the years 1970 and 1971, the lower authorities issued four show cause notices covering different periods and different amounts.
The fourth and the last one in the series for the above-mentioned period was the show cause notice dated 3-8-1972 and covered the period 6-3-1970 to 4-1-1971. The said show cause notice demanded duty to the tune of Rs. 19,662.93. After the said order of demand was confirmed by the original authority, the appellants took up the matter before the Appellate Collector of Central Excise. The said Collector after going into the matter remanded the case to the lower authority for de novo decision. It is pertinent to note here that the said appellate order was issued on 30th January, 1974. It is the case of the appellants that four years and two months afterwards, the appellants received a show cause-cum-demand notice dated 29-3-1978 for a duty amount of Rs. 19,662.93. The said show cause notice did not refer to the sequence of events pertaining to the earlier show cause notices and, therefore, the appellants were entitled to treat it as a fresh proceeding. The prayer of the learned Advocate is that as the demand pertains to years 1970 and 1971, the show cause notice and subsequent confirmation of the demand by the impugned order is badly hit by limitation and on this limited point alone, the appeal deserves to be allowed.
4. Shri G.V. Naik, the learned JCDR, who argued the case of the Department submitted that demand-cum-show cause notice issued on 29-3-78 was pursuant to the Appellate Order of 30-1-1974. He further submitted that fourth show cause notice issued on 3-8 1972 referred to the duty amount of Rs. 19,662.93. The show cause notice dated 29-3-1978 also refers to the same amount of duty. According to the learned JCDR, due to pressure of work, the Superintendent could not issue the notice in the wake of the Appellate Order dated 30th January, 1974. Shri Naik further submitted that the appellants had no case on merits.
5. It is the undisputed position between the two parties that the first round of show cause notices was concluded by the issue of the Appellate Collector's Order dated 30-1-1974. It is also not in dispute that the impugned order is the culmination of the show cause notice issued on 29-3-1978. The stark fact remains that in the show cause-cum-demand notice of 29-3-1978 there is not even the slighest reference to the earlier demand notices. For all practical purposes, in the eyes of law, the notice of 29-3-1978 is the notice which is the subject of dispute before us. The learned JCDR has not contested the position that if we were to take 29-3-78 as the crucial date for issue of the show cause notice, the same would be hit by limitation under the provision of the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944 and the Central Excises Rules, 1944.
6. We have devoted thought to the matter before us. We see force in the contention of the learned Advocate for the appellants that in the absence of any indication whatsoever that the show cause notice of 29-3-78 was issued in pursuance of the Appellate Order of 30-1-64, it should be treated as a fresh starting point for adjudication proceedings. In this view of the matter, the notice is hit by limitation and the appeal deserves to be allowed on this limited legal ground alone, without prejudice to other right of the Department, if any. We order accordingly.
7. Since we are allowing the appeal on the question of limitation, we do not propose to go into the merits of the case.