1. By order No. 6/84 dated 14-12-1983, the Assistant Collector of Central Excise, Tirunelveli, demanded a duty of Rs. 66,015.60 from the respondent herein, being the differential duty on 22764 gross of 50's matches cleared by M/s. Ganapathy Match works during the period 19-6-1980 to 31-3-1981, the liability having arisen, according to the Department, because of an amendment to the law subsequent to the clearances of the goods. This order was the result of denovo proceedings on the basis of an earlier order passed by the Collector of Central Excise (Appeals). That authority now held that the clearances were made at the time when Seeni Kumar's father, Nataraja pillai was alive (Nataraja Pillai expired some time after the clearances referred to and licence was granted to Seeni Kumar with the same name of factory and under the same licence number) and he having expired meanwhile, liability for payment of duty, if any, on the licensee viz. Nataraja Pillai, at the relevant time as a manufacturer of excisable goods would subside on his death. On this finding, he allowed the appeal of Seeni Kumar. The Collector of Central Excise and Customs, Madurai, has come up in appeal against this order of the Collector (Appeals).
2. We heard brief arguments advanced by SDR regarding the liability of Seeni Kumar to pay duty.
3. We would observe that the finding of the Collector (Appeals) that a tax liability incurred by Nataraja Pillai, ceased after his death is not a correct position in law. The estate of Nataraja Pillai would certainly be liable for payment of any duties if it is legally determined that such a liability existed at the relevant time. This would leave us with the question as to whether a demand for duty could be raised in terms of Section 52 of the Finance Act 1982 read with notification No. 22/82, However, we had occasion to see the show cause notice issued in the case in June 1982. It is addressed to "Sri S.N.Seeni Kumar, Ganapathy Match Works, L 4 No. 102/62, Sankarankoil". In reply to the show cause notice dated 30-7-1982, one of the points taken by Seeni Kumar as representing Ganapathy Match Works, L. 4 No.102/M/62, Sankarankoil, is : "I state that I was not a licensee during 19-6-1980 to 29-11-1981. I could not give reply to the show cause notice relating to that period. As the licensee is dead the show cause notice is invalid." Apparently, this point about refuting the liability for payment of duty during the said period by Seeni Kumar as licensee of Ganapathy Match Works in July 1982 has not been dealt with by any of the authorities below. It is one thing to call upon the legal heirs of the estate of Nataraja Pillai to fulfil an obligation or meet a liability in and by Netarajan Pillai but it is another to call upon Seeni Kumar as licensee of Ganapathy Match Works to pay the duty, particularly when he disclaims liability for the said period. Under these circumstances we set aside the order of both the Collector (Appeals) and Assistant Collector and remand the case to the Assistant Collector for de novo proceedings after issue of notice to the legal heirs of Nataraja Pillai, if so advised.