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Star Iron Works (P.) Ltd. and anr. Vs. Commissioner of Commercial Taxes and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case Number Civil Rule No. 4536 (W) of 1977
Judge
Reported in[1984]56STC27(Cal)
AppellantStar Iron Works (P.) Ltd. and anr.
RespondentCommissioner of Commercial Taxes and ors.
Appellant Advocate N.C. Bhattacherjee, Adv.
Respondent Advocate S.N. Dutta, Adv. for respondent Nos. 1-4 and ; A.L. Mukherjee, Adv. for respondent No. 5
Cases ReferredDeoralia Brothers v. State of West Bengal
Excerpt:
- orderm.n. roy, j.1. in this rule, which was obtained with the corresponding interim order on 9th august, 1977, the petitioners, whose particulars would be mentioned hereafter, have impeached the act of the seizure and the notice for production of their books of account in terms of the provisions of the bengal finance (sales tax) act, 1941 (hereinafter referred to as the said act).2. petitioner no. 1, m/s. star iron works (p) ltd., is a company incorporated under the indian companies act, 1956, and is a registered dealer within the meaning of the said act and also under central sales tax act, 1956 (hereinafter referred to as the said central act), and petitioner no. 2 has stated to be a shareholder and managing director of petitioner no. 1. the petitioners have stated that they mainly deal.....
Judgment:
ORDER

M.N. Roy, J.

1. In this rule, which was obtained with the corresponding interim order on 9th August, 1977, the petitioners, whose particulars would be mentioned hereafter, have impeached the act of the seizure and the notice for production of their books of account in terms of the provisions of the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941 (hereinafter referred to as the said Act).

2. Petitioner No. 1, M/s. Star Iron Works (P) Ltd., is a company incorporated under the Indian Companies Act, 1956, and is a registered dealer within the meaning of the said Act and also under Central Sales Tax Act, 1956 (hereinafter referred to as the said Central Act), and petitioner No. 2 has stated to be a shareholder and managing director of petitioner No. 1. The petitioners have stated that they mainly deal in overhead transmission lines, hard wire and supplies for sale of such commodity exclusively to Electricity Board under the management and control of various State Government, some particulars whereof have been mentioned in paragraph 3 of the petition. It was their specific case that the sales were and are almost exclusively confined to the State Electricity Boards as mentioned in the said paragraph 3. It was also the case of the petitioners that their accounting year ends on the day of Marwari Dewali i.e., on the 15th day of Kartick Bodi of each Sambot year, and their assessment for the year ending Kartick Bodi 15, 2029, was already completed at the time of obtaining the Rule.

3. It has been stated that from the beginning of Sambot year 3032 which was corresponding to November, 1975, the petitioners were experiencing acute financial crisis and taxes to the tune of over Rs. 4 lakhs fell due and payable by them under the said Central Act and their assessments for the periods of four quarters ending Kartick Bodi 15, 2026, and Kartick Bodi 15, 2027, have also been completed by the Commercial Tax Officer, Shyambazar Charge, on 11th May, 1973, and 6th May, 1974, respectively. The petitioners have further stated that the period of 6 years from the end of the assessment periods relating to four quarters ending Kartick Bodi 15, 2026 and four quarters ending Kartick Bodi 15, 2027, expired on or about 8th December, 1975, and 28th November, 1976, respectively and as such, their books of account, registers and documents relating to those years, were not required to be preserved under the provisions of Rule 69A of the Bengal Sales Tax Rules, 1941 (hereinafter referred to as the said Rules).

4. It has been stated that on or about 21st February, 1977, a Commercial Tax Officer of the Bureau of Investigation, Government of West Bengal, Finance Taxation Department, whose name has been mentioned as Shri S. N. Mitra, accompanied by many other persons, paid a surprise visit to the petitioners' factory at Station Road, Liluha, Howrah, along with some policemen in plain clothes. It would appear from the pleadings that apart from the factory as mentioned above, the petitioners have their registered office at 36, Kali Krishna Tagore Street, Calcutta, and city office at 5, Shakespear Sarani, Calcutta-16.

5. It has been alleged that the factory premises as mentioned above, was searched for a long time and the officer concerned, found one flat file containing correspondence and miscellaneous papers, 11 bound exercise book containing production and other accounts belonging to petitioner No. 1, apart from one diary containing some entries as owner of the diary and one small book containing particulars of receipts belonging to him. It was the case of the petitioners that those books were taken out by the inspecting officers concerned and they directed some of the employees of the petitioners' factory to accompany them at the registered office as mentioned above. It was the further case of the petitioners that on the same day, other Inspectors attached to the department also paid a surprise visit to the petitioners' city office as mentioned above and forcibly took away from there, a file containing bills and railway receipts register, without giving any seizure receipt. It should be mentioned that in respect of the earlier and other seizures, the petitioners have alleged that those seizures were made and documents were also taken away without proper receipt. In such circumstances all the seizures as mentioned above or as involved were claimed to be made unauthorisedly and illegally done.

6. It was the further case of the petitioners that respondent No. 5, Shri Mahadeb Daw, at all material times was and still is an employee under petitioner No. 1 and his duty is to keep or maintain books required under the several statutes relating to the employees. That apart, it has been stated that the said Shri Daw is also carrying on a private business of his own and out of sympathy, the petitioners have allowed him sometime to keep his books of account in the factory' premises of petitioner No. I as mentioned above. It was also the case of the petitioners that petitioner No. 1 had also some small commercial dealings with the said Shri Daw, respondent No. 5.

7. It has been alleged that when the seizure of the books were made, the petitioners through their representatives repeatedly requested the Commercial Tax Officer concerned, respondent No. 3, and the other Inspectors assisting him, that the books belonging to the said Shri Mahadeb Daw which were item serial Nos. 6 and 7 of the seizure receipt, must not be seized and they also objected to any seizure to be made by Shri Mitra and his officers on the ground that they had no materials in their possession, wherefrom they could have reason to believe or reasons to suspect that petitioner No. 1 had evaded tax or was evading the same. It has further been alleged that after such seizure, respondent No. 3 as mentioned above, prepared a report and asked Shri S. P. Sinha, one of the Directors, to countersign the same and the said Shri Sinha refused to sign by saying that he must be provided with a copy. On such, it has been stated that respondent No. 5 allowed the said Shri Sinha to take out copies of the report and forced him to sign the original report. It has further been alleged that such signature of the said Shri Sinha was obtained under threat of arrest and coercion. That apart, it has been stated that in the report respondent No. 3 had made incorrect statement about his visit and seizure of books from the factory premises as mentioned above.

8. It has been stated by the petitioners that since they were in acute financial crisis, for the purpose of lessening the burden of huge outstanding, tax dues and to avoid suspension of the issue of declaration forms and C forms, which were necessary for making purchases of raw materials at concessional rates, by the Commercial Tax Directorate, the petitioners submitted a scheme before the Assistant Commissioner of Commercial Taxes, Calcutta, North Circle, incorporating the amount of payment of outstanding dues and for a direction to the Commercial Tax Officer concerned to issue necessary and required number of declaration forms and C forms and thereafter, on 21st January, 1977, petitioner No. 1 invited the attention of the Assistant Commissioner of Commercial Taxes concerned that on the basis of the discussion, which the representative of petitioner No. 1 had, the petitioners have been paying taxes and further requested for necessary directions to issue the forms as mentioned above. It was the case of the petitioners that in the past there had been no occasion for the respondents to suspect about evasion of taxes by the petitioners nor from their past records, there would appear any reasonable apprehension about the nature of dealing or any reflection about the genuineness of the books of account as mentioned. It has further been stated that the scheme as mentioned above, was accepted by the Assistant Commissioner concerned and according to the order as passed by him, petitioner No. 1 paid Rs. 25,000 per month in addition to the taxes payable by it in respect of the quarterly return as prescribed under the statute.

9. It would appear that the Commercial Tax Officer concerned, respondent No. 3, by a notice under Section 14(1) of the said Act, which was dated 2nd March, 1977, requested the petitioners to appear before him on 24th March, 1977, with all books of account and connected documents relating to their business for the period from 2025-26 Dewali till date of production except those records which were already in his custody, for his examination. A further direction was given by the said officer, to explain the books/records as seized, on 21st February, 1977. Section 14 deals with production and inspection of accounts and documents and search of premises and Sub-section (1) thereunder provides that the Commissioner may, subject to the conditions as may be prescribed, require any dealer (a) to produce before him any accounts, registers or documents, (b) to furnish any information, relating to the stock of goods of, or purchases, sales or deliveries of goods by, the dealer or relating to any other matter, as may be deemed, necessary for the purpose of the said Act. Compliance to such demand as made by the officer concerned, was admittedly delayed by the petitioners for one reason or the other as the petitioners asked for repeated adjournments whereupon on 16th July, 1977, the officer concerned, respondent No. 3, informed that the hearing of the case was fixed on 4th August, 1977, and it was mentioned in the concerned notice that in the case of failure by the petitioners to appear and produce the records as asked for, action in terms of Section 22(1)(g) of the said Act would be taken. The notice is in annexure D to the petition and that would establish how and in what manner time was sought to be consumed or wanted by the petitioners. It would appear from the said notice that on 1st July, 1977, the petitioners asked for adjournment of hearing of the investigation till the end of August, 1977, on the ground that they were unable to produce the books of accounts as asked for they were lying with their counsel in connection with court cases. It should be mentioned that the particulars of the court case was not furnished. Then on 24th March, 1977, the petitioners again made an application requesting the officer concerned to allow time for production of the books of account as asked for, on the plea that the records were lying with their counsel in connection with court cases and time was asked for till the month of June, 1977. This time also no particulars of the court case was furnished. On such prayer, the hearing of the proceedings was admittedly adjourned to 2nd June, 1977, and such fact was duly communicated to the petitioners, but on that date, one Shri K. C. Sinha, introducing himself as an agent of the petitioners, filed a letter dated 2nd June, 1977, asking for two months time and as a last chance such prayer was allowed. Thereafter, came the letter of 1st July, 1977, seeking further adjournment till August, 1977, on the selfsame ground of non-availability of records as they were lying with the counsel for the petitioners. Section 22 of the said Act deals with offences and penalties and Sub-section (1)(g) makes it clear, that whoever refuses to comply with any requirement made on him under Sub-section (1) of Section 14 would be punishable with simple imprisonment which may extend to six months or with fine or with both and when the offence is a continuing one, with a daily fine not exceeding Rs. 50 during the period of the continuance of the offence and for the offence of contravention of Section 14(3), the court may, in addition to any fine, or confiscation to anything seized under Section 14A. After wasting the time in the manner as indicated above, the petitioners served the respondents concerned with a copy of an application under Article 226 of the Constitution together with a notice of motion informing them that such application would be moved on 2nd August, 1977. It has been stated now that as the said application could not be moved effectively on the date as mentioned above, on 4th August, 1977, petitioner No. 1 through his learned Advocate prayed for further adjournment of the hearing of the case which was fixed on 4th August, 1977. From the above conduct of the petitioners it would be clear and apparent and that is to the effect that the petitioners were trying to gain time for moving the court and such act or action was claimed by the respondents to be not bona fide.

10. The petitioners have stated that Section 14 of the said Act empowers the Commissioner to inspect, search and seize of the books of account and documents of any dealer subject to such condition as prescribed under the said Rules and such power of inspection of books of account and documents of the dealer and detention thereof, are prayed for in Section 14(3A)(1) of the said Act. It has also been stated by them that Rule 17A of the said Rules provides that all searches and seizures under Section 14 and 14A as far as possible, be made in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure and rules 69 and 69A provide for the manner and mode to surprise visit by an inspecting officer and lays down that the circumstances or obligation of a dealer to preserve accounts, registers, documents, vouchers, stock of goods, purchases, sales, delivery of goods and counterfoils of declaration forms and register in form No. XXIII. It was claimed further that Section 14(3) of the said Act empowers the Commissioner to seize such accounts, registers or documents of a dealer as may be necessary, if the Commissioner has reason to suspect that the dealer is attempting to evade payment of tax under the said Act and the seizure of the books of account can only be made for reasons to be recorded in writing. It was also contended by the petitioners that the power of seizure of books of account, records and documents by the Commissioner could not be unilateral and an arbitrary power and exercise of such power, would not also postulate, to carry on a fishing enquiry, for the purpose of finding out evidence. It has also been stated that the existence of the circumstances or reasonableness to suspect that a dealer is attempting to evade taxes has to be found out objectively and the reasons to suspect of evasion of taxes by such dealer must precede by the formation of an opinion on the basis of materials available on record. It was alleged by the petitioners that there was no material in possession of the officer concerned to seize the books of account of the petitioners or their superior officer under whose direction the search and seizure was conducted or there has any basis even to reasonably suspect that the petitioners were evading taxes and the formation of opinion that the petitioners were attempting to evade taxes, if formed, was not bona fide formed or formed on due and proper materials. The petitioners have further alleged that the conditions precedent to seizure of books of account as required under Section 14(3) of the said Act, did not exist in the instant case and by effecting the search and seizure, the authorities concerned have acted without authority, jurisdiction and power and such act was also not bona fide. The surprise visit as was paid to the premises of the petitioners as mentioned above, were also claimed to be improper and without any basis or in compliance with the Rules as mentioned above. In any event, it was claimed that there was no material in existence, wherefrom the authorities concerned could reasonably hold the suspicion or form such view that the petitioners had evaded or were attempting to evade taxes. Such being the position, it has been claimed that there was no material basis for the formation of opinion in the instant case which according to the petitioners was necessary. That apart, it has been claimed that while conducting the search and seizure, the safeguard under Section 165 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, viz., that the authorities should have reasonable ground for believing that anything necessary for the purpose of recovery of tax might be found and that there should be opinion that those things could not be otherwise got without undue delay, was not validly complied with. Such and above being the position and there having been, according to the petitioners, admitted violations of statutory provisions, it has further been claimed that the actions as taken have contravened the guarantees as provided for under Articles 14 and 19(1)(f) and (g) of the Constitution of India. It was also claimed by the petitioners that the acts and actions of the authorities concerned in the instant case were intended and initiated only to harass them and for no other purposes.

11. The first affidavit-in-opposition in the instant case was filed on behalf of respondents Nos. 1-4, through Shri Sailendra Nath Mitra, the Commercial Tax Officer, respondent No. 3. The said affidavit was dated 25th August, 1977. In that affidavit, it has been claimed that there was information against petitioner No. 1, about evasion of sales tax, by suppression of production and sales. It has been stated that formerly, there was some enquiry in the matter, on the basis of the official records, which were in the possession of the authorities concerned and nothing having been found at that time, the matter was not proceeded with further for the time being. It has also been stated that subsequent defaults in the matter of payment of sales tax amongst others, caused the Bureau of Investigation to make further enquiries at the dealer's places of business and on 21st February, 1977, the deponent along with other Inspectors of Commercial Taxes, Bureau of Investigation, considered on due application of mind that there were reasons to suspect that petitioner No. 1 was attempting to evade payment of sales tax under the said Act and so it was deemed necessary to make a surprise visit at the petitioners' place of business and at their factory and accordingly surprise visit at the place of business and at the factory was given on 27th February, 1977. Such surprise visit, according to the petitioners, at the place of business and the factory premises of the petitioners was simultaneously made and at that time, the assistance of the police officers was taken. From the statements as made in the affidavit-in-opposition, it would appear that the factory premises of the petitioners and so also their head office was not visited at a time, but they were visited by different officers at different hours. Thus, the statements as made by the petitioners that both the said premises was searched at a time must not be correct. It would further appear from the affidavit as mentioned above, that some suspicious records could not be explained by the dealer's men and the officers present were informed that relevant books of account, which could explain those records, were lying at the head office as mentioned above. It has further been stated by the deponent that prior to this, the authorities concerned had no knowledge about the existence of the petitioners' city office at 4, Shakespear Sarani, Calcutta and they came to know of such place, on being disclosed by the petitioners' men, while examining the records brought from the factory.

12. It was the categorical case of the deponent that search was conducted only at the places where the records were available and found. He has denied that the name of Mahadeb Daw, respondent No. 5, was written as owner of the diary as mentioned above. According to him, it appeared that entries in the diary represented transactions relating to petitioner No. 1 kept by the said respondent No. 5 in the diary. He has further stated that there was no indication that either the diary or the other small book belonged to the said respondent No. 5 and on the contrary, it appeared from the entries that the receipts in respect of suppressed sale of petitioner. No. 1, was recorded in the small book. It has further been stated that no seizure was made at the factory premises of the petitioners and the search and seizure at the city office had been conducted as the representative of the petitioner No. I failed to produce relevant vouchers and stated to the officers concerned, that they would be available at the said city office. It has further been stated that since there was no seizure made at the factory premises or at the city office, so there was no question of issuing any seizure receipt at those places. It has further been stated that when the officers concerned had reasons to suspect from the entries in the records, which could not be explained by the representative of petitioner No. 1, that the petitioners were evading payment of sales tax under the said Act, the incriminating documents were only seized after recording the reasons for the same and granting seizure receipt in accordance with law. The deponent has further denied that any threat or coercion was ever shown or imposed on the petitioners or any of their representatives in the matter. It has further been stated that at the time when the search was conducted in the factory, no one raised any question about the concerned business activity of Mahadeb Daw and the records which could be secured in the factory, were brought by the petitioner's men in the head office and from there the search party had to go to the city office in the circumstances as mentioned above. It has further been stated that nobody ever or at any stage informed the officers conducting the search, that item serial Nos. 6 and 7 of the seizure list belonged to respondent No. 5, Mahadeb Daw, or that those records must not be seized. It has been claimed that the petitioners had no justification in claiming that there were no materials wherefrom the reasons to suspect about evasion of tax could arise or such opinion could be formed. It was the deponent's further case that Sri Sankar Sinha, a director of petitioner No. 1, after going through the reasonable belief as framed affixed his signature and that too, of his own.

13. The deponent has also stated that after finding out the incriminating records, a report stating the reasons for which suspicion arose about the evasion of payment of sales tax by petitioner No. 1 was prepared and the same was duly signed by the said Shri Sinha after perusal and going through the same thoroughly. It was also the case of the deponent that the reasons for the seizure were again recorded at the top of the seizure list and the said list was prepared, after noting all the documents and papers as seized. This seizure list was also claimed to be signed by the said Shri Sinha without any objection.

14. The story of financial crisis as put forward by the petitioners and the validity of the same, has been denied by the deponent and it was his specific case that in order to evade the payment of tax, the petitioners did not pay the admitted amounts of taxes and thus a huge amount of tax became due. The deponent has further narrated the circumstances in which the proceedings, on the prayer of the petitioners, had to be adjourned and how time was consumed by them. He has further stated that a similar application was moved on 2nd August, 1977, before Sudhamoy Basu, J. (as His Lordship then was), and His Lordship, after hearing the matter for some time was pleased to express that he was not satisfied that in the facts and circumstances, 'a rule should be issued'. It has been stated that on such, the learned Advocate for the petitioners' at that time withdrew the said application. In such circumstances and the more so when no liberty was obtained for moving afresh, it has been claimed that this application must not be allowed and more particularly when another learned Judge, on the selfsame facts, had earlier expressed his views in favour of rejection of the proceedings.

15. It was also the case of the deponent that there were information that petitioner No. 1 was suppressing production and sales and thus evading payment of taxes and for non-payment for a long time he had reasons to suspect that the dealer was attempting to evade payment of sales tax under the said Act and as such, the surprise visit in the circumstances as mentioned above was given. It has further been stated that in the background and after due consideration of the records as found or seized, the steps in the instance case had to be taken and there was thus no illegality or any irregularity in the matter. He has further stated that the incriminating records as seized, caused suspicion about the evasion of taxes and formation of opinion in respect of such suspicion regarding evading of taxes was duly formed.

16. There was another affidavit-in-opposition dated 7th September, 1677, filed by respondent No. 5, Shri Mahadeb Daw. From the statements of the said affidavit, it would appear that the said respondent No. 5 who supporting the cause of the petitioners and although in the petition, the petitioners have not stated about any objection being raised by the said Shri Mahadeb Daw, but in his affidavit, he has stated to have raised protest by himself. He has also stated that on such protest being raised by him he was threatened by the Commercial Tax Officer concerned, respondent No. 3, with arrest.

17. The reply to the first affidavit-in-opposition was filed sometime in September, 1977, and since the original of the said reply was not available in the record, a copy was obtained from Mr. Bhattacherjee and the same was looked into. Let the said copy of the affidavit-in-reply be kept in the record. In this reply, it has been stated that the petitioners never took any steps to avoid payment of sales tax or they had ever defaulted in payment of such taxes. In this reply it has also been stated that there was really no material available from the seized records, that there was any suppression of sales by the petitioners and thus the steps as taken by the authorities concerned were not only inappropriate and illegal, but they were void, unauthorised and bad. Save as above other materials, allegations of the first affidavit-in-opposition, have been categorically denied.

18. The language of Section 14(3) the said Act is 'reason to suspect'. For the purpose of construing the said section reference was made by Mr. Bhattacherjee firstly to the case of Commissioner of Commercial Taxes v. R. S. Jhaver [1967] 20 STC 453 (SC). In that case, it has been observed that it is within the competence of the legislature to make all such incidental and ancillary provisions as may be necessary to effectuate the law; particularly in the case of a taxing statute, it is open to the legislature to enact provisions which would check evation. It has been stated that this power included the provisions has been held to be reasonable restrictions on the fundamental rights. In that case it has also been observed that the provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Section 165), apply mutatis mutandis to all search and seizure and the safeguards under that section are that the authorities should have reasonable grounds for believing that anything necessary for the purpose of recovery of tax might be found in the place and that, they should be of opinion that such thing should not be otherwise got without undue delay, that ground for the belief should be recorded in writing and that thing, for which the search was to be made, had to be specified. It has further been observed that the provisions for recording the reasons, thus for granting a receipt and the requirement that accounts seized should not be unnecessarily retained without proper authorities were considered sufficient safeguard. Mr. Bhattacherjee stated that the tests as laid down or mentioned in the above-mentioned case, would be appropriately available in this case, as opinion was not duly, formed in terms of the requirements of Section 14(3) of the said Act. Then, he referred to the case of State of West Bengal v. Oriental Rubber Works [1977] 39 STC 333, wherein it has been observed, that seizure under Section 14(3) of the said Act can be made on objective consideration, e.g., evading the payment of tax or on detection of such avoidance or evasion and those were the pre-conditions for seizure. In that case, it was contended that it would be no compliance with the provisions of the statute, by merely quoting the language of the section and then, if seizing the documents is done and the reasons, as recorded, must themselves indicate that they, as recorded, are based on objective considerations, apart from the fact that they must indicate the nature and relevance of the document sought to be seized, having regard to the object of the seizure and must also refer to the circumstances, for which it was considered necessary to seize them. Mr. Bhattacherjee claimed that such circumstances as indicated above, were absent in the instant case. Thereafter, reference was made to the case of State of West Bengal v. Sarda & Sons [1977] 40 STC 419, wherein it has been observed, that non-communication of an order of extension of time for retention of document, etc., seized under Section 14 of the said Act, beyond the prescribed period of such retention would make such retention unauthorised, illegal, irregular and void, apart from being without jurisdiction. This case, with due respect, I think, will have no application in the instant case. Lastly, Mr. Bhattacherjee referred to the case of Deoralia Brothers v. State of West Bengal [1982] 50 STC 113, wherein it has been observed, that in order to attract Section 14 of the Bengal Finance (Sales Tax) Act, 1941, or to act under the section something more than suspicion would be required and that apart, it must be found out if such suspicion is formed or entertained reasonably as a reasonable man. The duty to be satisfied would mean and postulate the satisfaction to be duly arrived at and that should be a condition precedent for the exercise of power of seizure under Section 14 of the Act and the powers under Sections 14 and 14A of the Act are meant for taking steps to prevent evasion of tax and such power, if exercised, is only administrative and is not to be confined in this operation to a pending quasi-judicial proceeding, as in the entire section there is no indication that such power would be exercised only when a quasi-judicial proceeding in the shape of assessment, reassessment or the like is pending. Such power is vested on the authorities to get all the required and necessary information regarding the taxable turnover of the dealer. A statement made by a dealer or his agent to an officer at the time of inspection at the place of business would not be an inadmissible document' even though the evidentiary value may be in question but such evidence only may not be sufficient to sustain a conviction. The officers concerned are authorised to have inspection at all reasonable times and of all account books and registers, maintained by a dealer in the ordinary course of business, so also of the goods in his possession; but for such purposes, entry should not be made at odd and unearthly hours. The powers under the section must also be used and exercised in bona fide manner and not in a mala fide way. The officers concerned should not ordinarily prepare the statements themselves for the purpose of signature of the dealer, when charge-sheet is intended and later rely on such statements as evidence. In that case it has also been observed that all searches would mean and include inspections and all inspections are not searches. The provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure would apply, mutatis mutandis, to all searches and seizures. Section 14 of the Act does not invest the officers concerned with police power or ordinarily with general and indiscriminate powers of entry into and search of all places. The power of search is intended to act and operate as an effective deterrent against tax-evaders. The Act confers wide powers to the sales tax authorities to inspect the account books of the dealer and for that purpose, even to pay surprise visits to his shop and the dealer concerned is under the legal obligation to allow the authorities to effect such inspection of the account books and other relevant records. The legality of the search and seizure would be subject to judicial control.

19. The records of the case were produced by Mr. Dutta. He, on a reference to them and so also the statements as contained in the first affidavit, argued that there were due reasons for the authorities concerned to suspect under Section 14(3) and that too in the facts of this case, that there was evasion of the payment of tax or at least an attempt to that effect by the petitioners and as such, on due formation of the necessary opinion in accordance with law, steps in the matter were taken or initiated. On a careful reading of the records or on consideration of them, it cannot but be held that the opinion on the reasons to suspect evasion of tax under Section 14(3) of the said Act was appropriately formed and when such an opinion was formed, the officers concerned were also authorised under Rule 69 of the said Rules and that too at their discretion, which should be appropriately used according to the exigencies of circumstances, to pay a surprise visit. The necessary tests or the requirements of Rule 69, in my view, have also been satisfied in the case. I am also of the view that if a search warrant is issued in respect of a given place and while conducting search at such place, the officers concerned, on the basis of the evidence or materials as available from the documents seized or the information received at the time of such search and seizure, are required to search and seize other connecting and corresponding documents from other or elsewhere places that would be a case of one search or the continuation of the search warrant as issued and not a separate search. Such being the position, the subsequent searches made at the head office and city office of the petitioners, in the circumstances of this case, cannot be said to be unauthorised, without jurisdiction, void and illegal. The cases as cited at the Bar, in my view, will not apply in the facts of this case and they are distinguishable.

20. I further find it difficult to hold in agreement with the submissions of the petitioners that their Mr. Sinha had subscribed his signatures under threat or coercion as alleged and I am also of the view that the petitioners by their repeated representations in the shape of producing the records, not only mislead them, but also kept them at the dark, for the purpose of gaining time to frustrate the proceedings before them and such act and action was not certainly bona fide. The earlier disposal of a similar proceedings like the present one and that too in the facts and circumstances of the case, in my view, may not be a bar to maintain this application. I am also of the opinion that the points as sought to be raised and contended now, can very well and easily be agitated in the concerned proceedings and thereafter before the higher tribunals and as such also, no interference need or should be made at this stage.

21. Thus, the submissions of Mr. Bhattacherjee should fail, so also the rule and I order accordingly. The rule is discharged. There will be no order as to costs.

22. Prayer for stay of operation of the order is refused.


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