Kerala High Court
Kerala High Court
Litigation News

Web notifications for GST assessment, retirement benefits for govt. workers and more: An overview of recent rulings by Kerala HC

This article provides an overview of a few of the Kerala High Court's recent orders on tax, labour, and a case concerning an unfortunate octogenarian who was denied ration because her biometrics could not be scanned.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

Some of the rulings by the Kerala High Court in the recent days include those touching upon tax law, labour law and an unfortunate octogenarian, who was denied ration because her biometrics could not be scanned. This article provides a brief overview of these rulings.

Would uploading an SGST assessment order on a Web Portal constitute a valid notice?

Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar of the Kerala High Court responded to this in the affirmative in a case concerning the (Kerala) State Goods and Services Tax Act. (Pee Bee Enterprises v. Asst Commr.)

After a person failed to furnish his State Tax returns at the proper time, an assessing officer had published an assessment order for a certain amount on the tax authority’s web portal and via email.

The person claimed notice was served on him only on a later date, and that he filed his returns thirty days after he was informed of this notice. However, recovery proceedings were initiated against him with the authorities taking the stance that he failed to file the amounts at the correct time. Arguing that the delay in notifying him led to his belated filing, he sought a quash on the recovery notice.

The High Court ruled that publication on the State GST portal would constitute a valid Notice and that the petitioner could not claim that he was not served Notice promptly.

Read the order:

pee bee enterprises v. asst commr. - final order date august 17.pdf

Income Tax Authority with quasi judicial functions must not be bogged down by executive instructions

In the case of Tulsi Developers India v. Asst Income Tax Commissioner, Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar recently struck down an Income Tax Appellate Authority's stay order on grounds that it placed undue reliance on an office memorandum issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).

The Kerala High Court had earlier referred the petitioner’s grievance to the Income Tax Appellate Authority specifically requiring it to determine the matter on merits. The Income Tax Authority, however, proceeded to pass its order based on Office Memorandum issued by the CBDT.

Allowing a plea challenging this order, the High Court found that the Authority, being quasi-adjudicatory, could not be bogged down by executive instructions.

The Court emphasised that "the appellate authority ought to have considered the stay application as directed by this Court, and without placing any reliance on the instructions issued by the CBDT directing the application to be decided in a particular way."

It was also noted that the petitioner was not allowed a hearing. Therefore, the Authority was asked to pass fresh orders in the matter.

In pasing this order, the High Court observed,

“... it is obligatory on statutory authorities who are entrusted with quasi-judicial powers under a statute, to adjudicate on issues without being bogged down by executive instructions that direct them to exercise their discretion in any particular manner. As a creature of the statute, on whom the discretionary power is conferred, the authority cannot abdicate his responsibilities by acting on the dictates of another who has no role to play under the statutory scheme.”

Read the Order:

Tulsi Developers India (P) Ltd. v. Asst Income Tax Commr.pdf

Should a GST e-way bill specify details of taxes paid?

Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar found that there would be no infirmity where the e-way bill accompanying the transport of goods does not contain details of the GST paid separately, where such goods being transported is supported by a valid invoice which specifies the taxes paid (M/s Steel and Pipes v. Asst. Commissioner).

In this case, a person’s consignment was detained by tax authorities on account of discrepancies between the invoice and the e-way bill. The e-way bill did not delineate the details of taxes paid, whereas the invoice specified this.

Ruling that an e-way bill (GST EWB Form-01) did not require a specification of the amounts of tax payable, the Court ordered the release of goods detained. It was also noted that the detaining authority had not given the purchaser an opportunity to be heard.

MS Steel and Pipes v. Asst. Commissioner.pdf

Can retired government employees be deprived of retirement benefits if employer is struggling financially?

On Monday, Justice CS Dias of the Kerala High Court directed the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation to disburse retirement benefits to its superannuated employees, finding that the “terminal benefits due to the employees” could not be withheld. (J Jayageetham v. KSRTC)

During hearings, the Corporation had agreed that the employees’ grievances were justified, but confessed that it was “cash strapped” and could not meet its obligations presently.

Taking note of the dire condition of the petitioner, the Court directed the disbursal of the necessary retiral benefits.

Justice Dias referred to prior orders of the High Court that required the Corporation to set aside an amount from its daily bus fare collection in a Treasury Account for this purpose.

"At any rate, the terminal benefits due to the employees cannot be withheld as has been held by this Court in a catena of cases. I find no reason to deny the relief sought for as admittedly the financial condition of the petitioners is stated to be dire", states the order.

Read the order:

J Jayageetham v. KSRTC.pdf

Can employees claim benefits of a prior retirement scheme when terms of employment state they are bound by new scheme?

A Division Bench of Justices AM Shaffique and Gopinath P recently dismissed a challenge to the State Bank of India's (SBI) new employee contributory pension scheme.

The scheme was challenged for discrimination against employees who joined the SBI after 2010 and for non-compliance with the SBI Act, 1955.

Employees of the Bank who had entered service after 2010 were bound by their employment conditions to a new retirement scheme to which they were required to contribute. Despite their entry into service in 2010, the new pension scheme came into force only later.

A Regulation, issued under Section 50 of the Act, concretised the new scheme which was introduced in 2014. The Act required such a regulation to be laid before Parliament before its implementation. This was an additional flashpoint for the petitioners.

The Bench found the employees to have agreed to employment with the bank knowing fully that they would be part of a new contributory pension scheme that was to be introduced.

"Persons who accepted the appointment on specific terms cannot be allowed to turn around and challenge the terms/conditions of such appointment. They cannot be allowed to approbate and reprobate (elect to accept or reject terms)", the Court said.

On the question of laying the new regulation before Parliament, the Court found that a failure to introduce the regulation in Parliament did not annul it “for the simple reason that the Legislature did not deem it necessary to make the delegated legislation operational only upon its approval”.

Read the order:

Challenge to SBI Ruling.pdf

Can faulty Biometric Scans come in the way of obtaining government ration?

An octogenarian woman unable to avail of government rations because her iris and thumb impressions could not be scanned approached the Court for relief in the case of KA Suhara v. State of Kerala and Ors.

Justice Anu Sivaraman came to the woman's aid, directing the State to make sure that she was not denied the benefits of her ration card.

"I am of the opinion that the respondents are liable to take steps to see that the petitioner is not denied the benefits of her ration card", the Court said.

In the interim, the Judge directed the State to “attach her card” to her daughter’s family’s so that she could obtain her ration requirements while she stayed with her daughter.

Once she moved back to her home from her daughter’s place, she was to be allowed to use her ration card there as well, the Court ordered.

Read the order:

K.A. Suhara v. State of Kerala and Ors. - Final Order.pdf
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