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Godrej Sara Lee Ltd. Vs. The Excise and Taxation Officer-cum-Assessing Authority and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (01 Feb 2023)

Suo motu power of revision could be exercised by the Revisional Authority, when an order made in proceeding is prejudicial to the interests of the State


Sales Tax/VAT

Present appeal, by special leave registers a challenge to an order passed by the High Court dismissing Civil Writ Petition presented by the Appellant and relegating it to the remedy of an appeal under Section 33 of the Haryana Value Added Tax Act, 2003 ('the VAT Act'). The Appellant had claimed before the High Court that, the suo motu revisional power could not have been exercised by the Revisional Authority in view of the existing facts and circumstances leading to the only conclusion that the assessment orders were legally correct and that the final orders impugned in the writ petition were passed upon assuming a jurisdiction which the Revisional Authority did not possess.

Suo motu power of revision could be exercised by the Revisional Authority for the purposes of satisfying himself as to the legality or propriety of any order made in any proceeding which is prejudicial to the interests of the State. The first proviso, however, imposed a restriction on exercise of such suo motu power, if an issue had been settled, by an appellate authority. Thus, the sine qua non for exercise of power under Section 34 is the satisfaction of the Revisional Authority that an order has been made by a taxing authority in any proceeding prejudicial to the interests of the State, the legality or propriety of which appears to him to be prima facie vulnerable. Nevertheless, such power cannot be exercised if the issue involved is pending before or has been settled by an appellate authority.

A decision may be questioned as suffering from an illegality if its maker fails to understand the law that regulates his decision making power correctly or if he fails to give effect to any law that holds the field and binds the parties. It is incumbent for the accuser to show that the decision maker has failed to observe the standard procedures applicable in case of exercise of his power. Additionally, to impeach an order on the ground of moral impropriety, it has to be shown that the weight of facts together with the applicable law overwhelmingly points to one course of action but the decision has surprisingly gone the other way, giving reason to suspect misbehaviour or misconduct in the sphere of activity of the decision maker warranting a revision.

There is nothing on record to justify either illegality or (procedural/moral) impropriety in the proceedings before the Assessing Authority or the orders passed by him, as such. The Assessing Authority was bound by the order of the Tribunal and elected to follow it having no other option. Such decision of the Tribunal was even binding on the Revisional Authority. In such circumstances, to brand the orders of the Assessing Authority as suffering from illegality and impropriety appears to be not only unjustified but also demonstrates thorough lack of understanding of the principle regulating exercise of suo motu revisional power by a quasi-judicial authority apart from being in breach of the principle of judicial discipline, while confronted with orders passed by a superior Tribunal/Court. It is not the Assessing Authority's orders but those passed by the Revisional Authority, which suffer from a patent illegality. The impugned final revisional orders for the Assessment Years 2003-04 and 2004-05 is invalidated. Appeal allowed.


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