Andhra Pradesh HC: Upholds validity of time-limit prescribed for ITC; Return with late-fee not springboard to claim credit

Andhra Pradesh HC holds that (i) time-limit prescribed for claiming ITC as prescribed u/s 16(4) of APGST Act/CGST Act, 2017 is not violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(g) and 300-A of Constitution of India and (ii) Section 16(4) will not be overridden by non-obstante provision u/s 16(2) as both are not contradictory with each other but operate independently; Notes that, assessee, a sole proprietorship doing business in hardware and plywood commenced during Covid-19 pandemic, and could not file its  return within the prescribed time nor file the return on or before time prescribed for filing the return relating to month of September of succeeding year; Revenue observed that assessee can claim ITC subject to fulfillment of conditions stipulated u/s 16 of SGST/CGST Act r/w Section 20 of IGST Act and the claim made through GSTR 3B return filed after prescribed date was not valid; Dismissing assessee’s writ, HC rules  that, Section 16(1) is an enabling clause for ITC while Section 16(2) subjects such entitlement to certain conditions, Section 16(3) and (4) further restrict the entitlement given u/s 16(1) and “That being the scheme of the provision, it is out of context to contend that one of the restricting provisions overrides other two restrictions”; HC also rejects assessee’s argument that since Form GSTR-3B return of March, 2020 filed on November 27, 2020 was accepted with a late fee, such acceptance will exonerate the delay in filing return u/s 16(4) and therefore along with his return, the ITC claim shall also be considered; In this context, HC strictly opines “mere filing of the return with a delay fee will not act as a springboard for claiming ITC” while finding force in Revenue’s contention that said collection of late fee is only for the purpose of admitting returns for verification of taxable turnover but not for consideration of ITC; Moreover, HC reiterates that “ITC is a mere concession/rebate/benefit but not a statutory or constitutional right” and therefore imposing conditions including time limitation for availing the said concession will not amount to violation of constitution or any statute” while making a referance to SC ruling in Jayam and Co. and ALD Automotive Pvt. Ltd.