Calcutta HC: Non-consideration of extension application for reply ‘colorable exercise of power’

In the case of Anurag Garodia

Calcutta HC deems as ‘a colorable exercise of power’ the manner in which Assistant Commissioner of State Tax (Revenue) passed final order u/s 73 “without granting extension to the petitioner either to file its response or to be offered personal hearing, despite the petitioner showing sufficient cause,”; Rules that once, the Assessee had sought for an extension to file reply to show cause notice (SCN) Revenue was obliged to consider such extension application and ought not to have passed the final order; Perusing SCN, HC observes that Revenue had granted liberty to the Assessee to file its response on/or before October 25, 2023, though personal hearing was offered only on October 10, 2023; Considers Assessee’s stance that immediately after reopening of the office of the Authority on October 30, 2023, it had applied in writing and had sought for an extension to file its response and the extension application was also filed on the GST portal; Further, derives that the final order also wasn’t passed immediately and that it was issued more than a month after the extension application was filed; As regards Revenue’s claim that Assessee has an alternative remedy in the form of an appeal, HC reckons that an appeal is no substitute to revisit of an ex parte order, especially when the defense of the Assessee is not on record; Holds that order stands vitiated on the ground of violation of the principles of natural justice and so alternative remedy in the form of an appeal is no bar for exercise of extraordinary writ jurisdiction.