Kerala HC directs GST Dept. to Reconsider Plea Seeking Copies Of Witness Statements as Proper Officer failed to state any reason

Kerala HC directs GST Dept. to Reconsider Plea Seeking Copies Of Witness Statements as Proper Officer failed to state any reason

The Kerala High Court in the case of Thomas Mathew Proprietor v/s The State Tax Officer and Ors. directed the GST department to reconsider plea seeking copies of witness statements as the proper officer failed to state any reason.

The four writ petitions are filed by respective taxpayers against whom summons have been issued relating to an investigation on supply of goods under the Act. When the petitioners were served with the summons, to give evidence in the enquiry, applications were filed seeking transfer of files to an officer in a jurisdiction near to the place of business of the petitioners, alleging the prevalent pandemic as a reason. A further request was made to furnish a copy of statements already given by other persons who were summoned as part of the enquiry.

Petitioners contended that the transfer of files to a place of petitioners’ choice and furnishing copy of statements recorded by the officer, to the person, against whom the enquiry is being conducted is part of the constitutional right of every individual and hence petitioners are entitled to get copies of such documents.

A counter affidavit was filed by the respondent stating that the information gathered during the enquiry is very crucial and sensitive in nature and that, issuance of copies or sharing of extracts of the statements at the present stage would prejudicially affect the investigation.

The single judge bench of Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas noted that by conferring the power of summoning a witnesses to give evidence or to produce a document as provided in Order XVI of the CPC, the nature or character of the investigation or inquiry being conducted under Chapter XIV of the Act will not be changed.  

The court said that Ext.P10 order is liable to be set aside and the respondent is directed to reconsider the application of the petitioners for giving a copy of the statements already obtained in the course of investigation and pass fresh orders.

The court directed the respondent to pass fresh orders on the request of the petitioners for grant of copies of statements recorded from the witnesses. 

“The relief of transfer of files claimed in those writ petitions are dismissed as not pressed. W.P.(C) No.20475 of 2021 is closed, since the only relief claimed in the writ petition is for transfer of files”, the court added.

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