Criminal trial, arrest as per GST Act under High Court scanner - ECAS Punjab

Criminal trial, arrest as per GST Act under High Court scanner

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Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 12

Nearly three years after the Punjab Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, came into force, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today asserted there was considerable force in the submissions that criminal trial and arrest under its provisions lacked jurisdiction and backing of the constitutional provisions.

What the court says

The HC asserted there was considerable force in the submissions that criminal trial and arrest under its provisions lacked jurisdiction and backing of the constitutional provisions

The assertion by the Division Bench of Justice Jaswant Singh and Justice Sant Parkash came on a petition filed by Tarun Bassi against the state government and two other respondents. Appearing before the Bench through videoconferencing, petitioner's counsel Jagmohan Bansal submitted that Bassi, engaged in the trade of iron and steel products, was arrested by the respondents in September 2019, under Section 69 of the Act.

After completing the investigation, the respondents filed a complaint under Section 132 of the Act before Amloh court, alleging that the petitioner passed on input tax credit by issuing sale bills to parties without the supply of goods.

The counsel added that the petitioner was granted interim bail by the High Court and the matter was pending for August. The trial was at pre-charge evidence stage for past eight months and no witness had been examined till date.

Challenging the vires of Section 69 and 132 of the Act, the counsel submitted that Article 246-A was inserted with effect from September 16, 2016, vide 101st Constitutional Amendment, whereby the union and the state legislatures were empowered to levy tax on goods and services.

It was contended that the power to levy tax included the power to make law with respect to "ancillary and incidental matters". But the power of arrest and the prescription of sentence was neither covered under ancillary, nor incidental, matters. The provision for arrest or sentence for an offence against the law could be inserted in any enactment, if permitted by the Constitution.

The counsel added criminal trial for offences under Section 132 and arrest under Section 69 were without jurisdiction, having no backing of the constitutional provisions. "We find considerable force in the submissions was raised and demonstrated by Jagmohan Bansal, advocate for the petitioner," the Bench added, while issuing notice of motion to the respondents.

The Bench directed the trial court to adjourn the case beyond the date fixed by the High Court. Punjab Additional Advocate-General Pankaj Gupta accepted the notice on behalf of the state and the other respondents. The case will now come up for further hearing in July last week.



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