GST officers must not resort to violence during search

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The Tax Department’s allegation was on tax evasion of ₹5 crore by the petitioner. The Telangana High Court has asked Goods & Services Tax officials not to use violence against tax assessee or their relatives and employees during search, investigation or interrogation.

The respondents shall not use any acts of violence or torture against petitioner or their employees in furtherance of enquiry proceedings initiated. The division bench also asked enquiry to be initiated by another officer to be appointed by the Tax Department. In a matter before the court questioning whether officials belonging to the GST Intelligence Department of the Central Government can resort to physical violence while conducting interrogation in connection with proceedings initiated under law. 

The Tax Department’s allegation was on tax evasion of ₹5 crore by the petitioner. Any interrogation of petitioner or his employees needs to be done between 10:30 am and 05:00 pm on week days in the visible range of an advocate appointed by them, who shall not be in hearing range. The petitioner can be summoned to New Delhi for the purpose of the above enquiry by the Tax Department on one occasion for two to three days, and rest of their interrogation and those of their employees shall be conducted at Hyderabad by the Tax Department.

The Tax Department alleged that during the search, two of the petitioners tried to hamper and obstruct by way of physical assault on two officers of the rank of Deputy Directors. Another petitioner allegedly fled away from the scene with crucial evidence. After that police protection was sought and search proceedings were concluded under police protection. It was alleged that one of the officer was hit on his mouth and jaw by the employees of the petitioners.

The petitioners denied this. They said though there was no tax evasion, they had deposited ₹10 lakh as directed by the Tax Department and forced to say that the deposit was made not in the protest but voluntarily. The petitioners informed the court that tax officials acted in an illegal and arbitrary manner and assaulted three of the petitioners causing injury. They produced medical report and evidence of calling police. However, the police did not register FIR against tax officials but did so against the petitioner.

The court took note of the medical report produced by the petitioner. The report, given by a private hospital, did talk about injury.

The Tax Department alleged that the report was procured, but the court said that, “We do not agree with such contention because there is no presumption in law that doctors in private hospitals do not speak the truth and only government doctors speak the truth,”.

The Bench also mentioned that FIR not registered against the tax department by the police is not significant.

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