The Delhi High Court on November 16, 2018, in the case of National Building Construction Company Limited v. Union of India & Ors. has held that Central Excise Officers of Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI) have all India jurisdiction. Hence, even if a person/assessee is registered with one or more Commissionerates, the said officers can issue notices and enquire into the matters relating to service-tax against the said person/assessee.
A Bench comprising of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Pratibha M. Singh also held that pendency of proceedings under Section 73 of the Finance Act, 1994, does not restrain the issuance of notice under Section 14 of the Central Excise Act, 1944.
The observation came while the court was hearing a petition filed by National Building Construction Corporation Ltd challenging a decision of Director General of Central Excise authorising the Additional Director General, DGCEI, Lucknow Zonal Unit, to investigate all the branches of the Petitioner regarding service tax evasion.
The petitioner is a corporation which has not opted for centralized registration for the purpose of service tax. It has 88 service tax registrations in different Commissionerates and therefore, separate service tax is filed and submitted for each registration.
Notices were issued by various Commissionerates of Service Tax including that of Delhi, Allahabad, Patna, Noida etc. To investigate the case of service tax evasion by all branches of the corporation, the Additional Director General, Lucknow was authorized.
In the meantime, the Office of Assistant Director, DGCEI, Meerut issued summons/notices to the corporation, asking for details and documents on all India basis under Section 14 of Central Excise Act, 1944.
The corporation then filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court under Article 226 of Constitution of India challenging the authority of Additional Director General and also the notices issued. It contended that notices under Section 14 of the CE Act, 1944, cannot be issued when the proceedings/enquiry under Section 73 of the Finance Act, 1994, are pending.
The court delivering its verdict dismissed the petition.
The court relied on a judgment in Duncan Agro Industries Limited v. Union of India in which it was held that there is no territorial limitation laid in the CE Act, 1944, and more than one officer is envisaged in the statute to have territorial jurisdiction.
Further, the court said that the pendency of proceedings under Section 73 of the Finance Act, 1994, does not restrain the issuance of notice under Section 14 of the Central Excise Act.