Bombay HC: Time Limit for Appeal Will Not Start Until the Authority Signs the Order

The Bombay High Court ruled that the time limit for filing an appeal cannot start when the issuing authority uploaded the Goods and Services Tax (GST) registration cancellation order on the portal without a signature.

During the hearing in the case Ramani Malushte v Union of India and Ors, the court observed the following facts:

  • The issuing authority passed an order to cancel GST registration on 14th November 2019. 
  • However, the order was not signed digitally or manually but merely uploaded on the GST Portal.
  • Also, the assessee got attestation on this order after 1.5 years, .i.e, 19th May 2021, when an attested copy was required to be filed before the first appeal officer. 
  • However, the appellate authority dismissed the appeal stating that the limitation and condonation period was over, and the appeal was not maintainable.
  • The first appeal officer counted the time limit from 14th November 2019. 

After observing the facts, the court said that:

  • In the reply affidavit, the department did not deny that the officer had not digitally signed the original order dated 14th November, 2019. 
  • Also, in the reply affidavit, the department specifically stated that the officer had digitally signed the show cause notice.
  • However, when they referred to the original order dated 14th November 2019, it maintained complete silence regarding the digital signature being attested by the issuing authority.
  • Also, the department conveniently stated that the petitioner could not take a stand of not receiving the signed copy because the unsigned order was admittedly received electronically by the petitioner.
  • It is to be noted that the rules regarding attesting digital signatures would become redundant if the court accepted the department.
  • In the court’s view, the order will have no legal effect unless the issuing authority digitally signs it.

Accordingly, the High Court ruled that the appeal was within the time limit as the issuing authority had not signed the order as per CGST Rule 26(3). Also, it ruled that the time limit will not begin from 14th November 2019 but starts from the day on which issuing authority attested the physical signature, i.e., 19th May 2021.

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