IN RE : HINDUSTAN LEVER LTD Vs. STATE
CUSTOMS EXCISE AND GOLD(CONTROL) APPELLATE TRIBUNAL
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V.K.Ashtana, J. -
(1.) A personal hearing was given to the appellants on 28-2-1979 and they were represented by Shri C.S. Lodha, Legal Manager of the appellant firm.
(2.) Shri Lodha submitted that the appellants filed refund claims in respect of certain amounts of money paid by them as duty for different periods commencing from 1-1-1974 to 31-3-1976. The mistake of having paid this duty wrongly was discovered by them only after the Supreme Court amplified Its decision in Voltas case in a subsequent decision in the Atic Industry's case. Hence, it was only after the Atic Industry's case being reported in 1975-76 that the appellants were able to claim this refund. The Assistant Collector has rejected all these claims on the grounds that they are time barred. The other grounds raised by the Assistant Collector for rejecting one of the refund claims were that the price list had been declared "approved" and hence refund could not be granted. Apart from this, he has also observed that the price list which was submitted by the appellants for approval did not mention that the price was inclusive of post-manufacturing expenses and that since the price list was not disputed by the appellants and the assessments were not provisional, refund cannot be granted. The Assistant Collector has obviously rejected the claims as time barred under Rule 11 of the Central Excise Rules, 1944. The appellants submitted that these should be read with Section 17 of the Limitation Act. They submitted that provisions of Limitation Act would apply in their case as duty paid by them was under mistake of Law and not paid erroneously due to any other reason. They further submitted that the provisions of Section 4 of the Limitation Act have been accepted and are being applied in case of the limitation of period for filing the appeals in Central Excise cases. It cannot hence be said that the provisions of Limitation Act will not apply in case of claims for refund. The appellants cited various Rulings, wherein the High Courts have held that Limitation Act applies to quasi-judicial proceedings also where it has not been expressly excluded in Special Law. They further submitted that they desire a specific order on the point whether the Limitation Act will apply to their case or not as the Assistant Collector has not gone into merits of mistake of Law and has rejected their claim only on time bar basis.
I have gone through the appeal petition. The Assistant Collector's order does not specify under which rule he has considered the claims to be time barred. He has, as pointed out by the appellants, not gone into the merits of the applicability of the Limitation Act in this case. There can, however, not be any dispute that the Limitation Act would apply to quasi-judicial proceedings also and that if the mistake of Law is established by pronouncement of a judgment by the Supreme Court, this Act shall have to be applied. In this case it appears that the mistake of Law was discovered by pronouncement of a judgment by the Supreme Court and hence Limitation Act shall apply to this case also. Since the Assistant Collector has not gone into the details of the admissibility of the various amounts of refund as well as the period of limitation with reference to the discovery of the mistake after due diligence, I cannot pass any orders on these two points. However, the refunds shall be sanctioned if otherwise admissible after the Assistant Collector has satisfied himself that the amounts are admissible and that the mistake of Law could not have been discovered earlier with due diligence. The appeal is partially allowed.;
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