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SC asks Centre to furnish data on notices, arrests done under GST Act

The Bench said it may interpret the law and lay down appropriate guidelines to avoid any harassment of citizens by depriving their liberty.

supreme courtNEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to furnish details of issuance of notices and arrests done under the provisions of the Goods and Services Tax, saying it may interpret the law and lay down appropriate guidelines to avoid any harassment of citizens by depriving their liberty.

A special bench of Justices Sanjeev Khanna, MM Sundresh and Bela M Trivedi, which is hearing a batch of 281 petitions challenging various provisions of the GST Act, Customs Act and the provisions of PMLA, voiced concern over the ambiguity in section 69 of the GST Act that deals with the powers of arrest.

The bench said it would interpret the law to “strengthen” the liberty, if need be, but not allow citizens to be harassed.

“You furnish the data on notices issued and arrests made under the GST Act for alleged defaults of Rs 1 crore to Rs 5 crore respectively for the past three years.

There can be harassment of people and we won’t permit that. If we find there is ambiguity in the provision, we will set it right.

Second, people can’t be sent behind bars in all the cases,” the bench told Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the Centre.

The bench sought the data after senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for some of the petitioners flagged the alleged misuse of the powers of the authorities under the GST regime, saying it is curtailing the liberty of individuals.

During the hearing on Thursday, Luthra pointed out that sometimes arrests are not made, but people are “harassed” by issuing notices to them, threatening arrest.

He highlighted that arrest under the GST Act is to be preceded by adjudication of the amount considered due and payable on the part of a taxpayer.

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