We have covered many judicial proceedings under GST Act such as offences and penalties, prosecution and appeals. This article deals with the documents which are produced during the course of any proceeding of appeal, prosecution etc.
When a taxpayer is penalised under GST, the authorities may produce documents in court (or before the adjudicating authority) as and when required. The ‘presumption of documents’ concept implies that all documents furnished will be considered true unless proven otherwise. The onus to prove that the documents are false falls on the taxpayer under scrutiny.
Documents That Can Be Furnished in Court
Accounts and other business records will have to be produced in the court when asked. Such accounts can be produced by the accused or by the GST authorities after seizing them.
The GST Act states that businesses must retain all books of accounts for at least 5 years. If there are any pending proceedings, the accounts must be retained for at least 1 year after the final order date.
Presumption of Other Documents
When any document is produced by any person under GST Act or any other act, it shall be presumed to be true unless there is evidence of the document being false.
These documents may be:
- produced by any person (taxpayer)
- seized from a person
- received from outside India by the GST authorities
These documents will be used against the taxpayer who is under scrutiny as evidence of malpractice. The court will take the document as true unless it is proved to be false by the accused.
All signatures, attestations and handwritings will be assumed to be that of the accused (or any particular person) unless the concerned person can prove otherwise. Even unstamped documents can be used as evidence if they are legally admissible.
What Does the Term ‘Documents’ Refer to?
Documents can be normal invoices, ledgers, statements etc. along with:
- a microfilm of a document
- FAX copy of a document; or
- any document produced by a computer (for example statement generated through net banking)
- any information stored electronically in any device (for example, pen drives, mobiles, SD cards, CDs)
Note: Both soft and hard copies are admissible as documents in court.
In cases where a hard copy cannot be produced in court, (for example data from a lost pen drive) then a certificate can be given. The certificate should:
- identify the document itself
- mention the way it was produced (e.g., original data was generated in software)
- give details about the device involved (e.g., describe the lost pen drive and how the information was generated from software).
This certificate will act as evidence against the accused in court.