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Summons, in general, means to call upon or demand the presence of a person. Section 70 of the CGST Act 2017 lays down the law regarding the power of the officer to summon any person before them to provide evidence in the form of documents regarding any specific matter.
The steps involved in proceedings under GST law first start with a summons. The officer has the power under Section 70 of the CGST Act 2017 to summon any person before them.
This power is likely to be exercised by the officer, especially where the person must produce evidence in documents or have their statement recorded as part of an inquiry. It is imperative to note that the persons summoned by the officer are duty-bound to appear before them. The officer has the power to summon any person whose attendance he thinks is necessary.
It is important to note that summons proceedings are equivalent to judicial proceedings. Therefore, if a person fails to do any of the following, he shall be liable to prosecution under various sections of the Indian Penal Code-
In addition to the above, a monetary penalty will be imposed on the person under Section 122 (3)(d) of the CGST Act for failure to appear after the issuance of the summons or for failure to provide documentary evidence despite the issuance of a summons. The penalty shall amount to Rs. 25,000.
Moreover, the person’s refusal to record any statement before the officer will lead to the summoning officer informing his superior office about the same. These cases are to be brought to the notice of the Magistrate.
The format of a GST summons is as follows-
It is to be noted that the following details have to be presented in the GST Summons-
The instructions issued by the CBIC regarding the issuance of summons give due consideration to Circular No. 122/41/2019-GST dated 5th November 2019.
The instructions read as follows-
Taxpayers need to be well aware of their rights and duties if they become recipients of a GST summons. This awareness will ensure their protection against unwanted actions from the officials of the GST office.
A rule that the CBIC issues focused on regulating summons proceedings states that only when the taxpayer is not cooperative will a summons be issued. Moreover, the summons is to be issued against the senior management. It should warrant an appearance during reasonable hours, such as regular business hours.
More often than not, the GST officers tend to pressurise and intimidate the taxpayers, leading them to submit inaccurate information. In such situations, the taxpayer has the right to retract the earlier statement and submit the accurate version as a fresh statement.
The constitutional right to remain silent extends to these cases as well. Suppose the taxpayer is uncertain about the answer to a particular question that is framed before him. In that case, he is well within his rights to choose to remain silent.
There could be instances where the GST officers may attempt to manipulate the taxpayer summoned by providing references to adverse statements submitted by various third parties. The taxpayer then has the right to cross-examine the third party about the statement’s validity.
When making the statement in front of the GST officer, the taxpayer is free to refer to the books of accounts or any other documents that he would require to refer to provide an accurate statement that goes on the record.
The taxpayer must provide information to the GST officer to the best of his ability and knowledge. Misleading and incorrect statements are not acceptable.
The taxpayer must know the ramifications of the submissions made to the GST officers. The Supreme Court has held that any statement made before the GST officers is admissible as evidence in a court of law. Since GST officers are not classified as police officers, any statement before them constitutes evidence.
The proper officer issues the summons under GST. This proper officer could be either the Commissioner or any person authorised by the Commissioner or the Board to carry out that function.
A GST summons is an administrative summons. It is normally issued by an administrative or government body and is judicially enforceable.