Citizens should not be compelled by authorities to resort to litigation again and again on the same issue once it has been decided by a court or tribunal as the National Litigation Policy was floated to avoid such situations, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday said to the Centre. “In view of the National Litigation Policy (NLP) of the Union of India, authorities ought to keep in mind that if facts are similar and decisions have already been rendered by a competent court or tribunal, it should be followed by them in the subsequent similar matters.”
“The authorities should not relegate or compel citizens to go to courts time and again (for the same issue),” a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh said and added that “multiplicity of litigation has to be avoided”. It also said that the NLP was floated to “curtail” filing of cases before the courts or tribunals again and again on the same issue.
The observation by the bench came during the hearing of a plea by Interglobe Aviation Ltd, which operates low cost carrier Indigo Airlines, seeking directions to the customs authorities to implement the ruling of Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT) that re-import of repaired parts of the aircraft used by the company were exempt from Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST).
Indigo told the high court CESTAT in November last year, in relation to 349 bills of entry, and in January this year, in relation to 415 bills of entry, had ruled that such imports were exempt from IGST according to a 2017 exemption notification.
Despite the ruling, the customs authorities levied IGST on 541 bills of entry with regard to imports after the January 15 order of CESTAT and the company ended up paying around Rs 116 crores, Indigo told the court.
The court said that twice the “error” by the customs authorities in interpreting the 2017 notification was corrected by CESTAT, but when a new officer takes charge he/she interprets the notification in a “new” manner.
The bench said it was a wrong notion of revenue officers that they should commit errors in favour of the revenue department and added that while such “chances” can be taken by them once or twice, but once there was a decision by a court or tribunal on the issue, it has to be followed “voluntarily”.
The court said that the authorities should keep in mind that the people carrying out businesses legally should be allowed to continue and “they should not be compelled to go to the courts again and again for interpretation of any law, rule or notification which has already been interpreted”. The bench further said that decisions of courts and tribunals are rendered for respondents to follow when the same section of law or rule was to be interpreted again and again.
The bench directed the customs authorities to decide the representation already moved by Indigo, for exempting imports of repaired parts from IGST, in accordance with the law, rules, regulations and government policy applicable to the case and also keeping in mind the two orders of CESTAT. It said the decision be taken as early as possible and practicable and disposed of the plea.