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HC pulls up Industries Dept
Faux pas in Punjab ST limit
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 20
Coming down heavily on Punjab’s Department of Industries for not even “bothering to notice” that the exemption limit for purchase or sales tax had been fixed at Rs 6 crore and the rules mentioning exemption of Rs 8 crore had been modified, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today asked the Industries Secretary, besides the Director of Industries and the General Manager of Ludhiana District Industries Centre, “to show cause why the government should not be directed to proceed against them for their failure to perform their duties and to take care of public funds in the performance of their official functions”.

Issuing directions on a petition filed by Shreyans Spinning Mills, the Bench, comprising Mr Justice Jawahar Lal Gupta and Mr Justice Ashutosh Mohunta, ruled: “There has been a serious dereliction of duty at all levels in the Department of Industries. Neither the directorate, nor officers of the government have cared to see the notification issued in 1989. A cursory perusal of the file would have shown that the industrial policy had prescribed a limit of Rs 6 crore.... It is only on a scrutiny of records during the course of proceedings in the court that the correct position has emerged. Negligence in the performance of duties is writ large on the record of the case. But for the negligence of the officers, a lot of litigation and wastage of time would have been avoided. Their failure to perform the duties properly has resulted in the petitioner’s approaching the court on more than one occasion and even the Supreme Court. This omission resulted in the filing of the present writ petition too”.

Going into the background of the case, the Judges observed: “On perusal of the pleadings of the parties and the documents on record, it appears that the 1989 Industrial Policy was notified on March 30, 1989. In this policy, a provision for the grant of exemption from the payment of sales or purchase tax upto Rs 6 crore was specifically made. It was provided in the rules that the exemption shall be upto Rs 8 crore. This was obviously contrary to the policy as notified. It appears that the mistake was noticed. An amendment was made in the rules and was duly notified and published in the Government Gazette of November 17, 1989. It was categorically provided that the figure of Rs 8 crore shall be substituted with the figure of Rs 6 crore”.

Speaking for the Bench, Mr Justice Gupta observed: “It appears that there was a series of mistakes on the part of the departmental authorities. Despite the issuance of the notification dated November 17, 1989, nobody in the Department of Industries ever bothered to notice that the exemption limit had been fixed at Rs 6 crore. The provision in the rule, mentioning the exemption of Rs 8 crore, had been duly modified. In fact, neither in response to the petitioner’s writ petition, filed in 1997, nor at any subsequent stage did the respondents care to notice the correct factual position. Even when the Secretary in the Department of Industries was deciding the petitioner’s representation in pursuance of an earlier direction of this court, the notification dated November 17, 1989 was not noticed. On the contrary, a perusal of the order passed by the state of Punjab on May 5, 1998 clearly shows that the correct factual position was totally forgotten. Why? There is no explanation.”

The Bench concluded: “We feel it is necessary to call upon the officers of the Industries Department to explain their position. The replies shall be filed by January 7. The case shall be posted for consideration by the Bench on January 11.
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