Appellate Authorities cannot condone delay beyond the limits specified in the statute

Madras High Court: This division bench of S. Manikumar and D. Krishnakumar, JJ held that there can be no order for condonation of delay beyond the extended period of limitation, stating that when the legislative intent is indicated by the provisions of special laws that exclude the provisions of the Limitation Act, then authorities under such statutes cannot exercise power to condone the delay. The Court dismissed the writ appeal filed by the Appellant under Section 85 of the Finance Act, 1994 against the refusal of condonation of a delay of 223 days in proceedings before the Commissioner of Service Tax (Appeals).

The Court noticed that Section 85 of the Finance Act) provides that appeal be filed 3 months from date of communication of order, while the Commissioner (Appeals) is empowered to condone delays of a further three months if satisfied of sufficient cause. The Court noted that Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 which permits the Court to exercise its discretion in condonation of delay, as also sections 4 to 24, were to apply insofar as they were not barred by local or special law. The Court held section 85 of the Finance Act as analogous to limitation restrictions per Section 128 of the Customs Act, 1962; Section 34(3) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996; Section 125 of the Electricity Act, 2003; Section 35-G of the Central Excise Act, 1944, constituting self-contained Acts and codes and that the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, cannot direct the appellate authority to condone the delay, beyond the extended period of limitation. Further, the Court, in consonance with the decision in Indian Coffee Worker’s Co-operative Society Ltd.  v. Commissioner of Commercial Taxes 2002 (I) CTC 406, stated that the power of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution did not extend to directing the Appellate Authority to consider appeal on merits, even if the High Court were to accept reasons given by the assessee for not filing appeal in the time prescribed under the Act as that would be an extension of limitation and the exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 did not extend to re-writing the provisions of the Act. [R. Gowrishankar v. Commissioner of Service Tax (Appeal)- I., 2016 SCC OnLine Mad 6023, decided on 13-06-2016]

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