Administrative authority cannot be issued mandamus to exercise discretionary power vested in it by the Statute

Supreme Court: In the appeal against the order of the High Court where it refused to issue mandamus to the Central Government directing the Central Government to issue a notification under Section 11C of the Central Excise Act, 1944 to the effect that duty payable by the appellant on goods manufactured by it shall not be paid, the Court said that where the statute vests a discretionary power in an administrative authority, the Court would not interfere with the exercise of such discretion unless it is made with oblique end or extraneous purposes or upon extraneous considerations, or arbitrarily, without applying its mind to the relevant considerations, or where it is not guided by any norms which are relevant to the object to be achieved.

The appellants had contended that excise duty on the goods manufactured by the appellant i.e. Rosin/Turpentine, is, otherwise, payable in law, however, insofar as the history of payment of excise on these goods is concerned, record shows that vide notification No. 179/77-CE dated 18.06.1977, the Central Government had exempted all goods, falling under Item No.68 of erstwhile First Schedule to the Central Government Excise and Salt Act, 1944 in or relation to the manufacturing of such goods where no process is ordinarily carried on with the aid of power, from the whole of the duty of excise leviable thereon. Hence, recovering excise duty from the appellants violates their rights under Article 14 or Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.

Rejecting the said contention, the Court held that it would neither be a case of discrimination nor it can be said that the appellants have any right under Article 14 or Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution which has been violated by non-issuance of notification under Section 11C of the Act. Once the appellant accepts that in law it was liable to pay the duty, even if some of the units have been able to escape payment of duty for certain reasons, the appellant cannot say that no duty should be recovered from it by invoking Article 14 of the Constitution. It is well established that the equality clause enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution is a positive concept and cannot be applied in the negative.

The Bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, said that when ‘power’ is given to the Central Government to issue a notification to the effect not to recover duty of excise or recover lesser duty than what is normally payable under the Act, for deciding whether to issue such a Notification or not, there may be various considerations in the mind of the Government. Merely because conditions laid in the said provisions are satisfied, would not be a reason to necessarily issue such a notification. It is purely a policy matter. [Mangalam Organics Ltd. v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 461, decided on 24.04.2017]

 

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