Officers concerned for conducting search and seizure under Section 67 (2) of the CGST Act are empowered to record statements of family members through force or coercion or to record their conversations in their mobile phones. Strict action shall be taken against officers abusing power of authority.
Facts: In this case, the search and seizure operations under section 67(2) of the CGST Act were conducted by the GST officials on the residential premises of the petitioner. Section 67(2) gives the right to search and seize “goods liable to confiscation or any documents or books or things”. But in this case the officers from the department resided for 8 days at taxpayers’ premises and all the family members were questioned for such long period. This right is not given to the officers by any provision of the CGST Act. There is no provision in GST for such prolonged investigation. The act of officers has violated the Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It provides for the right to privacy.
Issue: Whether the acts carried out by the GST officials, conducting search and seizure under Section 67(2) are valid in law.
Held: The Hon’ble Gujarat High Court held that-
- It is not permissible for the authorised officer to use coercive measures against family members to find out the whereabouts of the taxable person.
- It is shocking to see that in a premise where there are three ladies, namely, the petitioner’s mother, wife and young daughter, male officers together with a CRPF officer have stayed throughout the day and night despite the fact that the goods, articles and things were already seized on 11.10.2019.
- The manner in which the premise officers have conducted themselves by overreaching the process of law and acting beyond powers vested in them under section 67(2) of the CGST Act, 2017needs to be deprecated in the strictest terms.
- A proper enquiry needs to be made in respect of the action of the respondent officers of staying day and night at the premises of the petitioner without any authority of law.