Refuses to grant anticipatory bail to 9 individuals accused of cheating
Attempts to misuse the Goods and Services Tax (GST) by unscrupulous elements, who create fake invoices to claim input tax credit from the government, should be nipped in the bud to ensure that it does not grow into another mega scam having a direct impact on the nation’s economy, the Madras High Court has said.
Justice N. Anand Venkatesh made the observation while refusing to grant anticipatory bail to Vimal Nayan, Pramod Sharma, Ankit Sharma, Natesh Kothari, Narendra Kumar Kothari, Sanjay Kumar Sharma, Vikrant Sharma, Nemichand Kothari and Sandeep Kothari in a case booked under Central Goods and Services Tax Act of 2017.
The case of the prosecution was that several companies, as well as individuals, had registered themselves with the Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) portal and begun the practice of issuing fake invoices without supplying goods. The receiver of such invoices claims input tax credit by cheating the public exchequer.
Claiming that the petitioners were part of one such transaction, Special Public Prosecutor for GST cases V. Venkateswaran told the court that what had been unearthed so far was only a tip of the iceberg whereas the offense was expected to unearth huge loss, running to several thousand crores, having been caused against the interest of the country’s economy.
Hence, the Principal Commissioner of Goods and Services Tax and Central Excise had decided to invoke the 2017 Act which provides for arresting the accused and imposing a maximum punishment of five years of imprisonment.
Since prima facie materials were available to suspect the involvement of the petitioners, the prosecution wanted to act fast against the perpetrators.
Observing that the department must be given complete freedom to investigate cases of the present nature because they involve national interest, Justice Venkatesh said: “This court by entertaining an anticipatory bail petition and by imposing certain conditions, should not tie the hands of the department in proceeding further.”
Though the petitioners’ contended that they need not be unnecessarily arrested in a case that rested entirely on written records, he said: “When the accused persons are charged with violation of CGST Act involving colossal loss of revenue and the investigation is at a very nascent stage, prudence demands that this court should keep its hands off.”
Source: The Hindu.