CCE vs. Doaba Steel Rolling Mills (Supreme Court)
A Central Excise appeal was allowed in favour of the assessee by the High Court inter alia on the ground that the department had not challenged similar orders passed by the Tribunal in cases of other assessees. On appeal by the department, HELD reversing the High Court (on merits as well):
As regards the argument of learned counsel for the respondents that having not assailed the correctness of some of the orders passed by the Tribunal and a decision of the High Court of Karnataka, the revenue cannot be permitted to adopt the policy of pick and choose and challenge the orders passed in the cases before us, it would suffice to observe that such a proposition cannot be accepted as an absolute principle of law, although we find some substance in the stated grievance of the assessees before us, because such situations tend to give rise to allegations of malafides etc. Having said so, we are unable to hold that merely because in some cases revenue has not questioned the correctness of an order on the same issue, it would operate as a bar for the revenue to challenge the order in another case. There can be host of factors, like the amount of revenue involved, divergent views of the Tribunals/High Courts on the issue, public interest etc. which may be a just cause, impelling the revenue to prefer an appeal on the same view point of the Tribunal which had been accepted in the past. We, may however, hasten to add that it is high time when the Central Board of Direct and Indirect Taxes comes out with a uniform policy, laying down strict parameters for the guidance of the field staff for deciding whether or not an appeal in a particular case is to be filed. We are constrained to observe that the existing guidelines are followed more in breach, resulting in avoidable allegations of malafides etc on the part of the officers concerned.