The Supreme Court has paved the way for trial against the Reliance Industries Ltd in a three- decade old case relating to alleged evasion of excise duty. The apex court set aside the October 2015 order of the Gujarat High Court by which it had discharged the company saying that since one of the provisions of Central Excise Rules, 1944, was omitted in 1994 without prescribing any saving clause, the proceedings cannot continue. A bench comprising Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit said “the charge against the respondent (Reliance Industries Ltd) is of evasion of duty. The ingredient of the offence is the evasion”. “The omission of a procedural rule for availing the credit cannot in any manner affect the said charge.
The prosecution cannot be deprived of the opportunity to prove evasion which by itself is an offence.” The bench said that there was no justification for the high court to quash the charge merely on the ground that a rule have been omitted. The apex court, while setting aside the high court order, restored the order of the trial court which had in March 2013 framed charges against the company for alleged offences under provisions of the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944 read with provisions of Central Excise Rules.
A complaint was filed against the company on August 4, 1987, by the then Superintendent of Central Excise department in Ahmedabad alleging evasion of excise duty. Following the complaint, the trial court had summoned the company. Later, a provision of the Central Excise Rule was omitted by the government by a notification on May 20, 1994. Thereafter, the company sought discharge in the case but its application was rejected by the trial court which framed charges against it. The company had challenged the order before the high court which allowed its plea and set aside the trial court order.