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AKS Ventures Pvt. Ltd., Ranchi, through its Director, Shravan Kumar v/s Employees Provident Fund Organization through the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner, Ranchi & Others

    W.P.(C) No. 1130 of 2022
    Decided On, 15 March 2022
    At, High Court of Jharkhand
    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE RAJESH SHANKAR
    For the Petitioner: Sumeet Gadodia, Advocate. For the Respondents: P.S.A.S. Pati, Rohit Ranjan Sinha, Advocates.


Judgment Text
1. Learned Counsel for the Petitioner submits that he has already served two copies of the present Writ Petition to learned Counsel for the Respondent No.3.

2. In view of the said submission, the Defect No.1 pointed out by the office is ignored.

3. The present Writ Petition has been filed for quashing the Order, dated 3.3.2022 (Annexure-8 to the Writ Petition) passed by the Respondent No.2 whereby the Bank account of the Petitioner maintained with the Respondent No.3 has been illegally and arbitrarily attached in pursuance of an Order, dated 14.1.2022 passed under Section 7-A of the Employees' Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 [hereinafter referred to as 'the Act, 1952'] for recovery of the alleged amount of Rs. 3,16,61,669 due against the Petitioner as EPF & Allied dues for the period from 4/2015 to 12/2017, despite the fact that the Petitioner had already preferred Appeal within the statutory period along with an application for waiver of pre-deposit and stay. The Petitioner has also sought declaration that the action of the Respondent No.2 in attaching the Bank account of the Petitioner vide Order, dated 3.3.2022 is wholly illegal and arbitrary as well as contrary to the letter and spirit of the provisions of the Act, 1952 and amounts to frustrating the statutory remedy of Appeal to the Petitioner, especially because the Order of Attachment has been passed prior to expiry of the statutory period of preferring Appeal under Section 7-I of the Act, 1952 read with Rule 7 of the Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 1997 [hereinafter referred to as 'the Rules, 1997'].

4. Mr. Sumeet Gadodia, learned Counsel for the Petitioner, submits that the main reason for preferring the present Writ Petition is that an Order of Assessment under Section 7-A of the Act, 1952 was passed by the Respondent No.2 on 14.1.2022 assessing an amount of Rs. 3,16,61,669 payable as EPF & Allied dues for the period from 04/2015 to 12/2017, a copy of which was received by the Petitioner on 21.1.2022. Thereafter, the Petitioner preferred an Appeal before the Central Government Industrial Tribunal (CGIT) No. 2, Dhanbad under Section 7-I of the Act, 1952 on 4.3.2022. In the meantime, the impugned Order of Attachment was passed under Section 8-F of the Act, 1952 on 3.3.2022 attaching the Bank account of the petitioner maintained with the Respondent-Bank before lapse of the statutory period of 60 days for preferring an Appeal against the Order passed under Section 7-A of the Act, 1952.

5. It is further submitted that under Section 7-O of the Act, 1952, there is requirement of statutory deposit of 75% of the due amount at the time of entertaining the Appeal. The Petitioner in addition to filing an application for staying the Order, dated 14.1.2022 passed under Section 7-A of the Act, 1952 by the Respondent No.2, has also filed an application in the said appeal seeking waiver of the statutory amount in terms with Proviso to Section 7-O of the Act, 1952 read with Proviso to Rule 7(3) of the Rules, 1997.

6. Learned Counsel for the Petitioner while producing a copy of the Notice, dated 11.3.2022 issued by the Registrar of Central Government Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court No.2, Dhanbad in IT. No. 2/13/2022/1540 (which according to learned Counsel for the Petitioner, is the number of the pending Appeal), submits that the said Appeal preferred by the Petitioner will be listed before the Registrar on 25.3.2022 at 11.30 A.M. Thereafter, the case will be placed before the Presiding Officer of the CGIT-2, Dhanbad.

7. It is further submitted that the action of the Respondent No.2 in issuing the impugned Order, dated 3.3.2022 under Section 8-F of the Act, 1952 attaching the Bank account of the Petitioner is highly arbitrary as by the said action, the Petitioner has been prevented from taking appropriate statutory recourse within the period of limitation and even before that, the amount assessed under Section 7-A of the Act, 1952 has been sought to be realised. Hence, the impugned Order, dated 3.3.2022 passed by the Respondent No.2 under Section 8-F of the Act, 1952 should be kept in abeyance till disposal of the applications preferred by the petitioner before the CGIT-2, Dhanbad in pending Appeal for stay and waiver/reduction of pre-deposit of 75% of the due amount in view of Proviso to Section 7-O of the Act, 1952 read with Proviso to Rule 7(3) of the Rules, 1997.

8. Learned Counsel for the Petitioner while making his submission, puts reliance on an Order, dated 9.3.2022 passed by this Court in W.P.(C) No.973 of 2022 and submits that in the said case, the concerned authority of the EPFO was directed to take up the Review Petition, which was preferred by the said Petitioner within the prescribed period of limitation i.e. 45 days and to dispose of the same in accordance with law. It was further directed that till disposal of the Review Petition, the Order of Attachment issued against the said Petitioner would be kept in abeyance.

9. Per contra, Mr. P.S.A.S. Pati, learned Counsel for the Respondent-EPFO, submits that there is no such statutory bar in issuing the order under Section 8-F of the Act, 1952 for attaching the Bank account of the assessee for realisation of the assessed amount. In the present case, the order under Section 8-F of the Act, 1952 was issued by the Respondent No.3 on 3.3.2022 and till then the Petitioner had not preferred an Appeal before the CGIT-2, Dhanbad, rather the said Appeal was preferred by the Petitioner on the next date i.e. on 4.3.2022. It is also submitted that as per Section 7-O of the Act, 1952, no Appeal filed by an Employer shall be entertained by a Tribunal, unless he deposits 75% of the amount due from him as determined by an authorized Officer under Section 7-A of the Act, 1952, provided that the Tribunal may, for reasons to be recorded in writing, waive or reduce the amount to be deposited under this Section. Though the Petitioner claims to have filed an application for waiver of the statutory pre-deposit of 75% of the assessed amount before the CGIT-2, Dhanbad, however till date no appropriate order has been passed on the same. Thus, it cannot be presumed that the Petitioner is not required to make pre-deposit while preferring the Appeal. Under the said circumstances, the Petitioner must ensure that at least the amount of pre-requisite i.e. 75% of the assessed amount, is maintained in his Bank account.

10. Mr. Rohit Ranjan Sinha, learned Counsel for the Respondent-Bank, on instruction, submits that the Petitioner has a current account with the said bank in which an amount of Rs. 1,000,65 only is presently available.

11. On this, learned Counsel for the Petitioner submits that the said account is the only bank account of the Petitioner being used for its different business transactions. Though at present relatively lesser amount is available in the said Bank account of the Petitioner, however, much more amount will be available in the same as it has subsisting Contracts with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. and South Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited and various payments are due in his favour arising out of the said Contracts and other business transactions, which will be transferred to the said Bank account only.

12. Heard learned Counsel for the parties on the limited prayer of the Petitioner made in the present Writ Petition. The Petitioner has filed an Appeal under Section 7-I of the Act, 1952 against the Order of Assessment passed under Section 7-A of the said Act before the CGIT-2, Dhanbad along with an application for wavier/reduction of pre-deposit and stay, which are yet to be taken up for consideration. The main grievance of the Petitioner is that the Respondent No.2 without waiting for expiry of the statutory period of 60 days to prefer an Appeal, has issued the impugned Order of Attachment, dated 3.3.2022 under Section 8-F of the Act, 1952. Learned Counsel for the Respondent-Bank, on instruction, has submitted that at present the current account maintained by the Petitioner with the said Bank has the balance of Rs. 1,000,65 only whereas the learned Counsel for the Petitioner has submitted that the Petitioner is having subsisting contracts with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. and South Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited and various payments arising out of the said Contracts and other business transactions will be trans

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ferred only in the said Bank account. 13. Considering the said facts and circumstances of the case, the present Writ Petition is disposed of in following terms: (i) If any amount is transferred to the Bank account maintained by the Petitioner in the Respondent-Bank, it shall at least maintain the balance of 75% of the assessed amount of Rs. 3,16,61,669 i.e. Rs. 2,37,46,252. (ii) On maintaining the said balance in the Bank account, the Petitioner shall be permitted to operate the same, (iii) This arrangement shall however be subject to the outcome of the application preferred by the Petitioner in the pending Appeal before the CGIT-2, Dhanbad for waiver of pre-deposit of 75% of the assessed amount and for staying the operation of the Order, dated 14.1.2022 passed by the Respondent No.2 under Section 7-A of the Act, 1952. 14. Consequently, I.A. No.2119 of 2022 also stands disposed of.
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