Social media posts on the organising of weddings and other events helped GST officials assess and impose levy. Now, Andhra Pradesh High Court has relied on these posts to dismiss a petition against the assessment.

A division bench of Andhra Pradesh High Court comprising Justices C Praveen Kumar and T Rajasekhar Rao said: “Prima facie it cannot be said that the petitioner has not conducted any event during the relevant period.” It said it did not want to go into the facts and, accordingly, “the writ petition is dismissed”, allowing the petitioner to approach the appellate authority for remedy.

The petitioner, Sri Vasavi Wedding and Event Planners, moved court after receiving an assessment order in March this year for the tax period between September 2017 and March 2021. The petitioner was asked to pay GST of over ₹71 lakh. It was mentioned that the petitioner filed GSTR 3B returns from July 2017 to January 2020, disclosing the taxable turnover and taxes paid. The petitioner got the GST registration cancelled with effect from August 1, 2020.

The petitioner submitted that as her husband was undergoing treatment for paralytic stroke, the firm could not conduct event managements, except for small events, up to January 2020. Even in August, there was no business due to the illness, leading to cancellation of GST registration. Further, due to Covid-19, from March 2020 to August 2021 there was no permission to conduct functions with a large gathering.

After visiting the premises of the petitioner and recording a statement, GST officials issued a show cause notice in January this year, proposing levy of over ₹71 lakh for organising major events. The husband of the petitioner then obtained copies of the Facebook documents available with the tax department and sought time to reply. He stated that they had not conducted any of the events that appeared in the documents available on Facebook, and that these had been uploaded only for advertisement. Meanwhile, the husband fell ill again and could not submit the reply.

However, the lawyer for the tax department said that information gathered from the personal window of the petitioner clearly showed they had conducted many events. He also urged that many of the factual aspects involved in the case had to be adjudicated by the GST Tribunal and not the court.

Now the court had to consider whether the petitioner was entitled to the relief claimed? After going through the facts and arguments, the bench said that the petitioner had been given time to respond but had not done so. So, it cannot be said that there was any violation of the principles of natural justice, the bench added. Also, it took note of 17 posts on the social media platform related to various events organised between October 8, 2017, and March 25, and dismissed the petition.