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Provisional Attachment under GST: Bombay HC Clarifies Scope of Section 83 


In a judgment[1] pronounced on 30.06.2023, a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court interpreted the law on provisional attachment under GST. While the law on provisional attachment has been sufficiently elaborated by the Supreme Court in Radha Krishan case[2], High Courts have had to consistently interpret the relevant provisions to remind the Revenue of the limits of its powers of provisional attachment. In the impugned case, the Bombay High Court clarified an obvious point, i.e., the order of provisional attachment expires after one year as stated in Section 83(2), CGST Act, 2017. And a new order needs to be issued after one year to legally continue the provisional attachment. The High Court also clarified scope of the Revenue’s power of provisional attachment, i.e., persons whose property can be attached under Section 83.   

To begin with, the Revenue argued that the petitioner cannot file a writ petition against an order dismissing its objections against provisional attachment. The petitioner, in the impugned case, filed objections against provisional attachment but the same were disposed by an order under Rule 159(5), CGST Rules, 2017. Relying on Radha Krishan case, the Bombay High Court agreed with the petitioner that the order dismissing the petitioner’s objections was not an appealable order and the only remedy available to the petitioner was to invoke writ jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution. It therefore admitted the petition dismissing the Revenue’s objections against its maintainability. As regards the merits, there were two issues that the High Court elaborated on, which I discuss below.    

Issue I: Expiry after One Year 

Section 83(2), CGST Act, 2017 provides that an order of provisional attachment passed under Section 83(1) expires after a period of one year. In the impugned case, the order for provisional attachment was passed on 21.04.2022 and ceased to have effect on 21.04.2023. The Revenue issued a letter to the bank on 19.04.2022, with a copy marked to the petitioner informing them about the continuance of the provisional attachment effectuated on 21.04.2022. The Revenue contended that a copy of the order sheet reflected that a fresh order was passed on 21.04.2023, making the provisional attachment valid. The Bombay High Court’s dismissed the Revenue’s contention.

The Bombay High Court observed that the order sheet recorded the date of noting as 21.04.2022 and formed the basis of the first provisional attachment order. There was no fresh order passed by the Revenue on 19.04.2023, which was merely a letter by way of communication to the bank to continue provisional attachment of the bank account. The High Court observed that mere notings in the file cannot constitute a formal order and the latter is a requirement under the law.    

Since no fresh order was passed to provisionally attach the petitioner’s bank account, the Bombay High Court rightly held that there was no provisional attachment of the petitioner’s bank account after 21.04.2023, from any angle. The extension of provisional attachment via communication letter dated 19.04.2023, was quashed.  

Issue II: Attaching Bank Account of Any Other Person  

In a similar writ petition, which was decided alongside the previous petition, the petitioner objected to provisional attachment of their bank account on jurisdictional grounds. The petitioner argued that they were a resident of Chennai and their bank account was also in Chennai and the Maharashtra GST authorities did not have jurisdiction to order provisional attachment of their bank account. The Bombay High Court disagreed with the petitioner and correctly interpreted Section 83. Section 83(1), CGST Act, 2017 states as follows:

Where, after the initiation of any proceeding under Chapter XII, Chapter XIV or Chapter XV, the Commissioner is of the opinion that for the purpose of protecting the interest of the Government revenue it is necessary so to do, he may, by order in writing, attach provisionally, any property, including bank account, belonging to the taxable person or any person specified in sub-section (1-A) of section 122, in such manner as may be prescribed. (emphasis added)

Elaborating on the scope of Section 83(1), the Bombay High Court observed that it contemplated two persons: taxable and any person specified in Section 122(1-A). The High Court observed that Section 122(1-A) provides that any person who is the beneficiary of certain specified transactions shall be liable to penalty of sum equivalent to tax evaded or ITC availed or passed on. The High Court held that Maharashtra GST authorities can exercise their powers under Section 83(1) in respect of person who may not be within their territorial jurisdiction and stated two reasons: 

First, it would lead to a situation where a person who is beneficiary of a transaction involving tax evasion is in a different State other than the one where the transaction occurred, will not be examined by the latter State since he is not a resident there and will not be examined by the State where he is resident since the transaction did not happen in that State. It emphasised on the term ‘any person’ used in Section 122-A and held that the provision does not contemplate that the person should be in the State where the transaction occurred. 

Second, the Bombay High Court held that the ‘context of the legislation’ is vital too. The High Court held that Section 1(2), CGST Act, 2017 states that it shall be operational throughout the country and the Commissioner as defined under Section 2(24) should be understood in light of the said provision. The High Court held that the power of Commissioner under Section 83(1) extends to ‘any person’ and concluded that: 

There cannot be any other reading of the legislative scheme flowing through a conjoint reading of Section 83(2) read with Section 122(1-A) and Section 2(24) of the Act, moreover, a contrary reading of the said provisions would defeat the legislative intention. (para 6) 

Thus, the petitioner’s objection to provisional attachment on grounds of jurisdiction was rejected since the Bombay High Court correctly interpreted the scope of Section 83 read with Section 122(1-A) of CGST Act, 2017.  


While the Bombay High Court’s findings on Issue II were rendered moot because it quashed the communication letter dated 19.04.2023 and 21.04.2023, its observations provide an important insight into the Revenue’s territorial jurisdiction qua provisional attachment. The High Court was not incorrect in referring to GST as a nationwide levy operational throughout the country but the said fact on its own did not offer enough legal force to support an expansive jurisdiction of the Commissioner qua provisional attachment. Similarly, the reliance on legislative mandate and intent was not incorrect and but at the same time was key to provide support to the High Court’s observations about the expansive scope of Section 83. It will be interesting to observe, if the High Court’s observations have any observable effect on the Revenue’s approach towards provisional attachment; a power that the Revenue tends to interpret liberally and invoke more frequently than required.   

[1] Bharat Parihar v State of Maharashtra 2023 (6) TR 7547. 

[2] Radha Krishan Industries v State of Himachal Pradesh (2021) 6 SCC 771.