The term ‘search’ involves an attempt to find something. Search in tax context, is an action of a government official to go and look through or examine carefully a place, person, object etc. in order to find something concealed or to discover evidence of a crime. The search can only be done under the proper and valid authority of law.
Under GST ACT, an officer carrying out a search has the power to search for and seize goods which are liable to confiscation and documents, books or things relevant for any proceedings under CGST/SGST Act from the premises searched. During search, the officer has the power to break open the door of the premises authorized to be searched if access to the same is denied. Further, he is also entitled to make copies thereof or take extract therefrom in the presence of an authorised officer at such place and time.
Further, it clarifies that the documents or books or things so seized can be retained by such officer only for so long as may be necessary for their examination and those which have not been relied upon for the issue of notice under this Act or the rules made thereunder, shall be returned to such person in within a period not exceeding 30 days of the issue of the said notice.
Keeping this in mind, a person from whom documents are seized has the right to take copies thereof immediately which can be only denied on showing reason that giving such copies will prejudicially affect investigation. No reason is required to be given by the assessee for the statutory right and its denial must be a reasonable action.
With reference to ruling of Bombay High Court - "High Ground Enterprises Limited v/s Union of India" - 2019, it has been quoted that - we are of the opinion that refusal by the respondent- authorities to give copies of the documents to the Petitioner which are seized is not justifiable and the Petitioner is entitled to the mandatory direction as prayed for and issued a mandamus to the respondent- authorities to furnish copies of the documents seized.