Access and Seizure of goods, books, records and computers
(1) For the purpose of enforcing compliance of the provisions of the Act, any officer not below the rank of Deputy Commercial Tax Officer shall have the power of entry, inspection, search and seizure and confiscation and he:-
(a) shall have, full and free access to any premises, place, goods, books, record, computer or any electronically stored data at any time during business hours prescribed under the relevant law for the time being in force and where no such hours are prescribed at all reasonable times without any prior notice to any dealer;
(b) may make an extract or copy from any book, record or computer-stored information to which access is obtained under clause (a);
(c) may seize and confiscate any goods not accounted for and seize any books or records that, in his opinion, affords evidence that may be material in determining the liability of any VAT dealer or TOT dealer or any other dealer under the Act;
(d) may retain any such book or record for a period of one month for determining the tax liability of a dealer or for any proceedings under the Act :
Provided that where such books or records are needed for more than one month, the permission of the next higher authority shall be obtained for each additional month;
(e) may seize and retain the computer for a period of one month where a hard copy or computer disk of information stored in a computer is not furnished, to get the information required:
Provided that such computer is needed for more than one month, the permission of the next higher authority shall be obtained for each additional month; and
(f) shall have power to enter and search any office, shop, godown, vessel, receptacle or vehicle or any other place of a carrier or bailee where goods are delivered to such carrier or bailee for transmission.
(2) For the purposes of sub-section (1), any such officer shall have power to enter and search at any time during the business hours prescribed under the relevant law for the time being in force, or where no such hours are prescribed, at all reasonable times, any office, shop, godown, vessel, vehicle or any other place of business or any building or place where such officer has reason to believe that the dealer keeps or is, for the time being, keeping any goods, accounts, registers or other documents of his business:
Provided that no residential accommodation not being a shop-cum-residence shall be entered into and searched by any officer below the rank of Deputy Commercial Tax Officer except on the authority of an order issued by any officer not below the rank of a Deputy Commissioner having jurisdiction over the area or an officer not below the rank of Deputy Commissioner working in Vigilance and Enforcement Department having jurisdiction over the entire State of Andhra Pradesh and all searches under this sub-section shall so far as may be, made in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 subject to the rules if any, made in this behalf.
(3) The power conferred by sub-section (2) shall include the power to break open any box or receptacle in which any goods, accounts, registers or other documents of the dealer may be contained, or to break open the door of any premises, where any such goods, accounts, registers or other documents may be kept:
Provided that the power to break open the door shall be exercised only after the owner or any other person in occupation of the premises, if he is present therein, fails or refuses to open the door on being called upon to do so.
(4) The power conferred by sub-section (2) shall also include the power to:-
(a) seal for a period of not exceeding twenty-four hours, any box, receptacle, godown or building where any goods, accounts, registers or other documents of the dealer are, or reasonably believed to be kept, if the owner or any other person in occupation, leaves the premises or refuses to open any box, receptacle, godown or building or is not readily available;
(b) search any person, other than customer or a visitor, who has got out of or is about to get into, or is in, any building, vessel or vehicle, if the officer has reason to suspect that such person has secreted about any goods, accounts, registers or other documents.
(5) Any such officer shall have power to seize and confiscate any goods which are found in any office, shop, godown, vehicle, vessel or any other place of business or any building or place of the dealer, but not accounted for by the dealer in his accounts, registers and other documents maintained in the course of his business:
Provided that before taking action for the confiscation of goods under this sub-section, the officer shall give the person affected an opportunity of being heard and make an inquiry in the prescribed manner.
(6) The owner, manager, or any other VAT dealer or TOT dealer shall provide all reasonable facilities and assistance for the effective exercise of the powers under this Section by such officer.
(7) A VAT dealer or TOT dealer whose books, records, or computer have been removed and retained under sub-section (1) may examine them and make copies or extracts from them during regular office hours under such supervision as the Commissioner or inspecting authority as may be determined.