Bombay High Court allowed ByteDance to continue using their bank accounts in HSBC and Citibank after depositing the dues allegedly owned by the Goods and Services Tax authorities.
The bench of Justices SP Deshmukh and Abhay Ahuja granted relief to the Indian subsidiary of Chinese company, TikTok, after hearing its plea on de-freezing its bank account which has a sum total deposit of Rs. 60 crores.
GST authorities had previously passed a provisional attachment order to freeze company’s accounts on failure of the company to pay dues of Rs.78.91 crores. Following the ban of video app TikTok in India, ByteDance had reduced its workforce but even after that there are around 800 employees employed in overseas operations including work on activities (content moderation, etc).
ByteDance claimed that provisional order and ‘illegal’ freezing of bank accounts amounted to nothing but harassment.
Senior advocates, Rafiq Dada and Vikram Nankani, appeared for ByteDance and argued that it was a distressing situation for the company as it has to reimburse around 800 employees in form of their salaries and general and medical insurances.
Dada also contended that ByteDance is not a ‘fly-by-night’ company and its cooperation can be warranted as it has been cooperating since the beginning of the investigation.
Senior advocate Pradeep Jetley and advocate Jitendra Mishra, representing the GST authorities, argued against the legality of plea, contending that court’s interference was unnecessary at this stage as all the contentions raised by the company can be addressed in front of GST authorities as well.
Tax authorities also contended that ByteDance’s business is failing and there’s no scope of revival due to which freezing the bank accounts was merely precautionary. The Court directed ByteDance to deposit dues amounting to Rs. 78.91 crores in a fixed deposit
account in a nationalised bank in order to de-freeze their accounts.