An appeal wrongly filed before the AO and not CIT(A) is an unintentional lapse of the assessee and delay need to be condoned.

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An appeal wrongly filed before the AO and not CIT(A) is an unintentional lapse of the assessee and delay need to be condoned.

The AO ought to have returned the appeal to enable the assessee to take corrective steps. The likelihood of error is inherent in human nature The power of condonation is in view of human fallibility and must be exercised in cases of bona fide lapses

Key observation by Bombay High Court in the case of  Prashanth Projects Ltd vs. DCIT case was as under:

(i) It is an undisputed position that the appeal from order dated 31st December, 2007 of the Assessing Officer was prepared and filed in the prescribed Proforma viz. Form No.35. It was addressed to CIT(A). However, by mistake the same was tendered to the office of the Assessing Officer and the office of the Assessing Officer also accepted the same. In fact, as the appeal pertained to the CIT(A) and not its office, the Assessing Officer ought to have immediately returned the appeal which was filed in the office of the Assessing Officer. This would have enabled the appellant to take appropriate steps and file the appeal with the office of the CIT(A). It is not the case of the Revenue that the appeal addressed to the CIT(A) was not filed with the Office of the Assessing Officer on 8th February, 2008 i.e. within the period of limitation. In case, the Assessing Officer had returned the appeal immediately to the appellant or had forwarded it to the office of the CIT(A) as would be expected of the State no delay would have taken place. This would have resulted in the appeal being considered on merits. Further, from the application made for stay on 19th August, 2008 as well as from the order dated 12th November, 2008 passed thereon, it is very clear that the appellant as well as the department bonafide proceeded on the basis that its appeal before the CIT(A) is pending. The lapse on the part of the assessee was unintentional. Further, the analogy made in the impugned order with nature is inappropriate. Human interaction is influenced by human nature. Inherent in human nature is the likelihood of error. Therefore, the adage “to err is human”. Thus, the power to condone delay while applying the law of limitation. This power of condonation is only in view of human fallibility. The laws of nature are not subject to human error, thus beyond human correction. In fact, the Apex Court in State of Madhya Pradesh Vs. Pradip Kumar 2000(7) SCC 372 has observed to the effect that although the law assists the vigilant, an unintentional lapse on the part of the litigant would not normally close the doors of adjudication so as to be permanently closed, as it is human to err. In this case, we have found that it is an unintentional lapse on the part of the appellant. We are, therefore, of the view that the impugned order is not sustainable and the question as framed is answered in favour of the appellant assessee.

(ii) However, the appellant should have taken care to ensure that the appeal is correctly filed with the office of the CIT(A). Although, we are satisfied that there was a mistake / error on the part of appellant in filing it with the wrong office, the appellant has not been able to explain the delay between 23rd March, 2010 to 12th May, 2011 i.e. the period when it addressed a communication to the CIT(A) for hearing of its appeal till the date it requested the Assessing Officer to transfer the appeal to CIT(A). The explanation stated across the bar is that it was pursuing its appeal but no particulars are given. Therefore, although we set aside orders dated 4th September, 2013 of the Tribunal and 4th August, 2011 of the CIT(A) and restore the appeal to the file of the CIT(A) for fresh disposal in accordance with law, it is subject to the appellant paying all tax dues payable for the subject Assessment Year, if not already paid and additionally on payment of costs of Rs.10,000/by a pay order drawn in the name of “The Principal Commissioner of Income Tax15, Mumbai” within a period of four weeks from today.

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