Dear CBDT, Where is the application of mind before Passing Order U/s 148A(d)?

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Dear CBDT, Where is the application of mind before Passing Order U/s 148A(d)?

 

It is expected that the new law whenever introduced by the Government should be free from litigation and ambiguities. But, this is possible only if the law is implemented in its true spirit. The law needs to be implemented with the due application of mind and logic.

 

 

The proposal to introduce new section 148A by CBDT & its introduction thereafter is really appreciable. However, the undeniable fact is that the new law in the form of section 148A has become the provision of controversy and litigation in various cases and the writ petition are on the rise as the new law provides for more transparency as compared to the erstwhile old section 148.

 

There are numerous instances where it appears that the tax collectors are not implementing the law in its true spirit and intent. Unless and until the concept of accountability is inbuilt in the system the careless working of the officers would not show improvement.

 

Be it a new provision where it is “information to suggest” under amended law or “reason to believe” under erstwhile law, “escapement of income chargeable to tax” still remains the primary condition to be satisfied before invoking the provision of Section 147 of the Act.

 

Merely because the Revenue has some “information”, does it vest the absolute power to issue a notice of reassessment under Section 148A(b)  is the biggest question in every proceeding.

 

 

Delhi High court in the case of Divya Capital One Private Ltd vs ACIT, Circle 7(1), Delhi, vide its order Dated 12.05.2022 has quashed the show cause Notice issued under section 148A and Notice under section 148*

 

In this case the proposal was placed to reassess income to the tune of around Rs.10,07,05,88,04,543/- ONLY.

 

In this case before Delhi High Court, the information/material stated in the impugned show cause notice dated 17th March, 2022 issued under Section 148A(b) of the Act have not been shared with the Petitioner, despite specific request made by the Petitioner thereby denying the Petitioner an effective opportunity to file a response/reply.

Significance of issuance of a show cause notice at a stage prior to issuance of a reassessment notice under Section 148 of the Act has been lost on the Respondents. It was contended that the  non-sharing of the information is violative of the rationale behind the judgment of this Court in Sabh Infrastructure Ltd. vs. Asst. CIT, 398 ITR 198 (Del).

 

One may note that the Section 148A(c) by using the expression ‘shall’, to consider the reply of the Petitioner/assessee in response to notice under Section 148A(b) before making an order under Section 148A(d) of the Act has mandated an objective consideration of reply of the assessee.

 

 

Court also took a note of the fact that the notice that in a majority of reassessment cases post 1st April, 2021, the orders under Section 148A(d) of the Act use a template / general reason to reject the defense of the assessee on merits, namely,
“found devoid of any merit because the assessee company has failed to produce the relevant documents in respect of transactions mentioned in show cause notice……..it is established that the assessee has no proper explanation……”

 

Delhi High court observed that a progressive as well as futuristic scheme of re-assessment whose intent is laudatory has in its implementation not only been rendered nugatory but has also had an unintended opposite result.

 

 

Consequently, the impugned order dated 04th April, 2022 issued under Section 148A(d) of the Act and the notice dated 04th April, 2022 issued under Section 148 of the Act were quashed and the matter was remanded back to the Assessing Officer for a fresh determination.

 

 

The copy of the order by the Delhi High Court is as under:

 

 

IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI

 

+         W.P.(C) 7406/2022

 

DIVYA CAPITAL ONE PRIVATE LIMITED (EARLIER KNOWN AS DIVYA PORTFOLIO PRIVATE LIMITED)……………………………………. Petitioner

Through:      Mr.Ved Jain, Mr. Nischay Kantoor and Ms. Richa Mishra, Advocates.

 

 

versus

 

 

ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX CIRCLE 7(1)

DELH & ANR………………………………………………………….. Respondents

Through:      Mr.Sanjay Kumar with Mr.Easha Kadian , Advocates for Revenue.

 

%                                                                   Date of Decision: 12th May, 2022

 

CORAM:

HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE MANMOHAN

HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE DINESH KUMAR SHARMA

 

J U D G M E N T

 

MANMOHAN, J (Oral):

 

C.M.No.22640/2022

Exemption allowed, subject to all just exceptions. Accordingly, the application stands disposed of.

W.P.(C) No.7406/2022 & C.M.No.22639/2022

  1. PresentWrit Petition has been filed challenging the Notice dated 17th March, 2022 issued under Section 148A(b) of the
    Income Tax Act, 1961 (‘the Act’) as well as the Order dated 04th April, 2022 passed by the Assessing Officer under Section 148A(d) and the consequential impugned notice dated 04th April, 2022 issued under Section 148 of the Act.
  2. Learned counsel for the Petitioner contends that the impugned Orderdated 04th April, 2022 under Section 148A(d) has been passed without considering the replies dated 24th March and 31st March, 2022 filed by the Petitioner to the show cause notice. He states that the petitioner filed a preliminary response to the above said show cause notice whereby the petitioner objected to the legal validity of the notice under Section 148A(b) on the ground that there was no information that suggested that income had escaped assessment. The petitioner further requested respondent No.1 to provide the information/documents, relied upon for assuming jurisdiction, which suggest that income had escaped assessment and further requested a week’s time from date of sharing such information so that the petitioner could file a detailed para wise response. Although the information requested for was not shared with the petitioner, yet the petitioner filed a detailed para wise response dated 31st March, 2022 in respect of each of the transaction stated by the respondent in the show cause notice dated 17th March, 2022. The petitioner further submitted voluminous documentary evidences along with the said reply.
  3. Hefurther states that the impugned order is arbitrary, cryptic and without application of mind as a huge sum of Rs.10,07,05,88,04,543/- (Rupees One lakh seven hundred and five crores eighty-eight lakhs four thousand five hundred and forty-three only) is held to have escaped assessment without considering the return and business of the Petitioner. He states that there is no proper indication as to how income has escaped assessment. In this regard,
    he relies upon a tabular chart capturing para- wise reasons recorded and the remarks in respect thereof as under:-
Para no. of order u/s 148A(d) Remarks
Para 2
Under para 2, at page no. 1 to page There is no allegation/comment as
no.3 of the order, a table is provided to     what     is     wrong     with     such
which      captures      the      list      of transactions.   The Petitioner   is   a
transactions   entered   into   by    the member of National Stock Exchange
Petitioner    such    as    purchase    of (NSE) and Bombay Stock Exchange
shares,    sale    of    futures,   sale    of (BSE) and these transactions are
shares, purchase of mutual funds, routine transactions carried out in
sale of     options, etc. The total of the ordinary course of business of
such table is Rs.10,07,05,88,04,543 the petitioner considering the fact
that    the    Petitioner    is    carrying
business       of        share       brokers,
depository          participant          and
investment in securities and trade in
derivatives.
Further, all these transactions are
duly accounted for in the profit and
loss account and return filed by the
Petitioner.
Para 3
At para 3 page 3-4 of the order, a This information is culled out from
table is provided which captures GST       returns.      There       is       no
some     purchases     made     by     the allegation/comment as to what is
Petitioner       to       the       tune       of wrong with such transactions and
Rs.13,08,95,220. how        income        has        escaped
assessment.
In any case, these transactions are
carried out in the ordinary course of
business and duly accounted for in
the profit   and   loss   account   and
return filed by the Petitioner.
Para 4
At para 4, a table is provide which These details have been culled out
captures details of certain receipts / from    TDS    returns.    There    is    no
payments/ receipts to the tune of allegation/comment as to what is
Rs.20,95,64,704     on     account     of wrong with such transactions and
payments        to        contractors       / how        income        has        escaped
professionals,   payment   of    salary, assessment.
interest income other than interest In any case, these transactions are
on securities etc. carried out in the ordinary course of
business and duly accounted for in
the profit   and   loss   account   and
return filed by the Petitioner.
Para 5
At para 5, it has been stated that These details have been culled out
assessee has made payment of salary from    TDS    returns.    There    is    no
for Rs.1,05,17,362 to its employees. allegation/comment as to what is
A    table    under   para    5    captures wrong with such transactions and
details of such payments. how        income        has        escaped
assessment.
In any case, these transactions are
carried out in the ordinary course of
business and duly accounted for in
the profit   and   loss   account   and
return filed by the Petitioner.
Para 6
At para 6, it has been stated that Here, an allegation has been made
assessee      has       made       fictitious that Petitioner has made Fictitious
purchases   of    Rs.19,38,595/-    with purchases    with     M/s     Vagabound
M/s Vagabound Tradex Private AY Tradex Private No information, etc.
2018-19. has been given to indicate the basis
for         such         allegation.         The
observations are without any basis
whatsoever. It is vehemently denied
that no transaction was carried out
with the said entity.
  1. He contends that the Respondents erred in not appreciating the peculiarity of the business of trading in derivatives. He states that in the present case, out of Rs.10,07,05,88,04,543/- alleged to have escaped assessment,substantial amount of Rs.10,02,75,60,94,439 (around 99%) is stated to be on account of sale of equity share or equity oriented unit otherwise than by way of actual delivery (information code STT-03), sale of options (information code STT-04), sale of futures (information code STT-05). He states that this information is culled out by Respondent No. 1 from information furnished in Form 10DB by respective stock exchange. These transactions are subject to STT and are to be reported by Stock exchanges. However, this is not the actual turnover. To explain the same by way of example, he states that in cash segment trading, if one buys 100 shares for Rs. 100 per share (i.e. Rs. 10,000) and sell such
    shares for Rs. 102 per share (i.e. sale price 10,200), the bank is first debited by Rs. 10,000/- and then credited
    by 10,200/-. However, for the same transaction in the future segment, the credit is for Rs 200/- only (i.e. the
    net amount of gain); and if the sale was for Rs. 97 per share, then the debit would be for 300/- only (i.e the net
    loss). Thus, the total value is not relevant in these segments; only the net gain/loss is credited/debited and it is
    such net gain/loss which is accounted for as income in the profit and loss account and return. According to
    him, under Form 10DB, only sale from futures is to be reported whereas the purchases are not to be reported
    thus leading to the gap. Thus, he states that the impugned order has been passed without any application of
    mind whatsoever and without appreciating the nature of business of the Petitioner.
  2. He lastly states that the approval obtained in the present case is mechanical in nature as though the Assessing
    Officer had mentioned incorrect details in the impugned order, such as name of the directors and the exact
    amount of escaped income, yet the same had been granted by the higher authority.
  1. Issuenotice. Mr.Sanjay Kumar, learned standing counsel accepts notice on behalf of the Respondents/Revenue. He states that the Assessing Officer had considered the reply dated 24th March, 2022, while passing the impugned order, as the same was only filed by the Petitioner within the stipulated time period, as provided in the notice under Section 148A(b) of the Act. He states that the detailed reply dated 31st March, 2022 filed by the Petitioner was not considered by the Assessing Officer as the same had not been filed within the stipulated time of seven days.

COURT’S REASONING

NEW RE-ASSESSMENT SCHEME WAS INTRODUCED BY THE FINANCE ACT, 2021 WITH THE INTENT OF REDUCING LITIGATION AND TO PROMOTE EASE OF DOING BUSINESS.

 

  1. This Court is of the view that the new re-assessment scheme (videamended Sections 147 to 151 of the Act) was introduced by the Finance Act, 2021 with the intent of reducing litigation and to promote ease of doing business. In fact, the legislature brought in safeguards in the amended re-assessment scheme in accordance with the judgment of the Supreme Court in GKN Driveshafts (India) Ltd. v. ITO, (2003) 259 ITR 19 (SC) before any exercise of jurisdiction to initiate re-assessment proceedings under Section 148 of the Act.
  2. ThisCourt is further of the view that under the amended provisions, the term “information” in Explanation 1 to Section 148 cannot be lightly resorted to so as to re-open assessment. This information cannot be a ground to give unbridled powers to the Revenue. Whether it is “information to suggest” under amended law or “reason to believe” under erstwhile law the benchmark of “escapement of income chargeable to tax” still remains the primary condition to be satisfied before invoking powers under Section 147 of the Act. Merely because the Revenue-respondent classifies a fact already on record as “information” may vest it with the power to issue a notice of re-assessment under Section 148A(b) but would certainly not vest it with the power to issue a re-assessment notice under Section 148 post an order under Section 148A(d).

IMPUGNED NOTICE DATED 17th MARCH, 2022 AS WELL AS THE ORDER DATED 4th APRIL, 2022 ARE CRYPTIC.

  1. In the presentcase, this Court finds that the impugned notice dated 17th March, 2022 as well as the order dated 4th April, 2022 are cryptic as is evident from the fact that information culled out from Petitioner’s own return and records (namely Form10DB,GST return, Form 26AS) have been used to issue notice under Section 148A(b) of the Act without mentioning as to what is wrong in these transactions, what are the apprehensions of the Assessing Officer and what are the points on which clarification is required. It is not understood as to how expenditure incurred by the Petitioner on salaries, payment of professional fees and purchases can amount to income having escaped assessment without there being any allegation that the employees/professionals to whom salaries and fees had been paid are dummies or fictitious entities.
  2. Infact, perusal of para 9 of the impugned notice dated 17th March, 2022 suggests that reassessment in the present
    case was sought to be initiated merely for verification. This Court is of the view that even if the re-assessment
    was being done for verification in accordance with Explanation 1 to Section 148, nothing prevented the
    Assessing Officer from conducting an enquiry with respect to the said information in accordance with Section 148A(a) of the Act. In any event, it was all the more necessary in the present case for the Assessing Officer to thoroughly scrutinise the contentions and submissions advanced by the petitioner- assessee before passing an order under Section 148A(d) of the Act.

PETITIONER HAS BEEN DENIED AN EFFECTIVE OPPORTUNITY TO FILE A REPLY AS THE INFORMATION / MATERIAL STATED IN THE IMPUGNED SHOW CAUSE NOTICE HAD NOT BEEN SHARED WITH THE PETITIONER.

  1. ThisCourt further finds that the information/material stated in the impugned show cause notice dated 17th March, 2022 issued under Section 148A(b) of the Act have not been shared with the Petitioner, despite specific request made by the Petitioner vide letter dated 24th March, 2022, thereby denying the Petitioner an effective opportunity to file a response/reply. The non-sharing of the information is violative of the rationale behind the judgment of this Court in Sabh Infrastructure Ltd. vs. Asst. CIT, 398 ITR 198 (Del).

PETITIONER WAS NOT GIVEN REASONABLE TIME TO FILE A REPLY.

  1. This Court is also of the view that the petitioner-assessee has a right to get adequate time in accordance with the Act to submit its reply. In the present case, the impugned order under Section 148A(d) of the Act has been passed in great haste and in gross violation of principle of natural justice as the Petitioner was not given reasonable time to file a reply. In a matter where on the basis of Tax Deducted at Source/Goods and Services Tax/Service Tax/ Securities Transaction Tax returns updated by the stock exchange and other stock holders on the Income Tax Portal all the payments and receipts of an assessee have been clubbed together as income having escaped assessment totalling to Rs.10,07,05,88,04,543/- (Rupees One lakh seven hundred and five crores eighty-eight lakhs four thousand five hundred and forty-three only) as against petitioners’ revised and rectified income tax return for the assessment year 2018-19 declaring an income of Rs.3,76,71,690/- (Rupees Three Crores Seventy Six Lakhs Seventy One Thousand and Six Hundred Ninety only), this Court is of the view that the respondent-revenue should have granted extension of time to the Petitioner to file a detailed reply.
  2. It is pertinent to mention that Section 148A(b) permits the AssessingOfficer to suo moto provide up to thirty days period to an assessee to respond to the show cause notice issued under Section 148A(b), which period may in fact be further extended upon an application made by the Assessee in this behalf, and such period given to the assessee is excluded in computing the period of limitation for issuance of notice under Section 148 of the Act in terms of the third proviso to Section 149 of the Act.

     

THE MANDATE OF SECTION 148A(c) HAS BEEN VIOLATED AS THE IMPUGNED ORDER UNDER SECTION 148A(d) OF THE ACT HAD BEEN PASSED WITHOUT CONSIDERING THE DETAILED REPLY FILED BY THE PETITIONER DATED 31st MARCH, 2022.

  1. Inany event, as the impugned Order under Section 148A(d) of the Act had been passed on 04th April, 2022 i.e. after receipt of the detailed reply by the Petitioner dated 31st March, 2022, the Assessing Officer should have considered the same as it was available on record. By not considering the reply of the Petitioner dated 31st March, 2022, the mandate of Section 148A(c) has been violated as it casts a duty on the Assessing Officer, by using the expression ‘shall’, to consider the reply of the Petitioner/assessee in response to notice under Section 148A(b) before making an order under Section 148A(d) of the Act.
  2. In fact, this Court in Fena Pvt. Ltd. vs. ACIT Circle 7-1 & Anr. InW.P.(C) 6553/2022 had quashed the order passed under Section 148A(d) of the Act in similar circumstances i.e. where Assessing Officer
    had not taken into consideration the replies along with the documents/evidences filed by the assessee before
    passing the order under Section 148A(d).

SIGNIFICANCE OF ISSUANCE OF A SHOW CAUSE NOTICE AT A STAGE PRIOR TO ISSUANCE OF A REASSESSMENT NOTICE UNDER SECTION 148 OF THE ACT HAS BEEN LOST ON THE RESPONDENTS.

  1. This Court is of the opinion that significance of issuance of a showcause notice at a stage prior to issuance of a reassessment notice under Section 148 of the Act has been lost on the Respondents. This Court takes judicial notice that in a majority of reassessment cases post 1st April, 2021, the orders under Section 148A(d) of the Act use a template / general reason to reject the defence of the assessee on merits, namely, “found devoid of any merit because the assessee company has failed to produce the relevant documents in respect of transactions mentioned in show cause notice it

is established that the assessee has no proper explanation……” Consequently, this Court is of the opinion that a progressive as well as futuristic scheme of re-assessment whose intent is laudatory has in its implementation not only been rendered nugatory but has also had an unintended opposite result.

RELIEF

  1. Consequently, the impugned order dated 04thApril, 2022 issued under Section 148A(d) of the Act and the notice dated 04th April, 2022 issued under Section 148 of the Act are quashed and the matter is remanded back to the Assessing Officer for a fresh determination. The Assessing Officer is directed to pass a fresh reasoned order under Section 148A(d) of the Act after considering the Petitioner’s detailed reply dated 31st March, 2022 in accordance with law within eight weeks. In the event the Assessing Officer wants certain clarifications or would like the Petitioner’s response to any specific information received by the revenue, it shall be at liberty to give a supplementary notice.
  2. With the aforesaid directions, present writ petition along with pendingapplication stands disposed of. The learned counsel for the Respondent- revenue is directed to forward a copy of this order to the CBDT for necessary information and action.

MANMOHAN, J

 

 

 

DINESH KUMAR SHARMA, J

MAY 12, 2022/KA/AS

Divya Capital_watermark (2)

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