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Pr CIT vs. Best Infrastructure (India) Pvt Ltd (Delhi High Court)

COURT:
CORAM: ,
SECTION(S): , , ,
GENRE:
CATCH WORDS: , , , ,
COUNSEL: ,
DATE: August 1, 2017 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: August 12, 2017 (Date of publication)
AY: 2005-06 to 2009-10
FILE: Click here to download the file in pdf format
CITATION:
S. 68: Statements recorded u/s 132 (4) do not by themselves constitute incriminating material. A copy of the statement together with the opportunity to cross-examine the deponent has to provided to the assessee. If the statement is retracted and/or if cross-examination is not provided, the statement has to be discarded. The onus of ensuring the presence of the deponent cannot be shifted to the assessees. The onus is on the Revenue to ensure his presence

(i) In Principal Commissioner of Income Tax Central-2, New Delhi v. Meeta Gutgutia 2017 (295) CTR 466 (Del), this Court had considered the entire gamut of case law on the assumption of jurisdiction under Section 153A of the Act. In Principal Commissioner of Income Tax Central-2, New Delhi v. Meeta Gutgutia (supra) this Court had the occasion to extensively discuss the decision in Smt. Dayawanti Gupta v. CIT (supra) to point out why the said decision was distinguishable in its application to the facts of the former case. However, since the same arguments have been advanced by the Revenue in the present case, the said decision in Smt. Dayawanti Gupta v. CIT (supra) is being again discussed herein.

(ii) In Smt. Dayawanti Gupta v. CIT (supra) the Assessees were dealing in the business of pan masala, gutkha, etc. Firstly, the Assessees therein were, by their own admission not maintaining regular books of accounts. Secondly, they also admitted that the papers recovered during the search contained “details of various transactions include purchase/sales/manufacturing trading of Gutkha, Supari made in cash outside books of accounts” and they were “actually unaccounted transactions made” by two of the firms of the Assessees. Thirdly, the Court found as a matter of fact that the Assessees were “habitually concealing income” and that they were “indulging in clandestine operations” and that such persons “can hardly be expected to maintain meticulous books or records for long.” As pointed out by this Court in Principal Commissioner of Income Tax Central-2, New Delhi v. Meeta Gutgutia (supra) the decision in Smt. Dayawanti Gupta v. CIT (supra), therefore, turned on its own facts and did not dilute the law explained in Commissioner of Income Tax (Central-III) v. Kabul Chawla (2016) 380 ITR 573 (Del).

(iii) At this stage, it requires to be noticed that the decision of this Court in Commissioner of Income Tax (Central-III) v. Kabul Chawla (supra) took note inter alia of the decision of the Bombay High Court in Commissioner of Income Tax v. Continental Warehousing Corporation (Nhava Sheva) Ltd. [2015] 58 taxmann.com 78 (Bom), wherein it was held that if no incriminating material was found during the course of search, in respect of each issue, then no addition in respect of any such issue can be made to the assessment under Sections 153A and 153C of the Act. The decisions of this Court in CIT v. Anil Kumar Bhatia (supra) and CIT v. Chetan Das Lachman Das [2012] 254 CTR 392 (Del) were extensively discussed in Commissioner of Income Tax (Central-III) v. Kabul Chawla (supra). The Court in Commissioner of Income Tax (Central-III) v. Kabul Chawla (supra) had also discussed and concurred with the decision of the Rajasthan High Court in Jai Steel (India), Jodhpur v. ACIT (2013) 36 Taxman 523 (Raj) which had held that the assessment in respect of each of the six assessment years, preceding the year of search “is a separate and distinct assessment.” It was further held in the said decision that “If in relation to any assessment year, no incriminating material is found, no addition or disallowance can be made in relation to that assessment year in exercise of powers under section 153A of the Act and the earlier assessment shall have to be reiterated.”

(iv) In Commissioner of Income Tax (Central-III) v. Kabul Chawla (supra) the legal position was summarised thus:

On a conspectus of Section 153A (1) of the Act, read with the provisos thereto, and in the light of the law explained in the aforementioned decisions, the legal position that emerges is as under:

i. Once a search takes place under Section 132 of the Act, notice under Section 153 A (1) will have to be mandatorily issued to the person searched requiring him to file returns for six AYs immediately preceding the previous year relevant to the AY in which the search takes place.

ii. Assessments and reassessments pending on the date of the search shall abate. The total income for such AYs will have to be computed by the AOs as a fresh exercise.

iii. The AO will exercise normal assessment powers in respect of the six years previous to the relevant AY in which the search takes place. The AO has the power to assess and reassess the ‘total income’ of the. aforementioned six years in separate assessment orders for each of the six years. In other words there will be only one assessment order in respect of each of the six AYs “in which both the disclosed and the undisclosed income would be brought to tax”.

iv. Although Section 153 A does not say that additions should be strictly made on the basis of evidence found in the course of the search, or other post-search material or information available with the AO which can be related to the evidence found, it does not mean that the assessment “can be arbitrary or made without any relevance or nexus with the seized material. Obviously an assessment has to be made under this Section only on the basis of seized material.

v. In absence of any incriminating material, the completed assessment can be reiterated and the abated assessment or reassessment can be made. The word ‘assess’ in Section 153 A is relatable to abated proceedings (i.e. those pending on the date of search) and the word ‘reassess’ to completed assessment proceedings.

vi. Insofar as pending assessments are concerned, the jurisdiction to make the original assessment and the assessment under Section 153A merges into one. Only one assessment shall be made separately for each AY on the basis of the findings of the search and any other material existing or brought on the record of the AO.

vii. Completed assessments can be interfered with by the AO while making the assessment under Section 153 A only on the basis of some incriminating material unearthed during the course of search or requisition of documents or undisclosed income or property discovered in the course of search which were not produced or not already disclosed or made known in the course of original assessment.

(v) As noted in Principal Commissioner of Income Tax Central-2, New Delhi v. Meeta Gutgutia (supra), several other High Courts have also come to a similar conclusion either by following Commissioner of Income Tax (Central-III) v. Kabul Chawla (supra) or otherwise. This includes the decisions of the Gujarat High Court in Principal Commissioner of Income Tax v. Saumya Construction Pvt. Ltd. (2016) 387 ITR 529 (Guj); Principal Commissioner of Income Tax-1 v. Devangi alias Rupa 2017-TIOL-319-HC-AHM-IT; the Karnataka High Court in CIT v. IBC Knowledge Park Pvt. Ltd. (2016) 385 ITR 346 (Kar); the Kolkata High Court in Pr. CIT-2 v. Salasar Stock Broking Ltd. 2016-TIOL-2099-HC-KOL-IT and the Bombay High Court in CIT v. Gurinder Singh Bawa (2016) 386 ITR 483 (Bom). In Principal Commissioner of Income Tax Central-2, New Delhi v. Meeta Gutgutia (supra) the entire gamut of the case law had been analysed and the legal position was reiterated that unless there is incriminating material qua each of the AYs in which additions are sought to be made, pursuant to search and seizure operation, the assumption of jurisdiction under Section 153A of the Act would be vitiated in law. This is one more occasion for the Court to reiterate that legal position.

(vi) Turning to the facts of the present case, it requires to be noted that the statements of Mr. Anu Aggarwal, portions of which have been extracted hereinbefore, make it plain that the surrender of the sum of Rs. 8 crores was only for the AY in question and not for each of the six AYs preceding the year of search. Secondly, when Mr. Anu Aggarwal was confronted with A-1, A-4 and A-11 he explained that these documents did not pertain to any undisclosed income and had, in fact been accounted for. Even these, therefore, could not be said to be incriminating material qua each of the preceding AYs.

(vii) Fourthly, a copy of the statement of Mr. Tarun Goyal, recorded under Section 132 (4) of the Act, was not provided to the Assessees. Mr. Tarun Goyal was also not offered for the cross-examination. The remand report of the AO before the CIT(A) unmistakably showed that the attempts by the AO, in ensuring the presence of Mr. Tarun Goyal for cross-examination by the Assessees, did not succeed. The onus of ensuring the presence of Mr. Tarun Goyal, whom the Assessees clearly stated that they did not know, could not have been shifted to the Assessees. The onus was on the Revenue to ensure his presence. Apart from the fact that Mr. Tarun Goyal has retracted his statement, the fact that he was not produced for cross-examination is sufficient to discard his statement.

(viii) Fifthly, statements recorded under Section 132 (4) of the Act of the Act do not by themselves constitute incriminating material as has been explained by this Court in Commissioner of Income Tax v. Harjeev Aggarwal (supra). Lastly, as already pointed out hereinbefore, the facts in the present case are different from the facts in Smt. Dayawanti Gupta v. CIT (supra) where the admission by the Assessees themselves on critical aspects, of failure to maintain accounts and admission that the seized documents reflected transactions of unaccounted sales and purchases, is non-existent in the present case. In the said case, there was a factual finding to the effect that the Assessees were habitual offenders, indulging in clandestine operations whereas there is nothing in the present case, whatsoever, to suggest that any statement made by Mr. Anu Aggarwal or Mr. Harjeet Singh contained any such admission.

(ix) For all the aforementioned reasons, the Court is of the view that the ITAT was fully justified in concluding that the assumption of jurisdiction under Section 153A of the Act qua the Assessees herein was not justified in law.

Posted in All Judgements, High Court

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