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Rallis India vs. ACIT (Bombay High Court)

DATE: (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: March 15, 2010 (Date of publication)

Click here to download the judgement (rallis_s_147_reopening_retro_amendment.pdf)

Validity of s. 147 reopening has to be determined on the basis of law prevailing on date of issue of s. 148 notice and not on retrospectively amended law

In respect of AY 2004-05, the assessee computed its book profits u/s 115JB by claiming a deduction for provision for doubtful debts and advances and the same was allowed vide order u/s 143 (3). On 18.7.2008 (within 4 years), the AO issued a notice u/s 148 inter alia on the ground that the provision for doubtful debts had to be added back to the book profits. The assessee filed a writ petition to challenge the reopening. HELD allowing the Petition:

(i) U/s 115JB as it stood at the relevant time, the AO was authorized by cl (c) of Expl (1) to s. 115JB to add back “amounts set aside to provisions made for meeting liabilities, other than ascertained liabilities”. In HCL Comnet Systems 305 ITR 409 the Supreme Court held that a provision for doubtful debts was a provision for diminution in the value of the assets and did not fall under the said provision. To supercede this judgement, cl (i) was inserted in the Expl to s. 115JB by the FA 2009 w.r.e.f 1.4.2001 to provide that even amounts set aside as provision for diminution in the value of an asset had to be added to the book profits.

(ii) The retrospective amendment was of no avail because it was enacted after the issue of the s. 148 notice. In Max India 295 ITR 282, the SC held in the context of s. 263 that the validity of the revision order had to be determined on the basis of the law on the date the order was passed. This principle is applicable to s. 147 as well and the validity of the reopening has to be determined on the basis of the law as it stands on the date of issue of the s. 148 notice. As the retrospective amendment to s. 115JB was not and could not have formed the basis for reopening the assessment, the same could not be relied upon to justify the reopening. The validity of the s. 148 notice must be determined with reference to the recorded reasons and the same cannot be allowed to be supplemented on a basis which was not present to the mind of the AO and could not have been so present on the date on which the power to reopen the assessment was exercised. Consequently, the reopening was without jurisdiction.

Note: For the latest on the law of s. 147 reopening see the Digest of Important Case Laws