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Tata Teleservices Limited vs. CBDT (Delhi High Court)

COURT:
CORAM: ,
SECTION(S): , ,
GENRE:
CATCH WORDS: ,
COUNSEL:
DATE: May 11, 2016 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: May 19, 2016 (Date of publication)
AY: 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15
FILE: Click here to download the file in pdf format
CITATION:
S. 143(1D): Instruction No.1 of 2015 dated 13.01.2015 which curtails the discretion of the AO by 'preventing' him from processing the return and granting refund, where notice has been issued to the assessee u/s 143(2), is unsustainable in law and quashed

(i) Section 143 (1D) in the manner it is worded gives a discretion to the Assessing Officer (“AO”) to decide whether the return of income has to be processed where a notice has been issued under Section 143 (2) of the Act. It is significant that sub-section (1D) was inserted in Section 143 subsequent to the insertion of sub-section (1A) which provides for centralised processing of returns. Under the Scheme framed by the CBDT in 2011 in terms of Section 143(1A), there is a computerized random selection of returns which might be taken up for scrutiny. Thus the discretion regarding picking up a return for scrutiny is no longer left with the AO. Section 143(1D), however, continues the element of discretion in the AO when it states that the processing of return “shall not be necessary”. In other words, it does not expressly state that the return shall not be processed where a notice has been issued to the Assessee under Section 143(2) of the Act.

(ii) However, despite terming the language of Section 143(1D) to be “unambiguous” the CBDT felt that it required clarification. This led to the CBDT issuing the impugned Instruction dated 13th January 2015 under Section 119 of the Act. The said instruction inter alia states that some doubts have been expressed in view of the words “shall not be necessary” used in Section 143(1D) of the Act and that in the light of the explanatory note in the Finance Act, 2012 (which has been referred to hereinbefore) “the legislative intent is to prevent the issue of refund after processing as scrutiny proceedings may result in demand for taxes on finalisation of the assessment subsequently” (emphasis supplied).

(iii) The impugned Instruction interprets the language of Section 143(1D) as “preventing” the issue of refund once notice is issued under Section 143(2) of the Act. It is as a result of the above impugned instruction and with the notices having been issued to the Petitioner under Section 143(2) of the Act by the Respondent No.2 in relation to the returns filed by it for the AYs in question where it had claimed refund, that the Respondent No. 2 declined to issue the refund by the impugned communication dated 8th September 2015.

(iv) The real effect of the instruction is to curtail the discretion of the AO by ‘preventing’ him from processing the return, where notice has been issued to the Assessee under Section 143(2) of the Act. If the legislative intent was that the return would not be processed at all once a notice is issued under Section 143 (2) of the Act, then the legislature ought to have used express language and not the expression “shall not be necessary”. By the device of issuing an instruction in purported exercise of its power under Section 119 of the Act, the CBDT cannot proceed to interpret or instruct the income tax department to “prevent” the issue of refund. In the event that a notice is issued to the Assessee under Section 143 (2) of the Act, it will be a matter the discretion of the concerned AO whether he should process the return.

(v) Consequently, the Court is of the view that the impugned Instruction No.1 of 2015 dated 13th January 2015 issued by the CBDT is unsustainable in law and it is hereby quashed. It is directed that the said instruction shall not hereafter be relied upon to deny refunds to the Assessees in whose cases notices might have been issued under Section 143(2) of the Act. The question whether such return should be processed will have to be decided by the AO concerned exercising his discretion in terms of Section 143 (1D) of the Act.

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