(Majority view) Special Bench has no jurisdiction to consider whether an ex-Member of the ITAT can practice before it. (Dissenting view) Special Bench is duty bound to answer the question. On merits, Ex-Member cannot be disbarred from practice before it
Per Mukul Shrawat, JM (for himself & G. C. Gupta, VP): There is a cardinal Rule that nemo debet esse judex in propria causa (no one should be a judge in his own cause). Though in Concept Creations 120 ITD 19 (SB) (Del) it was held that the Special Bench was competent to go into the said question, the position has now been altered in view of the (interim) order of the Allahabad High Court in Dinesh Chandra Agarwal vs. UOI where it was held that the judgment rendered in the case of Concept Creations “was beyond its pale of tax appeals as contained in the Income Tax Act, vide sections 253 and 254 thereof”. Hence the view taken by the Special Bench in Concept Creations about the competence of the Tribunal to hear service related issues now stands reversed. Once an authority higher than the Tribunal has expressed an opinion on some issue, then the Tribunal is no longer at liberty to rely upon its earlier decision, may be a decision of the Special Bench. The Tribunal being a subordinate Court, is expected to follow in letter and spirit an order of the High Court unless reversed by the Apex Court or by an order of the Jurisdictional High Court taking a contradictory view. Hence, the decision of the Special Bench in Concept Creation is no more good law and the present legal position is that the Tribunal has no inherent jurisdiction to decide the question as to whether an ex-Member of the Tribunal can appear and practice before the Income Tax Tribunal Benches. The question referred to us is alieni juris hence forbidden to adjudicate.
Important guidelines laid down regarding procedure for promotion of ITAT Members to avoid arbitrariness. Suggestion made that there should be a mechanism to oversee the quality of orders passed by ITAT Members
(v) Members of tribunals such as the ITAT perform crucial judicial functions, which can have an adverse bearing on individuals, and at times, vast commercial and fiscal ramifications. In these circumstances, the Central Government should seriously consider continuous oversight through the concerned High Courts, given that High Courts exercise appellate (and supervisory writ) jurisdiction over the orders and proceedings of ITAT and its benches. Some reporting mechanism, preferably centralized, to oversee the quality of the orders of ITAT is essential because the President of ITAT’s powers over members of ITAT and Vice President are not appellate, they are administrative. Creation of this mechanism would result in adding a new and possibly crucial dimension to ensure greater scrutiny of ITAT and its orders and also provide a link in the decision making process of selection to senior judicial positions within ITAT.
No disallowance u/s 14A & Rule 8D can be made if the assessee does not have tax-free income & no claim for exemption is made
Sub-section (1) of s. 14A provides that for the purpose of computing total income under chapter IV of the Act, no deduction shall be allowed in respect of expenditure incurred by the assessee in relation to income which does not form part of the total income under the Act. In the present case, the Tribunal has recorded the finding of fact that the assessee did not make any claim for exemption of any income from payment of tax. It was on this basis that the Tribunal held that disallowance u/s 14A of the Act could not be made. The Tribunal relied on the decision of the P&H High Court in case of CIT vs. Winsome Textile Industries Ltd 319 ITR 204 (P&H) where it was held that s. 14A could have no application to a case where the assessee did not make any claim for exemption. We do not find any question of law arising, Tax Appeal is therefore dismissed.
Law laid down on when an isolated transaction can be regarded as an “adventure in the nature of trade” and the taxability of agricultural land situate beyond municipal limits
(ii) As regards Q. 2 (which would apply even if the transaction was an adventure in the nature of trade), the land cannot be treated as capital asset since it is situated beyond eight kilometers from the municipal limits and it was purchased as agricultural land and sold accordingly without making any changes such as conversion in the land records, plotting of land, etc. The assessee earned agricultural income in the immediately preceding year on sale of standing crop and the same was offered as agricultural income and accepted by the AO for rate purposes. It is thus clear that it is a case of sale of agricultural land and the land being situated beyond eight kilometres from the municipal limit, it cannot be subjected to tax under the Income Tax Act either as business income or capital gains. Though the Kerala High Court in T.K. Sarala Devi 167 ITR 136 and the of P&H High Court in Tula Ram 199 ITR 450 dissented from the decision of the Bombay High Court in Manubhai A. Sheth 128 ITR 87, in the light of the latest decision of the Apex Court in Singhai Rakesh Kumar vs. Union of India 247 ITR 150, the only interpretation permissible is that the land situated outside the municipal limits stands excluded from the expression ‘capital asset’ from the inception and the sale proceeds have to be treated as revenue received from agricultural land. At any rate, the view taken by the Bombay High Court can be said to be an appropriate view, on an analysis of provisions of s. 2(1A)/2(14)(iii) (a) &(b)/10(1). When two views are possible a view which is in favour of the assessee has to be taken in the light of the decision of the Apex Court in Vegetable Products Ltd. 88 ITR 192. Consequently, the surplus arising on sale of the impugned agricultural land gives rise to agricultural income and not assessable to tax.
S. 147: Reopening, even within 4 years, solely on the basis of a clarificatory retrospective amendment is not permissible
In Katira Construction 352 ITR 513 (Guj) it was held that the Explanation to s. 80IA(4) was purely explanatory in nature and did not mend the existing statutory provisions. If an Explanation is added to a statute for the removal of doubts, the implication is that the law was same from the beginning and the same is further explained by way of addition of the Explanation. Therefore, it is not a case of introduction of new provision of law by retrospective operation, but when all the materials regarding activities of the assessee are available on record and the benefit of the provision is already made available to such assessee, reassessment proceedings cannot be initiated only on account of addition of such Explanation. On facts, as the AO had conducted a detailed scrutiny before allowing the s. 80-IA(4) deduction, the reopening based only on the retrospective insertion of the Explanation is on mere “change of opinion” (Parikshit Industries 352 ITR 349 (Guj) & Agrawal J.V. 83 DTR 101 (Guj) followed)
S. 147: Strict guidelines laid down to streamline procedure for reopening of assessments
(ii) It can thus be seen that there are four important stages once the AO issues notice for reopening of the assessment. Such stages are: (i) the assessee if he so wishes, may demand the reasons recorded by the AO after filing return in response to notice u/s 148 of the Act, (ii) the AO supplying such reasons to the assessee, (iii) the assessee raising objections to the notice for reopening and (iv) the AO disposing of the objections raised by the assessee. With a view to streamlining this procedure, and to ensure, as far as possible, the AO is not faced with the unenviable task of completing the assessment proceedings in a few days left before the same became time barred, we would like to give certain directions of general implication which, we would expect, are followed by all concerned. While doing so, we are conscious that these stages are provided by the Supreme Court in GKN Driveshafts (India) Ltd 259 ITR 19 and we would be giving directions only to the extent the said judgment already does not provide for. We have noticed that considerably long time is consumed sometimes by the assessee demanding the reasons recorded by the Assessing Officer and sometimes the AO complying with such a request of the assessee. It is an accepted proposition that the reasons recorded by the AO are not confidential and the assessee whose assessment is being reopened has a right to know such reasons. We therefore thought that these two stages can be substantially eliminated by giving suitable directions. The further stage is of the assessee raising objections which often times is done after much delay and the last stage comes where the AO deals with such objections. This is yet another problem area where unduly long time is consumed by the AO. Under the circumstances, following directions are issued:
No s. 14A & Rule 8D disallowance if there is no tax-free income
S. 14A of the Act provides that for the purposes of computing the total income under the Chapter, no deduction shall be allowed in respect of expenditure incurred by the assessee in relation to income which does not form part of the total income under the Act. Hence, what s. 14A provides is that if there is any income which does not form part of the income under the Act, the expenditure which is incurred for earning the income is not an allowable deduction. For the year in question, the finding of fact is that the assessee had not earned any tax free income. Hence, in the absence of any tax free income, the corresponding expenditure could not be worked out for disallowance. The view of the CIT(A) & Tribunal does not give rise to any substantial question of law.
Important principles of law on taxation of discretionary & specific trust explained
A discretionary trust is one which gives a beneficiary no right to any part of the income of the trust property, but vests in the trustees a discretionary power to pay him, or apply for his benefit, such part of the income as they think fit. The trustees must exercise their discretion as and when the income becomes available, but if they fail to distribute in due time, the power is not extinguished so that they can distribute later. They have no power to bind themselves for the future. The beneficiary thus has no more than a hope that the discretion will be exercised in his favour. Having regard to the above legal position about the discretionary trust which is also applied by by this Court in the earlier judgment and the fact that the income has been retained and not disbursed to the beneficiaries, the view taken by the High Court cannot be said to be legally flawed. Merely because the Settlor and after his death, his son did not exercise their power to appoint the discretion exercisers, the character of the subject trusts does not get altered. The two U.K. trusts continued to be ‘discretionary trust’ for the subject assessment years. The High Court has taken a correct view that the value of the assets cannot be assessed on the estate of the deceased Settlor (Snell’s Principles of Equity, 28th Edition, Page 138 followed)
S. 50B applies only to a “sale” for a “monetary consideration” and not to a case of “exchange” of the undertaking for shares under a s. 391/394 scheme of arrangement
The definition of the term “slump sale” in s. 2(42C) means the transfer of one or more undertakings as a result of the sale for a lump sum consideration without values being assigned to the individual assets and liabilities in such sale. In Motors & General Stores (P) Ltd 66 ITR 692 (SC) it was held that a “sale” meant a transfer for a monetary consideration and that an “exchange” would not amount to a “sale”. On facts, scheme of arrangement shows that the transfer of the undertaking took place in exchange for issue of preference shares and bonds. Merely because there was quantification when bonds/preference shares were issued, does not mean that monetary consideration was determined and its discharge was only by way of issue of bonds/preference shares. In other words, this is not a case where the consideration was determined and decided by parties in terms of money but its disbursement was to be in terms of allotment or issue of bonds/preference shares. All the clauses read together and the entire Scheme of Arrangement envisages transfer of the Lift Division not for any monetary consideration. The Scheme does not refer to any monetary consideration for the transfer. The parties were agreed that the assessee was to transfer the undertaking and take bonds/preference shares as consideration. Thus, it was a case of exchange and not a sale. Therefore, s. 2(42C) of the Act was inapplicable. If that was not applicable and was not attracted, then, s. 50B was also inapplicable. The judgement of the Delhi High Court in SRIE Infrastructure Finance Ltd 207 Taxman 74 (Del) is distinguishable on facts. There is no necessity to analyze the circumstances in which s. 50B was inserted in the statute book.
Despite pronouncement of verdict in open court & signing of draft judgement, Judge entitled to alter verdict until judgement is signed & sealed
Up to the moment the judgment is delivered Judges have the right to change their mind. There is a sort of ‘locus paenitentiae’ and indeed last minute alterations often do occur. Therefore, however much a draft judgment may have been signed beforehand, it is nothing but a draft till formally delivered as the judgment of the Court. Only then does it crystallise into a full fledged judgment and become operative. It follows that the Judge who “delivers” the judgment, or causes it to be delivered by a brother Judge, must be in existence as a member of the Court at the moment of delivery so that he can, if necessary, stop delivery and say that he has changed his mind. There is no need for him to be physically present in court but he must be in existence as a member of the Court and be in a position to stop delivery and effect an alteration should there be any last minute change of mind on his part. If he hands in a draft and signs it and indicates that he intends that to be the final expository of his views it can be assumed that those are still his views at the moment of delivery if he is alive and in a position to change his mind but takes no steps to arrest delivery. But one cannot assume that he would not have changed his mind if he is no longer in a position to do so. A Judge’s responsibility is heavy and when a man’s life and liberty hang upon his decision nothing can be left to chance or doubt or conjecture; also, a question of public policy is involved. As we have indicated, it is frequently the practice to send a draft, sometimes a signed draft, to a brother Judge who also heard the case. This may be merely for his information, or for consideration and criticism. The mere signing of the draft does not necessarily indicate a closed mind. We feel it would be against public policy to leave the door open for an investigation whether a draft sent by a Judge was intended to embody his final and unalterable opinion or was only intended to be a tentative draft sent with an unwritten understanding that he is free to change his mind should fresh light drawn upon him before the delivery of judgment.