||Gujarat High Court
||Ilesh J Vora J, JB Pardiwala J
||Corona Virus, Due date, extension of time
||B. S. Soparkar, S. N. Soparkar, Varun Patel, Zoheb Hossain
||January 13, 2021 (Date of pronouncement)
||January 14, 2021 (Date of publication)
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Extension of due date for filing ROI: (i) The CBDT has vide order dated 11.01.2021 decided not to grant further extension of time. The Court cannot go into the issues which weighed with the CBDT in taking the decision and substitute the same with its own view. Interference by the Court, at this point of time, in matters relating to the Revenue may have far reaching implications. It may upset the entire functioning of the Government and may lead to undesirable results. (ii) However, the CBDT may consider issuing an appropriate circular taking a lenient view as regards the consequences of late filing of the Tax Audit Reports as provided u/s 271B of the Act. We leave it to the better discretion of the CBDT.
It is the case of the CBDT that it has declined to exercise its power under Section 119 of the Act as the conditions for exercise of such power do not exist. It is the case of the Revenue that the issue of hardship was dealt with considerably at the relevant point of time and that is the reason why three times the time limit came to be extended. The Board has now thought fit in the interest of the Revenue not to extend the time period any further. There are so many vital issues which the Revenue needs to keep in mind before taking such decision. The question is whether this Court should go into all such issues which weighed with the CBDT in taking a particular decision one way or the other and substitute the same with that of this Court on the ground that if the time limit is not extended, then the people at large would be put immense hardships? Interference at the end of this Court, at this point of time, in the matters relating to the Revenue may have far reaching implications. This Court may find it very easy to issue a writ of mandamus, as prayed for, saying that if the time limit has been extended in the past on three occasions, then why not for one last time upto 31st March 2021. However, such a line of reasoning or approach may upset the entire functioning of the Government and may lead to undesirable results.
We are of the view that the respondent No.1 – Union of India, Ministry of Finance should immediately look into the issue, more particularly, the representation dated 12th October 2020 at Annexure : I of the paper book (page 108) and take an appropriate decision at the earliest in accordance with law. We, accordingly, direct the respondent No.1 to do so. While taking an appropriate decision, the Union shall bear in mind the observations made by this High Court in the two above noted judgements, more particularly, the observations of the Supreme Court in the case of Vaghjibhai S. Bishnoi (supra) that the powers given to the CBDT are beneficial in nature to be exercised for proper administration of fiscal law so that undue hardship may not be caused to the taxpayers. The purpose is of just, proper and efficient management of the work of assessment and the public interest. One additional aspect needs to be kept in mind before taking any appropriate decision that the time period for the officials of the tax department has been extended upto 31st March 2021 having regard to the current covid19 pandemic situation. If that be so, then some extension deserves to be considered in accordance with law. Let an appropriate decision be taken by 12th January 2021.
Taking into account the fact that the decision of the Gujarat High Court and Punjab and Haryana High Court have been accepted by the CBDT issuing orders under Section 119 of the Act but very unfairly in case of an all India Statute restricting its benefit to only two States and one Union Territory. This itself warrants an extension of due date to the same date as is available for the assessees in Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana to avoid any discrimination to the assessees else where
The Respondent No.2 i.e. CBDT is directed to forthwith issue the order/ notification under Section 119 of the Income Tax Act and extend the due date for Efiling of the Income Tax Returns in respect of the assessee who are required to file return of income by 30th September, 2015 to 31st October, 2015
The Board while not extending the due date for filing return was also of the view that due date should not be extended just for the benefit of those who have remained lax till now for no valid reason in discharging their legal obligations. It may be noted that despite the fact that ordinarily the ITR Forms which should be prescribed and made available before the 1st of April of the assessment year, have in fact, been made available only on 7th August, 2015 and the assessees are given only seven weeks to file their tax returns. Therefore, laxity, if any, evidently is on the part of the authority which is responsible for the delay in making the utility for E-Filing the return being made available to the assessees. When the default lies at the end of the respondents, some grace could have been shown by the Board instead of taking a stand that such a trend may not be encouraged. Had it not been for the laxity on the part of the respondents in providing the utilities, there would not have been any cause for the petitioners to seek extension of the due date for filing tax returns
In view of the above, taking the totality of facts and circumstances of the case, it is considered appropriate to extend the due date for e-filing of returns upto 31st October 2015 for which the CBDT shall issue appropriate notification/instructions under Section 119 of the Act. Direction is also issued to the respondents to ensure that the forms etc. which are to be prescribed for the audit report and for e-filing the returns should ordinarily be made available on the first day of April of the assessment year
Strictures passed against the CBDT for seeking to take advantage of its own wrong and disregarding genuine hardship of taxpayers. Due date for filing ROI extended to 30.11.2014 subject to charge of s. 234A interest
(vi) The CBDT ought to have responded to the representation. Instead, it chose not to respond but later before this Court in no uncertain terms has termed such a request impermissible on the ground that the grievances are not sustainable. Therefore, considering the larger cause of public good and keeping in mind the requirement of promotion of justice, we chose to exercise the writ of mandamus directing the CBDT to extend the date of filing of return of income to 30.11.2014, which is due date for filing of the TAR as per the Notification dated 20.08.2014. Such extension is granted with the qualification that the same may not result into non-charging of interest u/s 234A
Non-Extension Of due date for filing ROI will cause “substantial hardship“. CBDT must look into practical difficulties & take “just and proper” decision before 30.09.2014
In view of the fact that the Madras High Court has already directed the CBDT to examine the representation of the assessees in general, before 30.09.2014, we feel it appropriate that the above representation of the Petitioners is also considered by the CBDT. Though we do not wish to express any view of the legalities of various issues involved, it does appear to us, from the arguments advanced, that there will be substantial hardship caused to the assessees, if the date of filing Return is not suitably extended. We hope and trust that CBDT will look into all these practical difficulties enumerated above and take a just and proper decision on the matter, before 30.09.2014, as already directed by the Madras High Court. In case the Petitioners are entitled to any further relief in view of the orders passed in various petitions filed in other High Courts, this order would not preclude the Petitioners from claiming the same.