|DATE:||(Date of pronouncement)|
|DATE:||July 19, 2008 (Date of publication)|
Where the High Court was satisfied that the assessment order had been back-dated and directed that a fresh order be passed by a different AO and the assessee filed an appeal arguing that the assessment proceedings should have been declared null and void, held:
(a) All irregular or erroneous or even illegal orders cannot be held to be null and void as there is a fine distinction between the orders which are null and void and orders which are irregular, wrong or illegal. Where an authority making order lacks inherent jurisdiction, such order would be without jurisdiction, null, non est and void ab initio as defect of jurisdiction of an authority goes to the root of the matter and strikes at its very authority to pass any order and such a defect cannot be cured even by consent of the parties. However, exercise of jurisdiction in a wrongful manner cannot result in a nullity – it is an illegality, capable of being cured in a duly constituted legal proceedings.
(b) Proceedings for assessment under a fiscal statute are not in the nature of judicial proceedings, like proceedings in a suit inasmuch as the assessing officer does not adjudicate on a lis between an assessee and the State and, therefore, the law on the issue laid down under the civil law may not stricto sensu apply to assessment proceedings.
(c) Despite scathing observations by the High Court on the conduct of the assessing officer, it was a case of an irregularity in assessment proceedings by the officer, who was not bereft of authority to assess the appellant. At best, it was an illegality, which defect was capable of and has been cured by the High Court by setting aside the orders and by granting consequential relief.