DIT vs. Rolls Royce Industrial Power India Ltd (Delhi High Court)

DATE: May 18, 2017 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: May 27, 2017 (Date of publication)
AY: 1998-99, 1999-00, 2001-02
FILE: Click here to download the file in pdf format
S. 147/148 reassessment has to be based on "fresh material". A reopening based on reappraisal of existing material is invalid. The assessee's duty is only to disclose facts and not to make inferences. Consolidated Photo 281 ITR 394 (Del) is not good law

(i) The main plank of the submission of the Revenue before the CIT(A), which has been adverted to by the ITAT in the impugned order, is the decision of the DB of this Court in Consolidated Photo and Finvest Ltd. v. Assistant Commissioner of Income-Tax (supra). In particular, reliance is placed on the following observations:

19…..The argument that the proposed reopening of assessment was based only upon a change of opinion has not impressed us. The assessment order did not admittedly address itself to the question which the assessing officer proposes to examine in the course of re-assessment proceedings. The submission of Mr. Vohra that even when the order of assessment did not record any explicit opinion on the aspects now sought to be examined, it must be presumed that those aspects were present to the mind of the assessing officer and had been held in favour of the assessee is too farfetched a proposition to merit acceptance. There may indeed be a presumption that the assessment proceedings have been regularly conducted, but there can be no presumption that even when the order of assessment is silent, all possible angles and aspects of a controversy had been examined and determined by the assessing officer. It is trite that a matter in issue can be validly determined only upon application of mind by the authority determining the same. Application of mind is, in turn, best demonstrated by disclosure of mind, which is best done by giving reasons for the view which the authority is taking. In cases where the order passed by a statutory authority is silent as to the reasons for the conclusion it has drawn, it can well be said that the authority has not applied its mind to the issue before it nor formed any opinion. The principle that a mere change of opinion cannot be a basis for reopening computed assessments would be applicable only to situations where the assessing officer has applied his mind and taken a conscious decision on a particular matter in issue. It will have no application where the order of assessment does not address itself to the aspect which is the basis for reopening of the assessment, as is the position in the present case. It is in that view inconsequential whether or not the material necessary for taking a decision was available to the assessing officer either generally or in the form of a reply to the questionnaire served upon the assessed. What is important is whether the assessing officer had based on the material available to him taken a view. If he had not done so, the proposed reopening cannot be assailed on the ground that the same is based only on a change of opinion.

(ii) The fact of the matter is that later Benches of this Court, including two Full Benches in CIT v. Kelvinator of India Ltd.(supra) and CIT v. Usha International Ltd., (2012) 348 ITR 485 have disagreed with the view expressed by the DB in Consolidated Photo and Finvest Ltd. v. Assistant Commissioner of Income-Tax(supra). In fact, the decision of the FB in CIT v. Kelvinator of India Ltd.(supra) was affirmed by the Supreme Court in CIT v. Kelvinator of India Ltd. [2010] 320 ITR 561 (SC).

(iii) The Full Bench of this Court in CIT v. Usha International Ltd.(supra), specifically overruled the decision of the DB in Consolidated Photo and Finvest Ltd. v. Assistant Commissioner of Income-Tax(supra). Even prior thereto, in KLM Royal Dutch Airlines v. ADIT [2007] 292 ITR 49, another DB of this Court noticed the anomaly that had resulted from the decision in Consolidated Photo and Finvest Ltd. v. Assistant Commissioner of Income-Tax (supra), which was contrary to other decisions, including the decision of the FB in CIT v. Kelvinator of India Ltd.(supra). This was noticed by the DB in KLM Royal Dutch Airlines v. ADIT (supra) where it observed:

16. The Full Bench of this Court in Commissioner of Income-Tax v. Kelvinator of India Ltd. [2002] 256 ITR 1 had opined that the amendments introduced into Section 147 with effect from 1.4.1989 have not altered the position that a mere change of opinion of the AO was not sufficient ground for embarking on a reassessment. Calcutta Discount was duly considered and applied by the Full Bench. The Full Bench further observed that an order of assessment must be presumed to have been passed by the AO concerned after due and proper application of mind. In these circumstances the decision of the Division Bench in Consolidated Photo and Finvest Ltd. v. Assistant Commissioner of Income-Tax, inasmuch as it is irreconcilable with the views of the Full Bench, must be held not to lay down the correct law. This is especially so since the assessment proceedings had not come to an end under the first sub-section of Section 143, but under the third Sub-section. A Division Bench of a particular High Court is fully bound by the view preferred by a larger Bench of that Court, regardless of the fact that another High Court prefers a different view in this case that of the Gujarat High Court as in Gruh Finance Ltd. v. Joint Commissioner of Income-Tax (Assessment), Praful Chunilal Patel v. M.J. Makwana, Assistant CIT and Garden Silk Mills Ltd. v. Deputy CIT (No. 1). The Full Bench of this Court has taken into consideration both Praful Chunilal Patel as well as Garden Silk Mills. In Kelvinator the Full Bench had also analysed the earlier Division Bench decisions, namely, Jindal Photo Films Ltd. v. Deputy Commissioner of Income-Tax presided over by R.C. Lahoti J. (as learned Chief Justice of India then was) and Bawa Abhai Singh v. Deputy Commissioner of Income-Tax [2002] 253 ITR 83 comprising Arijit Pasayat and D.K. Jain JJ. (as their Lordships then were). It is quite possible that had the Court in Consolidated Photo been made aware of the consistent opinion of this Court in Jindal Photo and Bawa Abhai Singh, their conclusion may have been totally different, notwithstanding alternative view of the Gujarat High Court.

(iv) There is no manner of doubt that the decision of the DB of this Court in Consolidated Photo and Finvest Ltd. v. Assistant Commissioner of Income-Tax(supra) is no longer good law. The main plank of the Revenue’s case before this Court, therefore, fails. Nevertheless, the Court proceeds to examine the question of validity of the reopening of the assessments for the AYs in question.

(v) The fact of the matter is that during the course of the original assessments under Section 143 (3), the AO did serve upon the Assessee a detailed questionnaire. The AO examined the nature of the transactions involving the Assessee and the payments received therefor. The reopening was not based on any fresh material. By revisiting the same materials the successor AO now concluded that the payments received by the Assessee pursuant to the O&M Agreements should be treated as FTS. In the circumstances, the view taken by a successor AO on the same material was indeed nothing but a mere change of opinion. It is a well-settled legal proposition, as explained in Calcutta Discount Co. Ltd. v. ITO [1961] 41 ITR 191(SC) that once an Assessee has discharged the burden of not only producing the account books and other documents, but also the specific material relevant to the assessment, “it is for the Income-tax Officer to draw the proper inferences of fact and law therefrom and the Assessee cannot further be called upon to do so for him.”

(vi) In Indian Oil Corporation v. ITO [1986] 159 ITR 956 the Court pertinently observed “it is for the taxing authority to draw inference. It is not necessary for the Assessee to draw inference.” These observations apply on all fours to the case on hand. Here the Assessee had discharged its burden of disclosing fully and truly all the material facts before the AO during the original assessments. There was no basis for the successor AO to conclude that “no opinion with regard to taxation” of the payments received for the services rendered had been formed by the AO. It is plain that the pre-condition for invoking Section 147 did not exist. The assumption of jurisdiction under Section 148 of the Act was not valid.

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