Hindustan Unilever vs. DCIT (Bombay High Court)

DATE: (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: August 11, 2010 (Date of publication)

Click here to download the judgement (hindustan_lever_mistakes_reopening.pdf)

S. 147 reopening for rectifying s. 154 mistakes is invalid

The AO issued a notice u/s 148 to reopen the assessment within 4 years from the end of the assessment year. There were four recorded reasons and one of them was that the AO had committed a computational error in the assessment order by deducting the wrong figure instead of the right figure. The assessee filed a Writ Petition to challenge the reopening inter alia on the ground that as the mistake could be rectified u/s 154, the reopening was bad. HELD upholding the challenge:

(i) While Explanation 2 to s. 147 deems income to have escaped assessment if excessive deduction is allowed, the reopening of an assessment u/s 147 has serious ramifications because the AO is empowered to reassess income even in respect of issues not set out in the notice. Therefore, if the power to rectify an order u/s 154(1) is adequate to meet a mistake or error in the order of assessment, the AO must take recourse to that power as opposed to the wider power to reopen the assessment. If the error can be rectified u/s 154, it would be arbitrary for the AO to reopen the entire assessment u/s 147. Further, the error in the order was not attributable to a fault or omission on the part of the assessee and the assessee cannot be penalized for a fault of the AO;

(ii) When one or more modes of assessment or remedies are available to the taxing Authority, the Authority must adopt that remedy which causes least prejudice to the assessee.

For more on the law of reopening of assessments u/s 147, see the Digest of Important Case Laws.
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  1. […] See Also Hindustan Unilever Ltd 325 ITR 102 (Bom) where it was held that if the power u/s 154(1) is adequate, it would be arbitrary […]