|CORAM:||Ashwani Taneja (AM), Joginder Singh (JM)|
|COUNSEL:||Dr. K. Shivram|
|DATE:||September 22, 2015 (Date of pronouncement)|
|DATE:||October 13, 2015 (Date of publication)|
|FILE:||Click here to download the file in pdf format|
|S. 147: Entire law on whether reopening of assessment in the absence of "fresh tangible material" is permissible reviewed|
(a) Thus, taking help from these judgments, relevant provisions of law, fixing obligations upon the AO for making mandatory compliances, in a step-wise manner, for valid assumption of jurisdiction for reopening and reframing of reassessment order, can be summarized as under:
(i) Availability of the new tangible material indicating escaped income of the assessee, which should have come into possession of the AO, after the passing of original assessment order, whether u/s 143(3) or 143(1),
(ii) Recording of the ‘Reasons’ by the AO: ‘Reasons’ recorded should not be based upon the change of opinion of the Assesing Officer. ‘Reasons’ should be such that any person of ordinary prudence should be in a position to make a belief about escapement of income on the basis of facts narrated and material referred to, in the ‘Reasons’ recorded. The ‘Reasons’ should show that, there is rational nexus and cause & effect relationship between the material sought be relied upon in the Reasons and belief sought to be formed by the AO about escapement of income.
(iii) In case reopening is sought to be done by the AO after expiry of four years from the end of the relevant assessment year and the original assessment was framed u/s 143(3) then reasons can be recorded only if there was failure on the part of the assessee in disclosure of material of facts, as has been envisaged in first proviso to section 147.
(iv) Before issuing notice u/s 148, the AO has to obtain, on the reasons recorded by him, sanction for reopening of the case, from the competent authority as envisaged u/s 151 viz. Additional Commissioner or the Commissioner of Income Tax, as the case may be. Before granting its sanction, the sanctioning authority is required to record its satisfaction based upon its independent application of mind, making out a case that as per the facts narrated and material referred to in the ‘Reasons’ recorded by the AO, a belief can be formed about escapement of income and case sought to be reopened is a fit case for reopening u/s 147.
(v) After obtaining the sanction, the AO is required to issue and serve notice u/s 148 upon the assessee, within the time limit as prescribed u/s 149, to enable him to assume jurisdiction to reopen the assessment.
(vi) The assessee is required to file to return of income, in response to notice u/s 148 and may request for the copy of reasons.
(vii) The AO is bound, as per law, to provide a certified and verbatim copy of Reasons to the assessee.
(viii) The assessee may file its objections before the AO, to the Reasons recorded, if any.
(ix) In pursuance to judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of GKN Driveshafts 259 ITR 19 (SC), the AO is obliged to dispose of these objections and intimate the same to the assessee, before proceeding further with the reassessment proceedings.
(x) Thereafter, the AO is obliged under the law to issue and serve notice u/s 143(2) to enable him to make assessment of the return filed by the assessee in response to notice issued under section 148.
(xi) Framing of the re-assessment order by the AO u/s 147/143(3) after providing adequate opportunity of hearing to the assessee and considering replies and evidences of the assessee, and all other applicable provisions of the Act.
(b) Under these facts and circumstances, let us now examine settled position of law on this issue. It has been held in various judgments coming from various courts that availability of fresh tangible material in the possession of AO at the time of recording of impugned reasons is a sine qua none, before the AO can record reasons for reopening of the case. We begin with the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of CIT vs. Kelvinator India Ltd. 320 ITR 561 (SC), laying down that for reopening of the assessment, the AO should have in its possession ‘tangible material’. The term ‘tangible material’ has been understood and explained by various courts subsequently. There has been unanimity of the courts on this issue that in absence of fresh material indicating escaped income, the AO cannot assume jurisdiction to reopen already concluded assessment.
(c) In the present case, it has already been discussed that admitted facts are that there was no fresh material coming into the possession of the AO, at the time of recording of the ‘Reasons’. These facts have not been rebutted by Ld DR also. The case law relied upon by Ld DR in the case of Dr. Amin’s Pathology, supra is not applicable on the issue being decided here. The issue that in absence of any fresh material, whether AO can proceed to record Reasons, was not before Hon’ble High Court, therefore Hon’ble High court had decided the issue of Change of opinion in that case. In the case before us, as discussed above, we are not going into that issue. In our considered opinion, at this stage, we need not go into the other aspect i.e. whether there was change of opinion or not. This issue has been aptly clarified by Hon’ble High Court in the case of Madhukar Khosla, (supra), wherein it has been held by their lordships that external facts or material constitute the driver, or the key which enables the AO to legitimately reopen the completed assessment and in absence of this objective “trigger”, the AO does not possess jurisdiction to reopen the assessment. Further, most importantly, it was held by the Hon’ble High Court that it is at the next stage when the question, whether the reopening of assessment amounts to “review” or “change of opinion” arises. In other words, if there are no “new tangible materials”, then there would be no “reasons to believe”, and consequently reopening would be an impermissible review. Under these circumstances there would not arise any need to go the next stage to examine the next question, i.e., whether there was “review” or “change of opinion”. The condition with respect to availability of “new tangible material” is step anterior to the condition of no “change of opinion” or “review”.