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DATE: June 18, 2020 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: June 20, 2020 (Date of publication)
AY: 2006-07
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S. 54F: In determining whether the assessee owns more than one residential property, the usage of the property has to be considered. If an apartment is sanctioned for residential purposes but is in fact being used for commercial purposes as a serviced apartment, it has to be treated as commercial property. Alternatively, several independent residential units in the same building have to be treated as one residential unit and there is no impediment to allowance of exemption u/s 54F(1)

The usage of the property has to be considered for determining whether the property in question is a residential property or a commercial property. It is not in dispute that the aforesaid two apartments are being put to commercial use and therefore, the aforesaid apartments cannot be treated as residential apartments. The contention of the revenue that the apartments cannot be taxed on the basis of the usage does not deserve acceptance in view of decisions of Kerala, Delhi, Allahabad, Calcutta and Hyderabad High Courts with which we respectfully concur. 11. Alternatively, we hold that assessee even otherwise is entitled to the benefit of exemption under Section 54F(1) of the Act as the assessee owns two apartments of 500 square feet in same building and 17 therefore, it has to be treated as one residential unit. The aforesaid fact cannot be permitted to act as impediment to allowance of exemption under Section 54F(1) of the Act

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DATE: June 18, 2020 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: June 20, 2020 (Date of publication)
AY: 2014-15
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S. 40(a)(ia): The amendment to s. 40(a)(ia) by the Finance (No.2) Act, 2015 w.e.f. 01.04.2015, which restricts the disallowance for failure to deduct TDS to 30% of the expenditure instead of 100%, is curative in nature and should be applied retrospectively

We find that Finance (No.2) Act has made amendment to section 40(a)(ia) of the Act w.e.f. 01.04.2015. Various benches of the Tribunals including the Delhi Benches of the Tribunal, have held the amendment made by Finance (No 2) Act to be curative in nature. We further finds the coordinate bench of the Tribunal in the case of R.H. International Vs. ITO (supra) has held that disallowance u/s. 40(a)(ia) of the Act be restricted to 30% of the expenses paid as against 100% because amended provision is curative in nature and the provisions should be applied retrospectively

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DATE: June 12, 2020 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: June 16, 2020 (Date of publication)
AY: 2015-16
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S. 143(3)/ 292BB: Under CBDT Instruction No.5/2016, a case earmarked for 'Limited Scrutiny' cannot be taken for 'Complete Scrutiny' unless the AO forms a "reasonable view" that there is a possibility of under assessment of income. The objective of the instruction is to (i) prevent fishing and roving enquiries; (ii) ensure maximum objectivity; and (iii) enforce checks and balances upon the powers of the AO. On facts, there is not an iota of cogent material shown by the AO for the conversion from limited scrutiny to complete scrutiny. The PCIT has also accorded approval in a mechanical manner. S. 292BB does not save the infirmity. The assessment order has to be quashed as a nullity

The department, which is State, can be permitted to selectively apply the standards set by themselves for their own conduct. If this type of deviation is permitted, the consequences will be that floodgate of corruption will be opened which it is not desirable to encourage. When the department has set down a standard for itself, the department is bound by that standard and cannot act with discrimination

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DATE: June 12, 2020 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: June 13, 2020 (Date of publication)
AY: 2003-04
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S. 260A/ 271(1)(c): (i) An appeal u/s 260-A can be entertained by the High Court on the issue of jurisdiction even if the same was not raised before the Tribunal (ii) the question relating to non-striking off of the inapplicable portion in the s. 271(1)(c) show-cause notice goes to the root of the lis & is a jurisdictional issue (iii) it would be too technical and pedantic to take the view that because in the printed notice the inapplicable portion was not struck off, the order of penalty should be set aside even though in the assessment order it was clearly mentioned that penalty proceedings u/s 271(1)(c) had been initiated separately for furnishing inaccurate particulars of income, (iv) Penalty cannot be imposed for alleged breach of one limb of s. 271(1)(c) of the Act while proceedings were initiated for breach of the other limb of s. 271(1)(c). This vitiates the order of penalty, (v) Threat of penalty cannot become a gag and / or haunt an assessee for making a claim which may be erroneous or wrong (All judgements referred)

Concealment of particulars of income was not the charge against the appellant, the charge being furnishing inaccurate particulars of income. As discussed above, it is trite that penalty cannot be imposed for alleged breach of one limb of Section 271(1)(c) of the Act while penalty proceedings were initiated for breach of the other limb of Section 271(1)(c). This has certainly vitiated the order of penalty.

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DATE: June 12, 2020 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: June 13, 2020 (Date of publication)
AY: 2003-04
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S. 68 Bogus Cash Credits: In the case of an assessee engaged in providing 'accommodation entries', the entire deposits cannot be assessed as unexplained cash credits. Only the commission (0.15%) earned in providing the accommodation entries can be assessed as income (PCIT vs. NRA Iron and Steel (2019) 103 Taxmann.com 48 (SC) distinguished)

In so far the decision of the Supreme Court in NRA Iron and Steel Pvt. Ltd. (supra) is concerned, the same is not attracted in the present case in as much as facts of the present case are clearly distinguishable. Unlike the present case, the assessee in NRA Iron and Steel Pvt. Ltd. (supra) claimed the cash credits as its income. However, it was found that the creditors had meagre or nil income which did not justify investment of such huge sums of money in the assessee. The field enquiry conducted by the Assessing Officer revealed that in several cases the investor companies were non-existent. Thus, it was held that the assessee had failed to discharge the onus which lay on it to establish the identity of the investor companies and the credit worthiness of the investor companies. In such circumstances, the entire transaction was found to be bogus. But as already discussed in the preceding paragraphs, assessee never claimed the cash credits as its income. It admitted its business was to provide accommodation entries. In return for the cash credits it used to issue cheques to the customers / beneficiaries for slightly lesser amounts, the balance being its commission. Moreover, the cash credits had been accounted for in the respective assessment of the beneficiaries.

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DATE: June 1, 2020 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: June 11, 2020 (Date of publication)
AY: 2014-15
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S. 147: The reasons in support of the s. 148 notice is the very issue in respect of which the AO had raised a query during the assessment proceedings and the Petitioner had responded justifying its stand. The non-rejection of the explanation in the Assessment Order amounts to the AO accepting the view of the assessee, thus taking a view/forming an opinion. In these circumstances, the reasons in support of the notice proceed on a mere change of opinion and would be completely without jurisdiction

The non-rejection of the explanation in the Assessment Order would amount to the Assessing Officer accepting the view of the assessee, thus taking a view/forming an opinion. Therefore, in these circumstances, the reasons in support of the impugned notice proceed on a mere change of opinion and therefore would be completely without jurisdiction in the present facts

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DATE: June 5, 2020 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: June 6, 2020 (Date of publication)
AY: 1993-94 to 1997-98
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(i) The sweeping proposition in some Supreme Court decisions that when two views are possible, the one favourable to assessee has to be preferred & that a tax incentive provision must receive liberal interpretation, is disapproved by the Constitution Bench in Dilip Kumar (2018) 9 SCC 1 (FB). The burden is on the assessee to prove eligibility to an incentive or exemption provision and it is subject to strict interpretation. If there is ambiguity, the benefit of the ambiguity has to go to the Revenue. However, if the assessee proves eligibility, a wide and liberal construction of the provision has to be done (ii) Merely having a contract with a foreign enterprise and mere earning foreign exchange does not ipso facto lead to the application of s. 80-O of the Act (All judgements considered in detail)

The principles laid down by the Constitution Bench in Dilip Kumar (2018) 9 SCC 1, when applied to incentive provisions like those for deduction, would also be that the burden lies on the assessee to prove its applicability to his case; and if there be any ambiguity in the deduction clause, the same is subject to strict interpretation with the result that the benefit of such ambiguity cannot be claimed by the assessee, rather it would be interpreted in favour of the revenue. In view of the Constitution Bench decision in Dilip Kumar & Co. (supra), the generalised observations in Baby Marine Exports 290 ITR 323 (SC) with reference to a few other decisions, that a tax incentive provision must receive liberal interpretation, cannot be considered to be a sound statement of law; rather the applicable principles would be those enunciated in Wood Papers Ltd. (1990) 4 SCC 256, which have been precisely approved by the Constitution Bench

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DATE: May 26, 2020 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: May 28, 2020 (Date of publication)
AY: -
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There is a clear distinction between ‘retirement of a partner’ and ‘dissolution of a partnership firm’. On retirement of the partner, the reconstituted firm continues and the retiring partner is to be paid his dues in terms of Section 37 of the Partnership Act. In case of dissolution, accounts have to be settled and distributed as per the mode prescribed in Section 48 of the Partnership Act. When the partners agree to dissolve a partnership, it is a case of dissolution and not retirement A partnership firm must have at least two partners. When there are only two partners and one has agreed to retire, then the retirement amounts to dissolution of the firm (Imp judgements referred)

The primary claim and submission of the appellants is that Amar Singh had resigned as a partner and, therefore, in terms of clause (10) of the partnership deed (Exhibit P-3) dated 6 th May 1981, he would be entitled to only the capital standing in his credit in the books of accounts. However, the argument has to be rejected as in the present case there were only two partners and there is overwhelming evidence on record that Amar Singh had not resigned as a partner. On the other hand, there was mutual understanding and agreement that the partnership firm would be dissolved

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DATE: May 11, 2020 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: May 16, 2020 (Date of publication)
AY: -
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Doctrine of "Force Majeure" & "Frustration of Contract": Under Indian contract law, the consequences of a force majeure event are provided for u/s 56 of the Contract Act, which states that on the occurrence of an event which renders the performance impossible, the contract becomes void thereafter. When the parties have not provided for what would take place when an event which renders the performance of the contract impossible, then S. 56 of the Contract Act applies. The effect of the doctrine of frustration is that it discharges all the parties from future obligations (Imp judgements referred)

From the aforesaid discussion, it can be said that the contract was based on a fixed rate. The party, before entering the tender process, entered the contract after mitigating the risk of such an increase. If the purpose of the tender was to limit the risks of price variations, then the interpretation placed by the Arbitral Tribunal cannot be said to be possible one, as it would completely defeat the explicit wordings and purpose of the contract. There is no gainsaying that there will be price fluctuations which a prudent contractor would have taken into margin, while bidding in the tender. Such price fluctuations cannot be brought under Clause 23 unless specific language points to the inclusion.

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DATE: May 14, 2020 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: May 15, 2020 (Date of publication)
AY: 2013-14
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Rule 34(5) of the ITAT Rules provides that “ordinarily” the order on an appeal should be pronounced within no more than 90 days from the date of concluding the hearing. A pedantic view of the rule cannot be taken. The period of 90 days should be computed by excluding at least the period during which the lockdown due to Covid-19 was in force. We must factor ground realities in mind while interpreting the time limit for the pronouncement of the order. Law is not brooding omnipotence in the sky. It is a pragmatic tool of the social order. The tenets of law being enacted on the basis of pragmatism, and that is how the law is required to interpreted

In the light of the above discussions, we are of the considered view that rather than taking a pedantic view of the rule requiring pronouncement of orders within 90 days, disregarding the important fact that the entire country was in lockdown, we should compute the period of 90 days by excluding at least the period during which the lockdown was in force. We must factor ground realities in mind while interpreting the time limit for the pronouncement of the order. Law is not brooding omnipotence in the sky. It is a pragmatic tool of the social order. The tenets of law being enacted on the basis of pragmatism, and that is how the law is required to interpreted. The interpretation so assigned by us is not only in consonance with the letter and spirit of rule 34(5) but is also a pragmatic approach at a time when a disaster, notified under the Disaster Management Act 2005, is causing unprecedented disruption in the functioning of our justice delivery system.