|COURT:||Delhi High Court|
|CORAM:||S. Muralidhar J, Vibhu Bakhru J|
|DATE:||October 8, 2015 (Date of pronouncement)|
|DATE:||October 19, 2015 (Date of publication)|
|FILE:||Click here to download the file in pdf format|
|S. 147: Reopening only on the basis of information received that the assessee has introduced unaccounted money in the form of accommodation entries without showing in what manner the AO applied independent mind to the information renders the reopening void|
The AO reopened the assessment u/s 147 on the basis that there was specific information regarding the name of the entry provider, the date on which the entry was taken, the cheque details as well as the amount credited to the account of the Assessee. The revenue claimed that this by itself constituted sufficient material for the AO to form an opinion that the “assessee company has introduced his own unaccounted money in its bank account by way of accommodation entries”. However, the Tribunal quashed the reopening on the ground that the reasons recorded by the AO for the reopening of the assessment showed that apart from making a mere reference to information received from the investigation wing, the AO mechanically issued notice under Section 148 of the Act, without coming to an independent conclusion that he has reason to believe that the income has escaped assessment during the AY in question. On appeal by the department HELD dismissing the appeal:
(i) In Chhugamal Rajpal v. SP Chaliha (1971) 79 ITR 603, the Supreme Court was dealing with a case where the AO had received certain communications from the Commissioner of Income Tax showing that the alleged creditors of the Assessee were “name-lenders and the transactions are bogus.” The AO came to the conclusion that there were reasons to believe that income of the Assessee had escaped assessment. The Supreme Court disagreed and observed that the AO “had not even come to a prima facie conclusion that the transactions to which he referred were not genuine transactions. He appeared to have had only a vague felling that they may be “bogus transactions”. It was further explained by the Supreme Court that before issuing a notice under S. 148, the ITO must have either reasons to believe that by reason of the omission or failure on the part of the assessee to make a return under S. 139 for any assessment year to the ITO or to disclose fully and truly all material facts necessary for his assessment for that year, income chargeable to tax has escaped assessment for that year or alternatively notwithstanding that there has been no omission or failure as mentioned above on the part of the assessee, the ITO has in consequence of information in his possession reason to believe that income chargeable to tax has escaped assessment for any assessment year. Unless the requirements of cl. (a) or cl. (b) of S. 147 are satisfied, the ITO has no jurisdiction to issue a notice under S. 148.” The Supreme Court concluded that it was not satisfied that the ITO had any material before him which could satisfy the requirements under Section 147 and therefore could not have issued notice under Section 148.
(ii) In the present case, after setting out four entries, stated to have been received by the Assessee on a single date i.e. 10th February 2003, from four entities which were termed as accommodation entries, which information was given to him by the Directorate of Investigation, the AO stated: “I have also perused various materials and report from Investigation Wing and on that basis it is evident that the assessee company has introduced its own unaccounted money in its bank account by way of above accommodation entries.” The above conclusion is unhelpful in understanding whether the AO applied his mind to the materials that he talks about particularly since he did not describe what those materials were. Once the date on which the so called accommodation entries were provided is known, it would not have been difficult for the AO, if he had in fact undertaken the exercise, to make a reference to the manner in which those very entries were provided in the accounts of the Assessee, which must have been tendered along with the return, which was filed on 14th November 2004 and was processed under Section 143(3) of the Act. Without forming a prima facie opinion, on the basis of such material, it was not possible for the AO to have simply concluded: “it is evident that the assessee company has introduced its own unaccounted money in its bank by way of accommodation entries”. In the considered view of the Court, in light of the law explained with sufficient clarity by the Supreme Court in the decisions discussed hereinbefore, the basic requirement that the AO must apply his mind to the materials in order to have reasons to believe that the income of the Assessee escaped assessment is missing in the present case.
(iii) The fact that the CIT (A) discussed the materials produced during the hearing of the appeal is not relevant because it is in the nature of a post mortem exercise after the event of reopening of the assessment has taken place. While the CIT(A) may have proceeded on the basis that the reopening of the assessment was valid, this does not satisfy the requirement of law that prior to the reopening of the assessment, the AO has to, applying his mind to the materials, conclude that he has reason to believe that income of the Assessee has escaped assessment. Unless that basic jurisdictional requirement is satisfied a post mortem exercise of analysing materials produced subsequent to the reopening will not rescue an inherently defective reopening order from invalidity.
Sir, a good judgment which should open the eyes of senior departmental authorities like CBDT, to ensure that before a staff member is promoted as ITO or a direct recruit is posted in the field, she/ he is made fully aware of rules of natural justice, tax jurisprudence and her/ his role as judge, prosecutor as well as guide the tax payer of his rights under the income tax act. The crucial thing as the courts are repeatedly stressing is to ” apply his mind” to the information from whichever source and come to independent conclusion that income has escaped assessment which would require reopening of the completed assessment. Merely because it has come from investigation wing it should not be accepted as gospel truth but independently verified by ITO/AO and then suitable action taken which may stand test of appeal.