1. The petitioners in these five petitions are the three children, the widow and the mother of the late Hemant B. Mafatlal, who died intestate on August 16, 1971. Each of the petitioners is entitled to a one-fifth share in the estate of the late Hemant. For the assessment year 1972-73, each of the petitioners filed returns of income-tax. Each of them appended to the return a note which read thus :
'Shri Hemant B. Mafatlal died intestate on August 16, 1971, survived by the following heirs whose relationship with the deceased is mentioned there against :
(1) Mrs. Shardaben B. Mafatlal (mother)
(2) Mrs. Pannaben H. Mafatlal (widow)
(3) Master Miheer H. Mafatlal (minor son)
(4) Miss Radhika H. Mafatlal (minor daughter)
(5) Miss Shalini H. Mafatlal (,, ,,)
The estate of Shri H. B. Mafatlal is under administration and the estate is filing its return of income and wealth separately to the Income-tax Officer, A-V Ward, Bombay.
In the meantime, i.e., pending administration of the estate, my share of income, if any, in the estate is not liable to be taxed in my assessment.'
2. Each of the petitioners was assessed to income-tax for the assessment year 1972-73 without taking into account the one-fifth share in the income of the estate of the late Hemant.
3. In 1981, notices were issued to each of the petitioners under section 148 of the Income-tax Act, 1961, which stated that the Income-tax Officer had reason to believe that income chargeable to tax for the assessment year 1972-73 had escaped assessment within the meaning of section 147 of the said Act. The petitioners were called upon to file returns. The chartered accountants of the petitioners wrote to the Income-tax Officer and sought particulars, but they were not furnished.
4. These petitions were then filed and, by interim orders, the impugned notices under section 148 were stayed.
5. In the affidavit filed on behalf of the respondents, it is alleged that the petitioners had not at the time of the assessment for the assessment year 1972-73 included the one-fifth share in the income of the estate 'as the same was not declared' by the petitioners. As the petitioners did not disclose the one-fifth share of income from the estate, income chargeable to tax had escaped assessment for the assessment year 1972-73. The impugned notices had been issued under section 147(a) of the Income-tax Act, 1961, as the petitioners had failed to disclose fully and truly all material facts necessary for the assessment year 1972-73.
6. It is the obligation of the assessee to disclose all primary facts. For the purposes of reopening an assessment, what has to be seen is whether the Income-tax Officer could have reason to believe that, due to omission or failure on the part of the assessee to disclose fully and truly all material facts necessary for his assessment, there had been escapement of income. From the primary facts, in his possession, the Income-tax Officer has to draw inferences as regards certain other facts and ultimately, from the primary facts and the further facts inferred from them, he has to draw the proper legal inferences. (see CIT v. Hemchandra Kar : 77ITR1(SC) .
7. It was submitted by Mr. Devadhar, learned advocate for the respondents, that particulars of the share of the petitioners in the estate of the late Hemant and the quantum thereof, even approximately, had not been disclosed in the petitioners' returns. The disclosure made by the petitioners did not, therefore, amount to a full and complete disclosure of all relevant and material facts. The only judgment cited by Mr. Devadhar which is apposite is that of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Kalani v. ITO : 132ITR600(MP) . For the assessment year 1962-63, the assessee-Hindu undivided family claimed that there had been a partial partition and a sum of Rs. 1 lakh had been given to the karta's mother, B. This claim was not accepted by the Income-tax Officer and the Appellate Assistant Commissioner. B made gifts, from the sum given to her, to her grandsons who invested the amounts in firms and earned interest. This income was not disclosed in the returns filed by the assessee for the assessment year 1973-74. The assessee had, however, added a note as an annexure to the return stating that it had no right, title or claim on the income of B derived by her from a firm. The Income-tax Officer initiated reassessment proceedings and a writ petition was filed. The court observed that it could not be said that by annexing that note, the assessee had disclosed all the primary facts necessary for assessment because the information contained in the note was too vague.
8. In the instant case, each of the petitioners annexed a note to his or her return which stated that each of them was a heir to the estate of the late Hemant, who had died intestate, that the estate was under administration and that it was filing a return of income and wealth. The note submitted that, pending the administration of the estate, the petitioners' share in the income of the estate was not liable to be taxed in their assessments. The Income-tax Officer in passing the original assessment orders accepted the submission made on behalf of the petitioners. Several years later, the Income-tax Officer appears to have concluded that the legal position was that the petitioners were liable to assessment on their share in the income of the estate. A change of opinion is no ground for reopening an assessment.
9. It cannot be held that the petitioners had failed to disclose all primary or material facts relevant for the purposes of making the assessments. They had clearly stated in their returns that each of them was a heir to and entitled to a share in the estate, that the estate was in the course of administration, and that the estate was filing a return of income and wealth separately. This was all that was necessary, for, in their submission, their share in the income of the estate was not liable to assessment in their hands pending the administration of the estate. There was no concealment. If the Income-tax Officer was of the view that this was not the true legal position, he could have asked for particulars of the one-fifth share in the income of the estate. The absence of these particulars does not mean, in the circumstances, that there was no full and true disclosure of all material facts. The case for reopening does not fall within the four corners of section 147(a) of the Income-tax Act, 1961.
10. Accordingly, the notices under section 148 of the Income-tax Act, 1961, issued to each of the petitioners and impugned in each of these petitions must be quashed and set aside.
11. Rules accordingly. No order as to costs.