Skip to content


Micro Labs Ltd., Vs. Deputy Commissioner of Income-tax (Assessment) and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtKarnataka High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Appeal Nos. 6502 to 6506 of 1997
Judge
Reported in(2001)166CTR(Kar)148; [2001]247ITR333(KAR); [2001]247ITR333(Karn); [2001]115TAXMAN27(Kar)
ActsFinance Act, 1997 - Sections 62 to 78; Income-tax Act, 1961 - Sections 119, 119(2), 132, 132A, 133A, 133A(5), 139, 142 and 148; Constitution of India - Article 14; Special Bearer Bonds (Immunities and Exemptions) Act, 1981
AppellantMicro Labs Ltd., ;micro Ethicals, ;micro Nova Pharmaceuticals Ltd. and ;brown and Burk Pharmaceutica
RespondentDeputy Commissioner of Income-tax (Assessment) and ors.;assistant Commissioner of Income-tax and or
Appellant AdvocateG. Sarangan, Adv. for S. Parthasarathy, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateM.V. Seshachala, Adv.
Excerpt:
direct taxation - validity - finance act, 1997 and income tax act, 1961 - whether findings of single judge upholding validity of section 64 (2) (ii) legal and valid - in instant case appellants had made voluntary disclosure and paid tax on that basis - high court also affirmed findings of single judge upholding validity of section 64 (2) (ii) - concerned authority to consider whether appellants are entitled to benefit of section 64 (1) or whether they are barred under section 64 (2) (ii) - if authorities hold that appellants not entitled to benefit of scheme having regard to section 64 (2) (ii) amounts paid may be adjusted against any tax liability of respective appellants - appeal dismissed. head note: income tax finance act, 1997 voluntary disclosure of income scheme,.....r.v. raveendran j.1. the appellants were the petitioners in w. p. nos. 32450 to 32454 of 1997 (see : [1998]231itr934(kar) ), respectively. for convenience, the appellants in the five appeals will be referred to as appellants nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 ; that is micro labs ltd. as appellant no. 1, micro ethicals as appellant no. 2, micro nova pharmaceutical ltd., as appellant no. 3, brown and burk pharmaceuticals as appellant no. 4 and g. c. surana as appellant no. 5.2. the appellants claim that appellants nos. 1 to 4 have a common office. appellant no. 5 is a director of appellants nos. 1 to 3 and authorised signatory of appellant no. 4. it is stated that there was a search in respect of appellants nos. 1 to 3 by issue of notice under section 132 of the income-tax act, 1961 ('the it act' for.....
Judgment:

R.V. Raveendran J.

1. The appellants were the petitioners in W. P. Nos. 32450 to 32454 of 1997 (see : [1998]231ITR934(KAR) ), respectively. For convenience, the appellants in the five appeals will be referred to as appellants Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 ; that is Micro Labs Ltd. as appellant No. 1, Micro Ethicals as appellant No. 2, Micro Nova Pharmaceutical Ltd., as appellant No. 3, Brown and Burk Pharmaceuticals as appellant No. 4 and G. C. Surana as appellant No. 5.

2. The appellants claim that appellants Nos. 1 to 4 have a common office. Appellant No. 5 is a director of appellants Nos. 1 to 3 and authorised signatory of appellant No. 4. It is stated that there was a search in respect of appellants Nos. 1 to 3 by issue of notice under Section 132 of the Income-tax Act, 1961 ('the IT Act' for short), on September 10, 1997, and in the course of the search, some records of appellants Nos. 1 to 4 had been seized ; that prohibitory orders were issued in regard to certain bank accounts and certain records ; and that the fifth appellant's wife and two sons have been mentioned in the notice issued under Section 132.

3. The Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme, 1997, introduced by Chapter IV (sections 62 to 78 of the Finance Act, 1997 ('the Act' for short)), was in force between July 1, 1997, and December 31, 1997. The relevant provisions of the scheme are as follows :

Section 64 relates to charge of tax on voluntarily disclosed income. Subsection (1) provides that subject to the provisions of the Scheme, where any person makes, on or after the date of commencement of the Scheme (July 1, 1997) but on or before December 31, 1997, a declaration in accordance with the provisions of Section 65 in respect of any income chargeable to tax under the Income-tax Act for any assessment year : (a) for which he has failed to furnish a return under Section 139 of the Income-tax Act ; (b) which he has failed to disclose in a return of income furnished by him under the Act before the date of commencement of the Scheme ; (c) which has escaped assessment by reason of the omission or failure on the part of such person to make a return under the Income-tax Act or to disclose fully and truly all material facts necessary for his assessment or otherwise, then notwithstanding anything contained in the Income-tax Act or in any Finance Act, income-tax shall be charged in respect of the income so declared at the rates specified thereunder.

4.Sub-section (2) of Section 64 which contains the exceptions to Section 64(1) reads as follows :

'Nothing' contained in Sub-section (1) shall apply in relation to :

(i) the income assessable for any assessment year for which a notice under Section 142 or Section 148 of the Income-tax Act has been served upon such person and the return has not been furnished before the commencement of this Scheme ;

(ii) the income in respect of the previous year in which a search under Section 132 of the Income-tax Act was initiated or requisitioned under Section 132A of the Income-tax Act was made, or survey under section 133A of the Income-tax Act was carried out or in respect of any earlier previous year.'

5. The Memorandum explaining the provisions of the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme, 1997, contains the following Explanation regarding Section 64(2)(ii) (see (1997) 224 ITR (St.) 114, 142) :

'A person in whose case a search under Section 132 of the Income-tax Act has been initiated or where books of account, other documents or other assets have been requisitioned under Section 132A will not be entitled to make a declaration in respect of the previous year in which the search was made or any earlier previous year. Disclosure by such persons would, however, be allowed in respect of any previous year following the previous year in which the search was carried out. Further, in cases where a survey under Section 133A has been carried out, no declaration of income or wealth will be allowed in respect of the previous year in which such survey was made. Persons who have been served with a notice under Section 142(1) or Section 148 of the Income-tax Act and where the return has not been furnished before the commencement of the proposed Act will also be barred from making a disclosure in respect of the previous year relevant to the assessment year for which the notice has been served.'

6. The Central Board of Direct Taxes has also explained the effect of section 64(2)(ii) in Circular No. 754 (see [1997] 226 ITR (St.) 8), dated June 10, 1997, and Circular No. 755 (see [1997] 226 ITR (St.) 33), dated July 25, 1987. The relevant portions are extracted below (page 9, 35) :

Circular No. 754, dated June 10, 1997:

Question No. 6 : Where search and seizure action has taken place in financial year 1995-96, the block period is 1985-86 to 1995-96, can disclosure under the present scheme be made by the persons searched for an assessment year prior to 1985-86 ?

Answer: No. In respect of a case where search has taken place in any financial year, the person cannot make a declaration in respect of any previous year prior to the previous year in which search has taken place.

Question No. 23 : The scope of the scheme should be expanded so as to include cases where-

(a) action under sections 132, 133A has been taken ;

(b) appeal is withdrawn, as this will reduce litigation.

Answer : This is not possible. In respect of survey under Section 133A, the declarants are debarred for that previous year only.

Circular No. 755, dated July 25, 1997:

Question No. 35 : Action under Section 132 of the Income-tax Act, was taken in the case of Mr. A on March 30, 1992, and the same was concluded on April 5, 1992. Can he take advantage of VDIS for the assessment year 1993-94 and subsequent years ?

Answer : Section 64(2)(ii) of the Finance Act, 1997, lays down that no disclosure of income can be made in respect of the previous year in which a search is initiated or in respect of any earlier previous year. In the case cited above, search was initiated in assessment year 1992-93. Therefore, disclosure can be made (except for the income/assets discovered or seized during the search referred to), in respect of the assessment year 1993-94 and subsequent years.'

7. According to the appellants, in the light of the provisions of the Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme, 1997, in particular the provisions of Section 64(2)(ii) and the explanations contained in the CBDT circulars dated June 10, 1997, and July 25, 1997, the Department has taken the stand that the VDI Scheme, 1997, is not applicable to appellants Nos. 1 to 3 and 5 on account of the fact that the notices under Section 132 of the Income-tax Act have been issued in their name, and that the VDI Scheme, 1997, is also not applicable to the fourth petitioner on account of its books of account having been seized in the course of search operations.

8. Feeling aggrieved the appellants filed W. P. Nos. 32450 to 32454 of 1997, seeking a declaration that clause (ii) of Sub-section (2) of Section 64 of the Act was unconstitutional. They also sought a declaration that Circular No. 754 (see [1997] 226 ITR (St.) 8), dated June 10, 1997, and Circular No. 755 (see [1997] 226 ITR (St.) 33), dated July 25, 1997, issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes, to the extent to which they precluded them from availing of the benefit of filing a declaration under Section 64(1) of the Finance Act, 1997, in the year of search or any earlier year/s, as discriminatory, arbitrary and illegal and opposed to article 14 of the Constitution and for a direction to respondents Nos. 1 and 2 to accept the declaration filed by them under Section 64(1) of the Act.

9. The learned single judge, who heard the matter dismissed the writ petitions by order dated November 20, 1997 (reported in) : [1998]231ITR934(KAR) as having no merit, at the stage of admission itself. Feeling aggrieved the appellants have filed these appeals. The grounds urged by the appellants before the learned single judge and before us are as follows :

(i) Section 64(2)(ii) seeks to differentiate between persons who have been searched and persons who have not been searched. This has norationale or nexus to the object sought to be achieved. Therefore, the provision is unconstitutional being arbitrary and discriminatory. There is no fetter on the discretion on the part of the Income-tax Department to pick and choose whomsoever it prefers to search. Regardless of the fact whether anything is found or not, such person's eligibility to take benefit under the scheme is destroyed for ever. The power to search is an unfettered discretion vested in the hands of the officers and there are no constraints on the power. The discretion is absolute and unbridled. There are no instructions that no raid or search be conducted during the period when the scheme is in vogue. The entire manner of conducting a search is left to the caprice of the officers without any fetters and with total discretion and the discretion exercised by them will have the effect of denying the benefit of application of the scheme to the persons who are searched. Merely because by a stroke of an accident a person is searched after July 1, 1997, it does not make him different from any other person not searched, in respect of undisclosed income, an event that has already occurred in relation to both these persons independent of the search. In denying the persons, who have been searched under Section 132 of the Act, the application of the VDIS provisions, clause (ii) of Sub-section (2) of Section 64 of the Finance Act, 1997, renders itself unreasonable and arbitrary.

(ii) Alternatively, the words 'or in respect of earlier previous year' occurring immediately after the words 'survey under Section 133A of the Income-tax Act was carried out' in Section 64(2)(ii) of the Act merely qualify and apply to survey under Section 133A of the Income-tax Act and not search under Section 132 or requisition under Section 132A of the Income-tax Act. Consequently clause (ii) of Section 64(2) should be read as prohibiting any person from availing of the benefit of the VDIS in respect of any year in which the search took place and not in respect of any earlier previous year or years.

(iii) When time is given upto December 31, 1997, for income-tax assessees te declare the undisclosed income, and in future to adopt the path of rectitude and civic responsibility, to deny the said benefit by conducting a search after July 1, 1997, is unreasonable and arbitrary. The scope and object of the VDI Scheme is to harness the black money for productive purposes. For the said purpose, time is available till December 31, 1997, to file declarations. The scheme came into force on July 1, 1997. It is, therefore, reasonable and logical that anything effected during this period should not take away the rights of the tax-payer, to join the main stream along with the remaining assessees by declaring their undisclosed income, paying tax thereon and therefore to adopt the path of rectitude and civic responsibility. A person who has been searched after July 1, 1997, is no way different from a person who has not been searched in respect of an act done by them in not filing the return of income declaring their incomefully. Any raid conducted after July 1, 1997, does not alter this position. Once.an opportunity is given to come clean until December 31, 1997, to search an assessee and to deny him the benefit of the application of the scheme amounts to arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of power. Any search conducted before July 1, 1997, alone will prohibit an assessee from availing the benefit of the VDIS and any search done between July 1, 1997, and December 31, 1997, cannot impair the rights of the assessee to take benefit of the VDI Scheme, 1997.

Re: Ground (i):

The grounds on which a statute or a provision in a statute can be challenged are limited. In State of A. P. v. McDowell and Co., : [1996]3SCR721 , the Supreme Court held that a law made by Parliament or the Legislature can be struck down by the courts only on two grounds that is (i) lack of legislative competence, and (ii) violation of any of the fundamental rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution or of any other constitutional provision. The Supreme Court further held that no enactment can be struck down by just saying that it is arbitrary or unreasonable, or because the court thinks it unjustified ; and Parliament and the Legislature, composed as they are, of the representatives of the people, are supposed to know and be aware of the needs of the people and what is good and bad for them and the courts will not sit'in judgment over their wisdom.

10. The constitutional validity of the entire Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme, 1997, was considered and upheld by a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in AW India Federation of Tax Practitioners v. Union of India : [1999]236ITR1(Delhi) . The said decision of the Bombay High Court was affirmed by the Supreme Court in Ail India Federation of Tux Practitioners v. Union of India : [1998]231ITR24(SC) . In view of it, these appeals are liable to be rejected without further examination. However, as learned counsel for the appellants addressed elaborate arguments, we will consider the matter in a little more detail.

11. In R. K. Gary v. Union of India : [1982]133ITR239(SC) , the Supreme Court considered the constitutional validity of the provisions of the Special Bearer Bonds (Immunities and Exemptions) Act, 1981. Contentions similar to the contentions raised by the petitioners herein based on article 14 were raised in that case. Repelling such contentions, the Supreme Court held that there is always a presumption in favour of the constitutionality of a statute and the burden of proving clear transgression is upon the person who attacks it; and that the presumption of constitutionality is indeed so strong that in order to sustain it, the court may even take into consideration matters of common knowledge, matters of common report, the history of the time and may assume every state of facts which can be conceived existing at the time of legislation. It was further held that fiscal laws should be viewed with greater latitude by courts than laws touchingcivil rights like freedom of speech, religion, etc., and courts should give more judicial deference to legislative judgment, in the field of economic regulations than in the area of fundamental human rights. The Supreme Court observed thus (page 255) :

'The court must always remember that 'legislation is directed to practical problems, that the economic mechanism is highly sensitive and complex, that many problems are singular and contingent, that laws are not abstract propositions and do not relate to abstract units and are not to be measured by abstract symmetry' that exact wisdom and nice exception of remedy are not always possible and that 'judgment is largely a prophecy based on meagre and uninterpreted experience'. Every legislation particularly in economic matters is essentially empiric and it is based on experimentation or what one may call trial and error method and, therefore, it cannot provide for all possible situations or anticipate all possible abuses. There may be crudities and inequities in complicated experimental economic legislation but on that account alone it cannot be struck down as invalid. The courts cannot, as pointed out by the United States Supreme Court in Secretary of Agriculture v. Central Reig Refining Company [1950] 94 L Ed 381, be converted into Tribunals for relief from such crudities and inequities. There may even be possibilities of abuse, but that too cannot of itself be a ground for invalidating the legislation, because it is not possible for any Legislature to anticipate as if by some divine prescience, distortions and abuses of its legislation, which may be made by those subject to its provisions, and to provide against such distortions and abuses. Indeed, howsoever great may be the care bestowed on its framing, it is difficult to conceive of a legislation which is not capable of being abused by perverted human ingenuity. The court must, therefore, adjudge the constitutionality of such legislation by the generality of its provisions and not by its crudities or, inequities or by the possibilities of abuse of any of its provisions. If any crudities, inequities or possibilities of abuse come to light, the Legislature can always step in and enact suitable amendatory legislation. That is the essence of pragmatic approach which must guide and inspire the Legislature in dealing with complex economic issues.'

12. In Secretary to Government of Madras v. P. R. Sriramulu, AIR 1996 SC 676, the Supreme Court held that in view of the inherent complexity of fiscal adjustments, the courts, recognise a large discretion in the Legislature, in the matter of preferences relating to social and economic policies and in giving effect to the chosen system in all reasonable methods. The Supreme Court observed thus (page 682) :

'If two or more methods of adjustment of an economic measure are available, the legislative preference in favour of one of them cannot be questioned on the ground of lack of legislative wisdom or that the method adopted is not the best or there are better ways of adjusting the competinginterests and the claims, as the Legislature possesses the greatest freedom in such areas. It is also well settled that lack of perfection in a legislative measure does not necessarily imply its constitutionality as no economic measure has so far been discovered which is free from all discriminatory impact and that in such a complex area in which no fool-proof device exists, the court should be slow in imposing a strict and rigorous standard of scrutiny by reason of which all local fiscal schemes may be subjected to criticism under the equal protection clause.'

13. The grievance of the petitioner is that Section 64(2)(ii) seeks to discriminate against persons who have been searched, by differentiating them from persons who have not been searched and such differentiation has neither any rationale, nor any nexus to the object sought to be achieved, which is to mobilise resources and channelise funds into priority sectors of the economy and to afford an opportunity to persons who have evaded tax in the past to declare undisclosed income, pay a reasonable tax and in future adopt a path of rectitude and civic responsibility.

14. The persons referred to in Section 64(2)(ii) form a distinct class and are different from others. The three categories refer to or relate to a class in respect of which there was some kind of detection of concealed income or some action related to detection of concealed income. Section 132 enables search and seizure of documents, money etc., which are not disclosed ; Section 132A enables requisition books of account, etc., relating to undisclosed income ; and Section 133A enables survey and making of inventory which may lead to discovery of undisclosed income. These three categories are matters in regard to which notices can be issued under Section 142 or Section 148. Search under Section 132 is followed by assessment under Chapter XIV-B of the Act. A request under Section 132A is initiation of process to discover material related to concealed income. A survey under Section 133A will lead to discovery of available assets and discovery of concealed income. Thus, all the three categories which are excluded from the benefit of Section 64(1) are persons in regard to whom there is initiation or some kind of action relating to discovery of concealed income. Such persons are different and distinct from those in regard to whom no proceedings, process or action has been initiated to find out concealed income. In fact, initiation of action for search under Section 132 or requisition under Section 132 is authorised by the respective empowered authority, only where, in consequence of information in his possession, he has reason to believe that there is some concealment or existence of other conditions stipulated in the said section.

15. As observed by the Supreme Court in the decisions in R. K. Garg v. Union of India : [1982]133ITR239(SC) and Secretary to Government of Madras v. P. R. Sriramulu, AIR 1996 SC 676, a large discretion in the Legislature is recognised by courts in making such laws. It cannot be said that there isno rationale in differentiating between persons who have been searched on the basis of some information regarding concealment of income and persons who have not been searched. To find out whether the classification has any nexus to the object sought to be achieved, not only the object of framing the VDI Scheme, but also the object of introducing sections 132, 132A and 133A of the Income-tax Act should be kept in view. It is obvious that Section 64(2)(ii) is intended to maintain the deterrent effect of sections 132, 132A and 133A of the Income-tax Act on tax evaders. The intention of the VDI Scheme is not to nullify any provision of the Income-tax Act, but to achieve the stated object of the VDI Scheme, within the framework of the Income-tax Act without jeopardising the effect of the existing provisions of that Act.

16. The VDI Scheme is itself an exception to the provisions of the Income-tax Act, granting certain concessions to tax evaders. When framing such a scheme it is possible and permissible for Parliament to make a reasonable classification, denying the benefit to a particular class of evaders, in regard to whom some action has been initiated to detect evasion. A tax evader in regard to whom some action has been initiated to detect evasion of tax, is different from an evader in regard to whom there is no such action. The classification is neither illogical nor unreasonable. Nor can it be said that the classification has no nexus to the object sought to be achieved by the scheme. In the light of the principles laid down by the Supreme Court, referred to above, it is clear that Section 64(2)(ii) is neither arbitrary nor discriminatory nor does it suffer from any unconstitutionality.

Re: Ground (ii):

17. The petitioner wants the words 'or in respect of earlier previous year' occurring in Section 64(2)(ii) to be read as applicable only to 'survey under Section 133A of the Income-tax Act was carried out' and not in regard to search under Section 132 and requisition under Section 132A of the Income-tax Act.

18. The clause in the Bill corresponding to Section 64(2)(ii) barred the benefit of the scheme to income in respect of the previous year in which a search under Section 132 or requisition under 132A was made, or in respect of any earlier previous years. The phrase 'or survey under Section 133A under the Income-tax Act' was later inserted before the phrase 'or in respect of any earlier previous year'. This has led to a situation where a reference to the earlier previous years get attached to the survey operation though it can only refer to the current or specific year and not all earlier years. Both sections 132 and 132A refer to the special procedure for assessment of search cases involving a block of ten previous years. The resulting anomaly has however been removed by the clarifications given by the CBDT.

19. The CBDT has clarified the matter while answering questions Nos. 6 and 23 in Circular No. 754 (see [1997] 226 ITR (St.) 8), dated June 10, 1997,and questions Nos. 27, 35 and 36, in its Circular No. 755 (see [1997] 226 ITR (St.) 33), dated July 25, 1997. While answering question No. 23 of a circular dated June 10, 1997, and question No. 27, under the circular dated July 25, 1997, the CBDT has clarified that a survey under Section 133A or 133A(5) of the Income-tax Act will bar a person from making a disclosure for the previous year in which the search was carried out. While answering question No. 36 under circular dated July 25, 1997, it was clarified that if survey operations were carried out on September 30, 1993, i.e., previous year 1993-94, no disclosure could be made for the assessment year 1994-95, but the declarations of income can be made for the assessment year 1993-94 and earlier assessment years and the declarations can also be made for the assessment year 1995-96 and subsequent assessment years. Referring to a search under Section 132 (question No. 35 of the circular dated July 25, 1997) it was clarified that if a search was carried out between March 30, 1992, and April 5, 1992, Section 64(2)(ii) would bar disclosure of income in respect of any previous year in which the search is initiated or in respect of any earlier previous year, and that the disclosure can be made [except for the income/assets discovered or seized during the search referred to] in respect of the assessment year 1993-94 and subsequent years.

20. In UCO Bank v. CIT : [1999]237ITR889(SC) (Civil Appeal No. 235 of 1996, decided on May 13, 1999, the Supreme Court observed as follows (page 896) :

'Under Sub-section (2) of Section 119, without prejudice to the generality of the Board's power set out in Sub-section (1), a specific power is given to the Board for the purpose of proper and efficient management of the work of assessment and collection of revenue to issue from time to time general or special orders in respect of any class of incomes or class of cases, setting forth directions or instructions, not being prejudicial to assessees, as to the guidelines, principles or procedures to be followed in the work relating to assessment. Such instructions may be. by way of relaxation of any of the provisions of the sections specified there or otherwise. The Board thus has power, inter alia, to tone down the rigour of the law and ensure a fair enforcement of its provisions, by issuing circulars in exercise of its statutory powers under Section 119 of the Income-tax Act which are binding on the authorities in the administration of the Act. Under Section 119(2)(a), however, the circulars as contemplated therein cannot be adverse to the assessee. Thus, the authority which wields the power for its own advantage under the Act is given the right to forgo the advantage when required to wield it in a manner it considers just by relaxing the rigour of the law or in other permissible manners as laid down in Section 119. The power is given for the purpose of just, proper and efficient management of the work of assessment and in public interest. It is a beneficial power given to the Board for proper administration of fiscal lawso that undue hardship may not be caused to the assessee and the fiscal laws may be correctly applied. Hard cases which can be properly categorised as belonging to a class, can thus be given the benefit of relaxation of law by issuing circulars binding on the taxing authorities.' (emphasis1 supplied)

21. The complaint of the petitioners that while Section 64(2)(ii) treats cases of search under Section 132 and survey under Section 133A on par, the clarifications under the circulars dated June 10, 1997, and July 25, 1997, have altered the position and permitted the assessees subjected to survey under Section 133A133A to file declarations in respect of all the years other than the year in which survey was done, but has not extended such benefit to assessees subjected to search under Section 132 and therefore, there is discrimination, or that the benefit of the clarifications should be extended to cases of search also, is, therefore, without merit. It is evident the CBDT has merely relaxed the rigour of law for the purpose of just, proper and efficient management of the scheme and in public interest, in cases of survey, which under the Income-tax Act stands on a different footing when compared to search.

22. It is not therefore possible to read the words 'or in respect of earlier previous year' as applicable in regard to cases of 'survey under Section 133A' and not in regard to 'search under Section 132 or requisition under Section 132A'. The words 'or in respect of earlier previous year' in Section 64(2)(ii) refers to all the three categories, i.e., search under Section 132, requisition under Section 132A or survey under Section 133A. But, in view of the hardship and anomaly which has been referred to above or for reasons of public interest, the CBDT has issued circulars ensuring fair interpretation of the provisions. Hence, the second ground is also rejected.

Re : Ground (iii):

23. It is true that the scheme came into effect on July 1, 1997, and was in force till December 31, 1997. But there is no logic in the contention that any search conducted before July 1, 1997, will alone bar a person from availing of the benefit of the VDIS and any search done after July 1, 1997, cannot impair the rights of the assessee to take benefit of the VDI Scheme. Merely because the VDI Scheme was brought into effect during a particular period, it does not follow that the operation of the provisions of the Income-tax Act in particular, those relating to search and seizure, get suspended. If Parliament intended to suspend the operation of the provisions of the Income-tax Act relating to search and seizure, it would have made specific provision to that effect in the VDI Scheme. The petitioners' contention, if accepted, would amount to holding that the VDI Scheme has the effect of implied suspension of specific provisions of the Income-tax Act. Such suspension is neither permissible nor contemplated. If any assesseeor person was interested in avoiding a search or survey, it was always open to him to make use of the benefit under the scheme immediately after July 1, 1997. Merely because the scheme was in force till December 31, 1997, no person can contend that between July 1, 1997, and December 31, 1997, no search should be conducted or that if search is conducted that should not come in the way of availing of the benefit under the VDIS.

Conclusion :

24. On an examination of the provisions of Sub-section (2)(ii) of Section 64, we are in agreement with the reasoning of the learned single judge in upholding the validity of that provision.

25. Learned counsel for the. petitioner lastly submitted that the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Shankarlal v. ITO : [1998]230ITR536(AP) while upholding the validity of Section 64(2)(ii) has clarified that the benefit of the scheme should be denied only to the income which is detected in a search under Section 132, or a requisition under Section 132A or in a survey under Section 133A, whichever be the previous year to which the detected income relates. Having carefully considered the matter, we are of the view that no such exception to the exception need be carved out, in the absence of express provision to that effect in the scheme. We do not find any need for making such exception to uphold the validity of Section 64(2)(ii).

26. Learned counsel for the appellants submitted that in pursuance of the interim order dated March 18, 1998, the appellants had made a voluntary disclosure and had paid tax on that basis. The interim direction was made subject to the final decision in the appeals. As we are affirming the decision of the learned single judge, upholding Section 64(2)(ii), it is for the concerned authority to now consider whether the appellants are entitled to the benefit of Sub-section (1) of Section 64 or whether they are barred under Sub-section (2)(ii). If the authorities hold that the appellants are not entitled to the benefit of the scheme having regard to Section 64(2)(ii), the amounts paid may be adjusted against any tax liability of the respective appellants.

27. We accordingly dismiss these appeals, subject to the observation in para. 26 above.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //