Sambasiva Rao, J.
1. The question we have to decide in these cases is: when under Section 14(1) of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act (which will be hereinafter referred to as the Act) a best judgment assessment is made, whether the penalty proceedings under Section 14(2) could be started after the lapse of a period of more than 4 years from the expiry of the year to which the best judgment assessment relates.
2. The State of Andhra Pradesh is the petitioner in all these revision cases. The respondents are businessmen belonging to East Godavari and Cuddapah districts. They are dealers in a variety of businesses like fancy goods, ghee, pulses etc.' The assessing authority detected some suppressions in their turnovers and made best judgment assessments under Section 14(1) against them. In addition, he also commenced penalty proceedings under Section 14(2). It is common case between the parties that such penalty proceedings were commenced after the lapse of 4 years from the expiry of the year to which the best judgment assessments related. The respondents preferred appeals to the Assistant Commissioner (C.T.) against the proceedings of penalty which, were, however, unsuccessful. Thereupon they carried the matters in second appeals to the Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal. The Tribunal allowed the second appeals of the respondents, holding that the penalty proceedings could not be started after the lapse of a period of four years. Aggrieved by that decision the State has come up to this Court by preferring these revision cases.
3. In support of the revision cases the learned Government Pleader argued that there is no time-limit prescribed for commencing the penalty proceedings under Section 14(2) and that the Tribunal was wrong in thinking that there is such a time-limit prescribed under Section 14. A reading of the relevant provisions of Section 14, as they stood at the relevant time, is necessary to examine the tenability of the contention of the learned Government Pleader. They are in the following terms :
14. (1) If the assessing authority is satisfied that any return submitted under Section 13 is correct and complete, he shall assess the amount of tax payable by the dealer on the basis thereof; but if the return appears to him to be incorrect or incomplete he shall, after giving the dealer a reasonable opportunity of proving the correctness and completeness of the return submitted by him and making such inquiry as he deems necessary, assess to the best of his judgment, the amount of tax due from the dealer. An assessment under this section shall, be made only within a period of four years from the expiry of the year to which the assessment relates.
(2) When making an assessment to the best of judgment under Sub-section (1), the assessing authority may also direct the dealer to pay in addition to the tax assessed, a penalty not exceeding one and a half times the tax due on the turnover that was not disclosed by the dealer in his return....
Provided that before issuing any direction for the payment of any penalty under Sub-section (2), Sub-section (3) or Sub-section (4), the assessing authority shall give the dealer a reasonable opportunity to explain the omission to disclose the information, and make such inquiry as he considers necessary.
4. This section was recast by the amending Act 16 of 1963. In so far as it is relevant to the present case it is necessary to note that in the place of the proviso to Section 14 a new sub-section, viz., Sub-section (4-B) was added which is as follows:
(4-B) Before issuing any direction for the payment of any penalty under Sub-section (2), Sub-section (3) or Sub-section (4), the assessing authority shall give the dealer a reasonable opportunity to explain the omission to disclose the turnover or to furnish correctly any particulars and shall make such inquiry as he considers necessary.
5. It is, therefore, to be seen that the new Sub-section (4-B) is practically identical with the deleted proviso to Section 14. There is thus no difference in the scope or amplitude of the proviso.
6. In regard to Sub-section (2) the only alteration that was made is that while the old Sub-section (2) prescribes a limit to the penalty at 1 1/2 times the tax due on the turnover, according to the new Sub-section (2) the penalties may vary from 1 1/2 to 5 times, as the case may be, as specified in the new Sub-section (8).
7. It is clear from Section 14(1) that an assessment, whether one made accepting the return submitted by the assessee or a best judgment one, shall be made only within a period of four years from the expiry of the year to which the assessment relates. Therefore, a best judgment assessment cannot be made thereafter. Then Sub-section (2) enables the assessing authority to levy a penalty in addition to the tax as per its best judgment assessment on the turnover that was not disclosed by the dealer in his return. It is important to note that Sub-section (2) makes it clear that the assessing authority could do so only 'when making an assessment to the best of judgment under Sub-section (1)'. Significantly, Sub-section (2) starts with the very words 'when making an assessment to the best of judgment under Sub-section (1)' thus creating a nexus between the best judgment assessment made under Sub-section (1) with the penalty proceeding under Sub-section (2). The word 'also' occurring in Sub-section (2)- 'the assessing authority may also direct the dealer to pay in addition to the tax assessed a penalty'-further reinforces our view. Thus, the issuance of the direction by the assessing authority to the dealer to pay penalty is clearly linked with and related to the time of making of the best judgment assessment. According to Section 14(1) such assessment shall be made only within a period of four years from the expiry of the' year to which the assessment relates. It must, therefore, necessarily follow that the penalty proceedings under Sub-section (2) also should be taken up within the same period, viz., four years from the expiry of the year to which the best judgment assessment relates.
8. It, however, is not necessary that the penalty should be levied simultaneously with the making of the best judgment assessment. This position is made clear by the proviso which requires that the assessing authority should give the dealer a reasonable opportunity to explain the omission to disclose the information, before issuing any direction for the payment of any penalty under Sub-section (2). After giving such reasonable opportunity, the assessing authority is also required to make such enquiry as he considers necessary. This precludes the imposition of penalty without giving a reasonable opportunity to the assessee to explain the omission on his part and making an enquiry into it. It is not, therefore, possible to postulate that the levy of the penalty should be simultaneous with the best judgment assessment. The same view was expressed by a Division Bench of this Court in Radhakrishna and Co. v. State of Andhra Pradesh  13 S.T.C. 117. In fact, the learned Government Pleader has placed reliance upon this decision in support of his contention that there is no time-limit prescribed for starting penalty proceedings. But the decision is no authority for any such proposition. The only question that was raised before it was that the levy of penalty should be simultaneous with making the best judgment assessment under Section 14(1). This contention was rejected by the Division Bench. It was not necessary for it to consider whether the starting of the penalty proceedings should or should not be within the same period as for making the best judgment assessment. This decision does not, therefore, render any assistance to the contention of the Government.
9. It is not necessary in this case to consider whether the penalty proceedings should also be completed within the same period and we do not, therefore, express any opinion thereon. It is, however, clear from the reading of Sub-sections 14(1) and (2) and the proviso, that the penalty proceedings should commence within the period prescribed for making the best judgment assessment under Sub-section 14(1). The purpose behind fixing the period appears to be obvious. If more than four years elapse it would become more and more difficult for the assessee to place before the assessing authority the relevant material, accounts and records in the enquiry that might be held. It is not also possible for the assessee to remember all the circumstances under which he had submitted his return or why he had failed to disclose the information in his return and how he had committed the alleged omissions therein. Obviously the Legislature thought it just and reasonable to prescribe a time-limit and thought four years as a reasonable one.
10. In the light of the discussions above, we are of the opinion that the Tribunal is right in holding that the penalty proceedings started after the period of four years from the expiry of the year to which the best judgment assessments in these cases related, are not sustainable. The tax revision cases have, therefore, no merits and are accordingly dismissed with costs in T.R.C. No. 25 of 1965 only. Advocate's fee Rs. 100.