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Vishambar Nath and anr. Vs. Deputy Director (Consolidation) and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Misc. Writ Petition No. 3520 of 1969
Judge
Reported in[1977]108ITR761(All)
ActsIncome Tax Act, 1922 - Sections 54
AppellantVishambar Nath and anr.
RespondentDeputy Director (Consolidation) and ors.
Appellant AdvocateJ.N. Tewari, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateC.P. Srivastava, Adv.
Excerpt:
- - feeling aggrieved, the petitioners filed appeal and then revision but failed. since they are admissible in evidence they can as well be used for purposes of cross-examination......that, when an assessment order was to be treated as confidential under section 54 of the act, a joint assessee could be permitted the use of the copy of such an order to the detriment of his co-assessee in contentious proceedings between them. a full bench of the madras high court, however, held in rama rao v. venka-taramayya : [1940]8itr450(mad) that a return was confidential and could not be disclosed to a third party bat there could be no objection to the maker of a return having a copy for his own purposes if he so desired and he was not bound to treat the document as confidential. in other words, he could produce that document as evidence in court. it is unnecessary for the purposes of this case to go into the larger question of production of the documents covered by section.....
Judgment:

Satish Chandra, J.

1. A learned single judge of this court has referred this writ petition to a Division Bench because he felt unable to agree withthe view taken by another hon'ble single judge in Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 4266 of 1963 [Raghubir Saran v. O.P. Jain : [1969]73ITR482(All) ] decided on 12th July, 1968.

2. The relevant facts lie in a very short compass. During consolidation operations the petitioners' case was that the properties in dispute were joint Hindu family properties in which the petitioners had also a share. The respondents, however, took up the case that the properties were their separate assets. In support of their case the petitioners filed certified copy of a return filed on behalf of the Hindu joint family as also a certified copy of the statement of Ram Jag, respondent No. 7, made in the course of certain income-tax proceedings. Ram Jag took an objection to the admissi-bility of these documents. He relied on Section 54 of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922.

3. The Consolidation Officer by his order dated 23rd May, 1967, upheld the objection and directed that the copies were not admissible in evidence nor could they be used for the purposes of cross-examination. Feeling aggrieved, the petitioners filed appeal and then revision but failed. Hence, they have come to this court by way of a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution.

4. The petitioners claim to be the members of the joint Hindu family in respect of which the return under the Income-tax Act was stated to have been filed. The documents which they wish to produce in the case are a certified copy of the statement of Ram Jag and a certified copy of the return. The statement of Ram Jag was given in the assessment proceeding relating to the assessment of the joint Hindu family. According to the petitioners they are representatives of the joint Hindu family. The question as to whether an assessee or his representative could rely upon certified copies of income-tax returns, etc., has now been finally settled by a decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Tulsiram Sanganaria v. Smt. Anni Rai : [1971]79ITR502(SC) , in which the Supreme Court held :

'Now, it is quite clear that Section 54 created a complete bar to the production by officials and other servants of the income-tax department of any such documents which were mentioned in Sub-sections (1) and (2). It also made it obligatory on them to treat as confidential the records and documents mentioned in the Sub-sections. They were further prohibited from giving any evidence relating to them. The question which came up for consideration before the courts was, if the documents could be given without requiring a public servant to produce them, could the court allow them to be tendered and admitted into evidence ?

The Madras High Court held in Mythili Ammal v. Janaki Ammal : [1939]7ITR657(Mad) that statements made in income-tax returns could not be brought up in court against the person making them or against any oneelse nor could the income returns be proved by secondary evidence under Section 64 of the Indian Evidence Act. The Calcutta High Court in Promatha Nath Pramanick v. Nirode Chandra Ghose : [1939]7ITR570(Cal) considered it startling that, when an assessment order was to be treated as confidential under Section 54 of the Act, a joint assessee could be permitted the use of the copy of such an order to the detriment of his co-assessee in contentious proceedings between them. A Full Bench of the Madras High Court, however, held in Rama Rao v. Venka-taramayya : [1940]8ITR450(Mad) that a return was confidential and could not be disclosed to a third party bat there could be no objection to the maker of a return having a copy for his own purposes if he so desired and he was not bound to treat the document as confidential. In other words, he could produce that document as evidence in court.

It is unnecessary for the purposes of this case to go into the larger question of production of the documents covered by Section 54(1) by third parties as it was the son of Manilal, the assessee, who had produced the assessment orders which are in dispute. There is an overwhelming weight of authority in favour of the view that assessment orders could be produced by the assessee or his representative-in-interest: See Emperor v. Osman Chotani [1942] 10 ITR 429 , Suraj Narain v. Seth Jhabhu Lal : [1945]13ITR13(All) and Buchibai v. Nagpur University . In our opinion, the law laid down by these cases on the admissibility of evidence of, assessment orders produced by an assessee or his representa-tive-in-interest is unexceptionable. We may refer to a decision of this court in Charu Chandra Kundu v. Gurupada Ghosh : [1961]43ITR83(SC) on which reliance was placed on behalf of the appellants. There the appellant had applied to the trial court praying that the Commissioner of Income-tax be directed to arrange for the production before the court of the record of the statement made by the respondent therein. In that situation it was held that the prohibition imposed under Section 54 of the Act was absolute and the operation of the Section was not obliterated by any waiver by the assessee in whose assessment the evidence was tendered, documents produced or record prepared. It is apparent that in that case the question of production of an assessment order by the assessee himself did not come up for consideration.'

5. It is thus clear that Section 54 of the Income-tax Act has no relevance to the admissibility of a document produced by an assessee or by his repre-sentative-in-interest. Such documents are admissible in evidence. Since they are admissible in evidence they can as well be used for purposes of cross-examination.

6. Raghubir Saran's case : [1969]73ITR482(All) mentioned above is distinguishable on facts. There a party had applied to the court for anorder to compel the Income-tax Officer to produce certain documents and record from assessment proceedings. The learned judge held that such a prayer could not be granted because Section 54 of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922, was a direct bar to it. The case is distinguishable. In the present case such a situation does not arise. The petitioners have themselves obtained certified copies of the documents which they wanted to file. They were not asking for any direction from the court to compel the income-tax authorities to produce any document.

7. In the result the petition succeeds. The impugned orders of the Consolidation Officer, the Settlement Officer (Consolidation) and the Deputy Director of Consolidation are quashed. The matter is sent back to the Consolidation Officer for proceeding with the case in accordance with law and in the light of the observations made above. The petitioners would be entitled to costs.


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