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Commissioner of Income-tax Vs. Hari Om Company - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberIncome-tax Reference No. 16 of 1972
Judge
Reported in[1980]122ITR759(All)
ActsIncome Tax Act, 1922 - Sections 22, 22(1), 22(2), 24A and 25(1); Income Tax Act, 1961 - Sections 139, 174, 175 and 176
AppellantCommissioner of Income-tax
RespondentHari Om Company
Appellant AdvocateR.K. Gulati and ;Ashok Gupta, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateV.B. Upadhya, Adv.
Excerpt:
.....dated 20th december, 1956, calling upon the assessee to furnish the return of its income for the assessment year 1957-58, accounting period ended on april 18, 1956, was a perfectly valid and legal notice. it may be urged that the issue and service of a notice under section 22(1) or (2) may affect the liability under the penal clauses which provide for failure to act as required by the notice. it hardly needs mention, since it is a well established principle, that the decision of the privy council being a declaration of law within the meaning of section 212 of the government of india act was binding upon all courts in india and it was the law when the constitution came into force with effect from january 26, 1950. under article 372 of the constitution the law in force continued in force..........from 18th of april 1956. its previous year for 1956-57 ended on june 21, 1955, and for that year assessment was made on the 20th march 1961. for the broken period of the subsequent previous year, that is, for the period from june 22, 1955, to april 18, 1956, the assessment could be made under section 25(1) and such assessment could be made in the year of discontinuance itself. the assessment year for the broken period would be 1957-58 which is relevant to the previous year in which this broken period falls.12. there is yet another aspect and it is whether the jurisdiction of the ito to assess and the liability of the assessee to pay the tax are or are not conditional on the validity of the notice. such a question had come up before the federal court in chatturam v. cit [1947] 15.....
Judgment:

R.R. Rastogi, J.

1. The Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Allahabad Bench, Allahabad, has, at the instance of the Commissioner of Income-tax, Kanpur, made this reference under section 66(2) of the Indian. I.T. Act, 1922 (hereinafter called ' the Act '). The questions referred soliciting the opinion of this court are as under :

' 1. Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the notice dated December 20, 1956, under section 22(2) read with Section 25(1) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922, was invalid and, therefore, whether the entire assessment proceeding taken subsequently was also invalid ?

2. Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the assessment for the assessment year 1957-58 made on the basis of the return of income filed on April 9, 1958, was invalid ?

3. Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Appellate Tribunal was right in upholding the order of the Appellate Assistant ; Commissioner cancelling the order refusing registration under section 26A of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 '

2. The respondent-assessee was a partnership firm and during its assessment for the assessment year 1956-57, the accounting period ended on June 21, 1955, the ITO found that the assessee-firm had been dissolved on April 18, 1956, and for the period from June 22, 1955, to April 18, 1956, relevant to the assessment year 1957-58, he wanted to make a premature assessment under section 25(1) of the Act and hence gave a notice under section 22(2) on December 20, 1956. In pursuance of that notice the assessee filed a return on March 18, 1957, showing an estimated income of Rs. 1,40,000. On the same day, the ITO made a provisional assessment under section 238 of the Act and determined a sum of Rs. 57,032 as tax payable by the assessee. The assessee did-pay that amount. Subsequently, on April 9, 1958, the assessee filed a revised return showing an income of Rs. 1,82,249 mentioning in the return that it was for the year 1957-58, the accounting period ending on April 17, 1956. The ITO completed the assessment on February 28, 1962, determining the total income at Rs. 2,29,609.

3. The assessee filed an appeal before the AAC and contended that the notice issued under section 22(2) was invalid inasmuch as it was issued before the commencement of the assessment year 1957-58 and the assessment made on that basis was invalid. That submission found favour with the AAC and he cancelled the assessment and directed the ITO to start fresh proceedings to assess the income of the broken period for the assessment year 1957-58. From that order the department went up in appeal before the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal.

4. The Appellate Tribunal agreeing with the AAC held that the notice issued under section 22(2) was invalid inasmuch as it was issued before the commencement of the assessment year and the assessment made on the basis of that notice was invalid. In its opinion the fact that the assessee did not object to the validity of the assessment proceedings was not material. About the subsequent return filed on April 9, 1958, the Appellate Tribunal held that ' it was a revise'd return which was in continuation of the original return filed by the assessee on March 18, 1957 ' and that it was not a voluntary return and the assessment made on its basis was not valid. In the result, the AAC's order was upheld.

5. The assessment was made by the ITO treating the assessee as an unregistered firm. The AAC on appeal held that since the assessment had been set aside and no proper assessment could be made on the assessee for the assessment year 1957-58, the question of refusing registration did not arise. On further appeal, the Appellate Tribunal agreed with the AAC.

6. The main question that falls for our consideration is as to whether the notice issued under section 22(2) read with Section 25(1) of the Act on December 20, 1956, was a valid and legal notice and the assessment made on the basis thereof was a valid assessment Section 22(1) of the Act provided that the ITO shall, on or before the 1st day of May in each year, give notice, by publication in the press and by publication in the prescribed manner, requiring every person whose total income during the previous year exceeded the maximum amount which is not chargeable to income-tax to furnish, within such period not being less than sixty days as may be specified in the notice, a return in the prescribed form and verified in the prescribed manner, setting forth (along with such other particulars as may be required by the notice) his total income and total world income during that year. The proviso gave a discretion to the ITO to extend the date for the delivery of the return in the case of any person or class of persons. Sub-section (2) read as under:

' (2) In the case of any person whose total income is, in the Income-tax Officer's opinion, of such an amount as to render such person liable to income-tax, the Income-tax Officer may serve a notice upon him requiring him to furnish within such period not being less than thirty days, as may be specified in the notice, a return in the prescribed form and verified in the prescribed manner setting forth (along with such other particulars as may be provided for in the notice) his total income and total world income during the previous year.'

7. It would be seen that the scope of each of these two sections was entirely different. The corresponding provisions are contained in Section 139(1) and (2) of the I.T. Act, 1961, and the question whether a return can be demanded under Sub-section (2) before the expiry of the time allowed to file a return under Sub-section (1) has expired came up for consideration before a Division Bench of this court in Tarzan Hosiery P. Ltd. v. ITO : [1968]69ITR842(All) . It was held that a return can be demanded by the ITO under section 139(2) of the I.T. Act, 1961, even before the time allowed by the Act for filing a return under section 139(1) has expired. The view taken was that Sub-Sections (1) and (2) of Section 139 deal with two distinct and different aspects, of the procedure for submitting returns and both of them can operate simultaneously to their full extent. Reading the two Sub-sections harmoniously the intention of the section is that all persons liable to assessment should be under an obligation to furnish a return of income within the time prescribed by Sub-section (1), provided they have not already been asked by the ITO to furnish a return by means of a notice under Sub-section (2). This decision has been followed by the Mysore High Court in Venkateswara Power Rolling Mitts v. CIT : [1974]97ITR168(KAR) . It follows, therefore, that a notice under section 22(2) Could be given before the commencement of the assessment year in respect of a previous year. That being so the notice dated 20th December, 1956, calling upon the assessee to furnish the return of its income for the assessment year 1957-58, accounting period ended on April 18, 1956, was a perfectly valid and legal notice.

8. The matter can be examined from another aspect and it is with reference to Section 25(1) of the Act. As noted above, the impugned notice had been given under section 22(2) read with Section 25(1). Now, Section 25(1) reads as under:

'25. (1) Where any business, profession or vocation to which Subsection (3) is not applicable, is discontinued in any year, an assessment may be made in that year on the basis of the income, profits or gains of the period between the end of the previous year and the date of such discontinuance in addition to the assessment, if any, made on the basis of the income, profits or gains of the previous year.'

9. The corresponding provision in the 1961 Act is contained in Section 176(1). This section along with Section 24A of the Act or Sections 174 and 175 of the 1961 Act constitutes an exception to the general rule that the subject of charge under the Act is the income of the previous year and not the income of the assessment year. In the case of any business, profession or vocation which is discontinued in any assessment year, the ITO may, in his discretion, make an assessment under this section in the year of discontinuance on the entire business income, computable under whatever head, of the period between the end of the previous year relevant to that assessment year and the date of such discontinuance, in addition to the assessment, if any, made on the income of the previous year.

10. In CIT v. Srinivasan and Gopalan [1953] 23 ITR 87 the Supreme Court laid down that the words of Section 25(1) ' do not empower the Income-tax Officer to make a cumulative assessment in respect of profits earned in two different accounting periods or entitle him to merge the profits of two years into one total sum and apply to them the rate of one of the financial years. All that the section authorises the Income-tax Officer to do is that it gives him an option to make a premature assessment on the profits earned up to the date of discontinuance in the year of discontinuance itself instead of in the usual financial year '. This Sub-section imposes a liability of premature assessment on the assessee. It confers no benefit on him and as explained in CIT v. Chugandas and Co. : [1965]55ITR17(SC) :

'The reason of the rule contained in Section 25(1) is to prevent loss of revenue by the assessee discontinuing the business, profession or vocation and frittering away or secreting the assets and income or disappearing from the scene of his activity.'

11. Admittedly, the assessee-firm was dissolved and it discontinued business from 18th of April 1956. Its previous year for 1956-57 ended on June 21, 1955, and for that year assessment was made on the 20th March 1961. For the broken period of the subsequent previous year, that is, for the period from June 22, 1955, to April 18, 1956, the assessment could be made under section 25(1) and such assessment could be made in the year of discontinuance itself. The assessment year for the broken period would be 1957-58 which is relevant to the previous year in which this broken period falls.

12. There is yet another aspect and it is whether the jurisdiction of the ITO to assess and the liability of the assessee to pay the tax are or are not conditional on the validity of the notice. Such a question had come up before the Federal Court in Chatturam v. CIT [1947] 15 ITR 302 . Their Lordships observed in this case thus:

' The income-tax assessment proceedings commence with the issue of a notice. The issue or receipt of a notice is not, however, the foundation of the jurisdiction of the Income-tax Officer to make the assessment or of the liability of the assessees to pay the tax. It may be urged that the issue and service of a notice under section 22(1) or (2) may affect the liability under the penal clauses which provide for failure to act as required by the notice. The jurisdiction to assess and the liability to pay the tax, however, are not conditional on the validity of the notice.'

13. This decision was followed by a Full Bench of the Madhya Bharat High Court in Sarupchand and Hukumchand v. Union of India : [1953]23ITR382(MP) . These decisions apply on all fours to the facts of the present case. It hardly needs mention, since it is a well established principle, that the decision of the Privy Council being a declaration of law within the meaning of Section 212 of the Government of India Act was binding upon all courts in India and it was the law when the Constitution came into force with effect from January 26, 1950. Under Article 372 of the Constitution the law in force continued in force until altered or repealed, vide Kishan Chand v. Ram Babu, : AIR1965All65 . Similarly, a decision of the Federal Court on a point of law given prior to the 26th of January, 1950, is binding on all courts within the territory of India after January 26, 1950, as would appear from a combined reading of arts. 141 and 374(2) of the Constitution, vide Arumugam v. State of Madras : AIR1951Mad115 , Kishori Lal Potdar v. Devi Prasad Kejriwal : AIR1950Pat50 and Laxmibai v. State of Madhya Pradesh AIR 1951 Nagpur 94 [FB].

14. From what has been discussed above, it would appear that in the instant case the ITO could give a notice under section 22(2) read with Section 25(1) of the Act if in his discretion he wanted to make an accelerated assessment for the disputed broken period, that is, from June 22, 1955, to April 18, 1956, relevant for the assessment year 1957-58 and the notice given by him on December 20, 1956, was an absolutely valid and legal notice. Apart from that the jurisdiction of the ITO to assess and the liability of the assessee to pay the tax were not conditional on the validity of the notice. However, on behalf of the assessee our attention was invited to a Division Bench decision of this court rendered in Abdul Fatten v. State of U.P. : [1964]53ITR592(All) . That was a case under the U.P. Agrl. I.T. Act. Under that Act, Section 15(1) provided for a general notice to be issued on or before the first day of November, 1948, or on any such day as may be fixed by the State Govt. and further a notice was required to be served under section 15(3) on every person liable to pay agricultural income-tax in any year, in that year requiring him to furnish within such period not being less than 30 days, as may be specified in the notice, a return of his total agricultural income during the previous year. Yet a third notice was required to be given under section 16(2) in case the assessing authority had reason to believe that a return made under section 15 was incorrect or incomplete. In that case the assessee had not submitted a return under section 15(1) of the U.P. Agrl, I.T. Act, but had submitted a return under protest in response to a time barred notice served on him under section 15(3). The view taken was that the aforesaid return could not be treated as a return under section 15(1) and it was observed (p. 599):

15. ' It is true that a return is a return whether filed in response to one notice or to another and that the law makes no distinction between a return filed in response to one notice and a return filed in response to another notice. An assessee is to be assessed on the return filed by him and the question whether he filed it in response to the general notice or in response to a notice under section 15(3) is irrelevant. But the question here is of the validity of the notice served under section 15(3) upon the assessee on July 7, 1950, and of the effect of its invalidity on the return filed in response to it. The question whether a return was filed in response to a particular notice or not does become relevant when the validity of that notice is in question. If the assessing authority had not issued a notice under section 15(3) against the assessee--mutwalli--in June-July, 1950, he would not have filed the return; in other words, if the assessing authority had not committed a mistake of law there would have been no return filed by the assessee and it cannot be permitted to take advantage of its mistake by treating the return as one filed in response to the general notice. It cannot treat as done something which would not have been done if everything had gone on in accordance with the law.'

15. A similar view had been taken by the Calcutta High Court in R. K. Das & Co. v. CIT : [1956]30ITR439(Cal) except for the difference that that was a case under section 34(1) of the Act where the issue of a notice as prescribed by law is a condition precedent to the commencement of proceedings in exercise of the jurisdiction to assess. In that case, the assessee had omitted to file a return of his income in respect of the calendar year 1945 and the ITO issued a notice to him under section 34. Even then the assessee did not file any return, but when informed by the ITO that if he did not file a return before _a particular date penalty will be leviable, the assessee filed a return. Meanwhile, the ITO realised that the notice given by him might be illegal as he had not obtained the permission or sanction of the Commissioner and issued a fresh notice under section 34 after receiving the Commissioner's sanction. No fresh return was filed and an assessment was made on the basis of the return filed earlier. The question which arose was whether that return could be regarded as a voluntary return under section 22(3) on the basis of which a valid assessment could be made. The view taken by the Calcutta High Court was that the return filed by the assessee in response to the notice issued earlier could not be treated as a voluntary return and on the basis of the same no valid assessment could be made. This decision was overruled by the Supreme Court in CIT v. S. Roman Chettiar : [1965]55ITR630(SC) . The view taken was that a return filed in pursuance of an invalid notice under section 34 was a return within Section 22(3) and it could not be ignored or disregarded. The following observations made in that decision would be relevant for the present case as well (p. 636):

' We think that some confusion has crept into this branch of the income-tax law by the use of the words ' voluntary return ' and a ' non-voluntary return '. Section 22(3} does not use this expression and whatever the impelling cause or motive, if a return otherwise valid is filed by an assessee before the receipt of a valid' notice under section 34, it is to be treated as a return within Section 22(3) for it falls within the language of the Sub-section.'

16. In view of the decision of the Federal Court in Chatturam v. CIT [1947] 15 ITR 302 and of the Supreme Court in CIT v. S. Raman Chettiar : [1965]55ITR630(SC) and, lastly, of this court in Tarzan Hosiery P. Ltd. v. ITO : [1968]69ITR842(All) , in our opinion the position in this behalf is crystallised and admits of no doubt and we would, therefore, answer questions Nos. 1 and 2 in the negative, in favour of the department and against the assessee. Question No. 3 is consequential and it is also answered in the negative.

17. Hence, all the three questions are answered in the negative, in favour of the department and against the assessee. The department is entitled to costs which we assess at Rs. 200.


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