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Commissioner of Sales Tax Vs. Jagdish Prasad Satish Prasad - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberS.T.R. No. 416 of 1975
Judge
Reported in[1979]43STC415(All)
AppellantCommissioner of Sales Tax
RespondentJagdish Prasad Satish Prasad
Appellant Advocate The Standing Counsel
Respondent Advocate A. Gupta, Adv.
Cases ReferredU.P. v. Bhagwan Industries
Excerpt:
- - -nothing in this sub-section shall be deemed to prevent the assessing authority from making an assessment to the best of its judgment......dealer was liable to tax under section 3-d(2) of the act.3. coming now to the second question, the sales tax officer in proceedings under rule 41(5) had considered the sales of foodgrains made by the assessee on behalf of the ex-u.p. principals, and had held them to be non-taxable. subsequently, taking the view that they were taxable, he issued notices under section 21. the basis on which he took this view does not appear to be based on any material other than his own subjective view. it is thus a case where notice under section 21 of the act has been issued on a change of opinion by the sales tax officer. the question is whether section 21 permits this to be done section 21, at the relevant point of time, read :21. (1) if the assessing authority has reason to believe that the whole or.....
Judgment:

C.S.P. Singh, J.

1. The Revising Authority, Varanasi, has referred the following questions of law for the opinion of this Court;

(1) Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the dealer was liable to tax under Section 3-D(2) of the U. P. Sales Tax Act in respect of the sales of foodgrains made by him on behalf of his ex-U. P. principals ?

(2) Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, Section 21 of the U. P. Sales Tax Act has rightly been applied ?

2. The first question is concluded by the decision given in Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Hanuman Trading Company [1979] 43 S.T.C. 408 (S. T. R. No. 852 of 1975) and is answered by saying that the dealer was liable to tax under Section 3-D(2) of the Act.

3. Coming now to the second question, the Sales Tax Officer in proceedings under Rule 41(5) had considered the sales of foodgrains made by the assessee on behalf of the ex-U.P. principals, and had held them to be non-taxable. Subsequently, taking the view that they were taxable, he issued notices under Section 21. The basis on which he took this view does not appear to be based on any material other than his own subjective view. It is thus a case where notice under Section 21 of the Act has been issued on a change of opinion by the Sales Tax Officer. The question is whether Section 21 permits this to be done Section 21, at the relevant point of time, read :

21. (1) If the assessing authority has reason to believe that the whole or any part of the turnover of a dealer has, for any reason, escaped assessment to tax for any year, the assessing authority may, after issuing notice to the dealer, and making such inquiry as may be necessary, assess or reassess him to tax:

Provided that the tax shall be charged at the rate at which it would have been charged had the turnover not escaped assessment, or full assessment, as the case may be.

Explanation.-Nothing in this sub-section shall be deemed to prevent the assessing authority from making an assessment to the best of its judgment.

4. Unlike Section 34 of the Income-tax Act, 1922, and Section 147 of the Income-tax Act, 1961, Section 21 does not detail the specific grounds on which the assessing authority has to form a reasonable belief as required by this section. Sri V. D. Singh, the standing counsel, urged that an assessment can be reopened under Section 21 for any reason, including one where the Sales Tax Officer finds that the view taken by him on a question of fact or law at the time of the original assessment was erroneous. There is no direct decision of this Court on the point. There are, however, some cases which shed light on the controversy.

5. In Suwa Lal Pooran Mal v. Commissioner, Sales Tax, U.P., Lucknow [1963] 14 S.T.C. 456, the assessee had disclosed a turnover of Rs. 1,10,000 on forward sales of silver, but the Sales Tax Officer did not assess that turnover. Thereafter, the assessment was reopened under Section 21 and the turnover taxed. The question arose as to whether this could be done under Section 21. Two contentions were raised on behalf of the assessee : (1) that as the turnover had been disclosed in the original assessment it was not a case of escaped assessment, and (2) that action under Section 21 could be taken only in case the Sales Tax Officer came across some material other than that already available at the time of the original assessment. Both these contentions were rejected. It was held that the language of Section 21 was wide enough to cover cases of inadvertent mistake, and it was not necessary that there should be fresh information on the basis of which an order under Section 21 could be made. It is not clear from this decision as to whether the Sales Tax Officer had considered the taxability of the turnover of Rs. 1,10,000 on merits as in the present case. This distinction, however, is not sufficient to by-pass the law laid down in this case, for, this case lays down that the language, of Section 21 was very wide and empowered the Sales Tax Officer to reopen the assessment for any reason. This would cover a case of change of opinion also. There are, however, other cases of this Court which suggest that an assessment cannot be reopened under Section 21 on a mere change of opinion. In Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Gopalji, Varanasi 1974 U.P.T.C. 277, a survey had taken place on the premises of the assessee and, thereafter, regular assessment under Rule 41(5) was made. Subsequently, the Sales Tax Officer felt that the survey report had not been given due weight in the regular assessment and took proceedings under Section 21. This Court held that proceedings taken under Section 21 were not justified as the assessment cannot be reopened merely because the Sales Tax Officer had second thought about the weight of the survey. The Court also held that it could not, in the circumstances, be said that the Sales Tax Officer had 'reason to believe' within the meaning of Section 21 so as to entitle him to reopen the assessment. In Deoki Nandan v. M.L. Gupta, Sales Tax Officer, Etawah [1969] 23 S.T.C. 481, following the decision in the case of Allahabad Milling Co. v. Sales Tax Officer II [1966] 17 S.T.C. 211, it was held that the considerations, which applied to cases relating to Section 34 of the Income-tax Act, apply to the proceedings under Section 21 of the U. P. Sales Tax Act, and before action under Section 21 can be taken, the assessing authority must have material on the basis of which he forms the belief that the turnover had escaped assessment. It was also laid down, following the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Narayanappa v. Commissioner of Income-tax, Bangalore A.I.R. 1967 S.C. 523, that the opinion formed could not be based purely on his subjective satisfaction. Once the position is reached that the same considerations which apply to escaped assessment under the Income-tax Act apply in proceedings under Section 21, the Sales Tax Officer cannot initiate proceedings under Section 21 on a mere change of opinion. See Income-tax Officer, I Ward, District VI, Calcutta v. Lakhmani Mewal Das [1976] 103 I.T.R. 437 (S.C.) and Parashuram Pottery Works Co. Ltd. v. Income-tax Officer, Circle I, Ward A, Rajkot [1977] 106 I.T.R. 1 (S.C.). In Lakhmani Mewal Das's case [1976] 103 I.T.R. 437 (S.C.), on page 446, their Lordships of the Supreme Court took the same view as expressed by this Court in Deoki Nandarts case [1969] 23 S.T.C. 481 that the phrase 'reason to believe' does not mean a purely subjective satisfaction on the part of the assessing authority. Sri V.D. Singh, the learned standing counsel, however referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in Maharaj Kumar Kamal Singh v. Commissioner of Income-tax, A.I.R. 1959 S.C. 257, and urged that even under the Income-tax Act an assessment can be reopened where income has escaped assessment on account of an inadvertent mistake or omission on the part of the Income-tax Officer. It was contended that the present case is one of that type. I am unable to accept this contention. The decision relied upon does not lay down that under the guise of correcting an inadvertent mistake or omission an Income-tax Officer can reopen an assessment on a mere change of opinion. The decision does not support this contention and is in no way contrary to the other decisions noticed. Further, in a case where a particular point has been considered on merits and a view taken, it would not be a case of inadvertent mistake or omission if it is found that the view taken earlier was wrong.

6. The position that emerges is that while in Suwa Lal Pooran Mal [1963] 14 S.T.C. 456, this Court has taken the view that the powers under Section 21 of reopening an assessment are very wide and on that line of reasoning adopted indicated that an assessment can be reopened on a change of opinion, the later decisions of this Court do not go to this extent. The decision in Suwa Lal Pooran Mal [1963] 14 S.T.C. 456 does not appear to have been noticed in the two later decisions referred to earlier. At one stage I thought it advisable to refer this question to a larger Bench for a solution of the apparent conflict between these Division Benches. In view of the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in the case of Commissioner of Sales Tax, U.P. v. Bhagwan Industries (P.) Ltd. [1973] 31 S.T.C. 293 at 300 (S.C.), it is, however, not necessary to do so, for, it has been held that the import of the words 'reason to believe' as used in Section 21 of the U. P. Sales Tax Act, 1948, is the same as in Section 34 of the Income-tax Act, and the decisions given under Section 34 of the Income-tax Act are appropriate for cases arising under Section 21. This being so, the words 'reason to believe' used in Section 21 of the Act cannot be interpreted to encompass within its fold a mere change of opinion. It may be added that the phrase 'reason to believe' means a reasonable belief on the part of the Sales Tax Officer that the turnover has escaped assessment. A belief cannot be reasonable in case it is purely subjective formed without reference to any other objective fact. Change of opinion by the Sales Tax Officer without reference to any other objective material would be a subjective belief and not an objective one.

7. In view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Bhagwan Industries (P.) Ltd. case [1973] 31 S.T.C. 293 at 300 (S.C.), it must be held that the proceedings under Section 21 of the Act cannot be initiated on a mere change of opinion on the part of the Sales Tax Officer.

8. The first question is answered in the affirmative and the second question in the negative. The assessee is entitled to its costs, which is assessed at Rs. 200.


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