1. This is a petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which could well be one under Sections 397/401 of the aforesaid Code, for quashing a charge under Section 277 of the I.T. Act and s. 193, Indian Penal Code, framed against the petitioner by a Judicial Magistrate, 1st Class, Amritsar.
2. The undisputed facts are these :
The petitioner, Prem Lata, is a partner in a firm. The firm was an assessee under the I.T. Act for the assessment year 1965-66. One of the partners, other than Prem Lata, filed a return. It was signed by that partner and contained the necessary declarations envisaged under the law and the rules. The income-tax authorities found the particulars provided in the return as also the declarations to be false. Thereupon, a complaint was filed against the partners of the firm (including Prem Lata) under Sections 277/278 of the I.T. Act as also under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. Along with the partners of the firm were arraigned other persons who were said to have entered into shady deals with the firm. Withthe latter aspect of the case, this petition has no concern. The learnedtrial Magistrate, after recording preliminary evidence, framed charges against the three partners of the firm in this manner--(1) that during the year 1966, you accused Nos. 1 to 3 filed a false return for the assessment year 1965-66, knowing it to be false before the income-tax authorities and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 277 of the Income-tax Act and within my cognizance. (2) ......... and (3) thirdly, during the sameperiod, you accused Nos. 1 to 3 fabricated false evidence before the income-tax authorities in the shape of false return and thereby committed an offence under Section 193, Indian Penal Code, because proceedings under the income-tax authorities are judicial proceedings within my cognizance.
As is plain from the language of the charges, the third charge is dependent on the first charge. As is also plain from the facts above noted, the petitioner, Prem Lata, had neither signed the return nor had made any statement or verification so as to come within the grip of Section 277 of the I.T. Act. On these admitted facts, a prayer has been made to quash the charges against her.
3. The learned counsel for the respondent, however, took the aid of Section 278B of the I.T. Act to contend that even a partner of a firm is within the grip of the penal provisions of Section 277 of the said Act and as such Prem Lata had to face the charge in the light thereof. Keeping apart whether Prem Lata could come within the ambit of Section 278B, it is worthy of notice that the return pertained to the assessment year 1965-66, but Section 278B was inserted in the I.T. Act with effect from October 1, 1975, by the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975. Patently, it cannot have ex post facto application. This is the view of a Division Bench of this court in CIT v. Jagdish Lal Behl . Their Lordships observed (p. 624):
'Since the offences were committed in the years 1965-66, we cannot apply the principle enshrined in this section to create ex post facto offences. To do so would tantamount to acting contrary to the clear mandate contained in Article 20 of the Constitution.'
Their Lordships were then referring to Section 278B of the I.T. Act. Same is the view of the Allahabad High Court in Rajendra Prasad Agarwal v. ITO : 144ITR506(All) .
4. As per the plain language of Section 277 of the Act, the petitioner, Prem Lata, cannot be proceeded against on the admitted facts, as disclosed in the complaint, as also in the preliminary evidence. Thus, the charges against her require to be quashed and are, accordingly, quashed. The learned Magistrate is, however, at liberty to proceed with the other accused in accordance with law.