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Shakuntala Khosla Vs. Commissioner of Wealth-tax and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberC.W.P. No. 3621 of 1977
Judge
Reported in[1985]156ITR252(P& H)
ActsWealth Tax Act, 1957 - Sections 14(2), 18(1) and 18B
AppellantShakuntala Khosla
RespondentCommissioner of Wealth-tax and anr.
Appellant Advocate N.K. Sood and; S.C. Nagpal, Advs.
Respondent Advocate Ashok Bhan, Senior Adv. and; A.K. Mittal, Adv.
Excerpt:
......9. it is manifest from the above observations that if the full particulars required to be mentioned in the various columns of the returns have been furnished by the assessee and he has supplied the necessary information in relation to his wealth, it cannot be said that he did not make a full disclosure of his net wealth or it was not made in good faith. even if the valueof the assets, particulars of which have been fully disclosed, is not accepted by the assessing authority, it would not be possible to accuse the asses-see of bad faith. before exercising his jurisdiction to reduce or waive the penalty, the commissioner has to apply his mind to the question whether the assessee had acted honestly in disclosing all the particulars required to be mentioned in the return..........of the revenue and toobviate the inconvenience and expense to the taxpayers in having their assets valued by an approved valuer year after year. this assertion has not been denied in the written statement and the plea has not been controverted by the learned counsel for the revenue during the course of the arguments. 7. from a conjoint reading of section 18(1)(c) and explanation to section 18b of the act, it becomes clear that a person shall be deemed to have made full and true disclosure of the particulars of his assets if he has not concealed the particulars of any assets or has furnished accurate particulars thereof. this very important aspect of the statute has escaped the notice of the commissioner. similarly, the commissioner did not address himself to the implications of.....
Judgment:

Sukhdev Singh Kang, J.

1. Because of the factual congruity and the identity of the questions of law raised therein. Civil Writ Petitions Nos. 3620 and 3621 of 1977 are proposed to be decided by a common judgment.

2. The factual matrix may be taken from Civil Writ Petition No. 3621 of 1977.

3. Smt. Shakuntla Khosla, petitioner, filed wealth-tax returns for the assessment years 1966-67 to 1974-75, on November 5, 1974. These returns were filed beyond the period of limitation but before any notices under Section 14(2) of the W.T. Act (' the Act' for short) were issued. The petitioner paid the tax due. She fully co-operated with the WTO during the assessment proceedings. She furnished complete details of her jewellery. She gave full particulars of each item of the jewellery. She did not conceal the particulars of any assets and did not furnish inaccurate particulars thereof. It is her case that she filed the returns in good faith and made full disclosure of her net wealth. The WTO accepted the value of the jewellery declared by the petitioner for the assessment years 1966-67 to 1972-73 with slight additions here and there. The petitioner in her return for the assessment year 1973-74 declared the value of her jewellery at Rs. 74,500 on the basis of a certificate issued by the Government approved valuer for the assessment year 1972-73. The WTO did not accept the value of the jewellery as declared by the petitioner, but valued it at ahigher rate and made an addition of Rs. 27,990 to the value of jewellery for the assessment year 1973-74 and assessed the tax on that basis, vide his order dated December 30, 1974. For the assessment year 1974-75, the petitioner showed the value of jewellery as on March 31, 1974, at Rs. 74,500 on the basis of the valuation certified by the departmentally approved valuer as on March 31, 1972. The WTO, keeping in view the market price of the gold, silver et cetera as on March, 31, 1974, added Rs. 69,200 to the value of the ornaments returned by the petitioner-assessee.

4. The petitioner filed nine applications under Section 18(2A) of the Act in respect of the assessment years 1966-67 to 1974-75 requesting that penalty for late filing of returns leviable under Section 18(1)(a) of the Act may be waived in respect of all these assessment years. The Act had been amended and Sub-section (2A) of Section 18 had been deleted with effect from October 1, 1975, and in its place the new Section 18B had been added. The applications for waiving the penalty were dealt with under Section 18B of the Act. The Commissioner waived the penalty for the assessment years 1966-67 to 1972-73. He, however, did not accede to the request of the petitioner in relation to the assessment years 1973-74 and 1974-75, In his orders, the Commissioner observed that the WTO had made additions of Rs. 27,990 to the value of jewellery returned by the assessee for the assessment year 1973-74 and of Rs. 69,200 for the assessment year 1974-75. The value of gold had gone up very high and the assessee could not be oblivious of this fact. Still the value of the jewellery as certified by the approved valuer as on March 31, 1972, was repeated for these two years. He further observed that considering that there was a sudden rise in the prices of the jewellery, the assessee could not be considered to have adopted the same value of the jewellery for the two years in good faith. He concluded that the disclosure made by the assessee was not full nor was it made in good faith. He, therefore, dismissed the petitions for the years 1973-74 and1974-75. As noticed earlier, the facts in Civil Writ Petition No. 3620 of 1977, are quite similar. Aggrieved, the petitioners have come up with these writ petitions.

5. In order to appreciate the rival contentions of the parties, it is appropriate to read the relevant statutory provisions at this stage:

'18. Penalty for failure to furnish returns, to comply with notices and concealment of assets, etc.--(1) If the Wealth-tax Officer, Appellate Assistant Commissioner, Commissioner (Appeals), Commissioner or Appellate Tribunal in the course of any proceedings under this Act is satisfied that any person--......

(c) has concealed the particulars of any assets or furnished inaccurate particulars of any assets or debts ;

he or it may, by order in writing, direct that such person shall pay by way of penalty--......

(iii) in the cases referred to in Clause (c), in addition to any wealth-tax payable by him, a sum which shall not be less than, but which shall not exceed five times, the amount of tax sought to be evaded by reason of the concealment of particulars of any assets or the furnishing of inaccurate particulars in respect of any assets or debts. '

' 18B. Power to reduce or waive penalty in certain cases.--(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the Commissioner may, in his discretion, whether on his own motion or otherwise,--

(i) reduce or waive the amount of penalty imposed or imposable on a person under Clause (i) of Sub-section (1) of Section 18 for failure without reasonable cause to furnish the return of net wealth which such person was required to furnish under Sub-section (1) of Section 14, or... if he is satisfied that such person,--

(a) in the case referred to in Clause (i), has, prior to the issue of a notice to him under Sub-section (2) of Section 14, voluntarily and in good faith made full and true disclosure of his net wealth, and...

and also has co-operated in any inquiry relating to the assessment of his net wealth and has either paid or made satisfactory arrangements for the payment of any tax or interest payable in consequence of an order passed under this Act in respect of the relevant assessment year.

Explanation.--For the purposes of this Sub-section, a person shall be deemed to have made full and true disclosure of the particulars of his assets or debts in any case where the excess of net wealth assessed over the net wealth returned is of such a nature as not to attract the provisions of Clause (c) of Sub-section (1) of Section 18. '

6. The petitioner had given the details of the ornaments and disclosed full particulars in the returns for the years 1973-74 and 1974-75. The returns were filed before the issuance of notice under Section 14(2) of the Act. The WTO has not given a finding that the petitioner had concealed the particulars of any assets or furnished inaccurate particulars thereof. The Commissioner has also not given any such finding. The WTO and the Commissioner have accepted that the petitioner had declared the value of the jewellery on the basis of a certificate issued by an approved valuer giving the value of the jewellery as on March 31, 1972. It has been averred in the petition and has been argued before me that the Central Board of Direct Taxes has issued circulars that an assessee while returning the value of his assets may rely on a certificate given by the approved valuer in the subsequent two years also. It is mentioned in the circulars that this arrangement was devised to safeguard the interest of the Revenue and toobviate the inconvenience and expense to the taxpayers in having their assets valued by an approved valuer year after year. This assertion has not been denied in the written statement and the plea has not been controverted by the learned counsel for the Revenue during the course of the arguments.

7. From a conjoint reading of Section 18(1)(c) and Explanation to Section 18B of the Act, it becomes clear that a person shall be deemed to have made full and true disclosure of the particulars of his assets if he has not concealed the particulars of any assets or has furnished accurate particulars thereof. This very important aspect of the statute has escaped the notice of the Commissioner. Similarly, the Commissioner did not address himself to the implications of the assessee's reliance on the certificate of value of the assessee's assets in the subsequent two years. A Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court had an occasion to construe the provisions of Sections 18 and 18(2A), which are analogous to the present Section 18B, in Hasan Ahmad Khan v. CWT : [1975]99ITR414(All) . It was observed (p. 418) :

' It follows that, in the context, full disclosure of net wealth means full disclosure of the particulars which the assessee is required to furnish with regard to his assets and liabilities, the value of which goes into the constitution of his net wealth. If all the particulars required to be mentioned in the various columns of these annexures have been fully disclosed by the assessee and he has also supplied all other information in relation to his net wealth as required by the Wealth-tax Officer, it would not be possible to say that he did not make full disclosure of his net wealth. If those particulars have been given by the assessee honestly, then, irrespective of the fact whether the estimated value given by the assessee was ultimately accepted by the assessing authority or not, it would not be possible to accuse the assessee of bad faith. The expression 'in good faith made full disclosure of his net wealth' merely means that the assessee should have honestly described all his assets and liabilities which go to constitute his net wealth, along with their estimated value. If this has been done, it would become possible for the Commissioner to consider the assessee's application for waiving the penalty imposable upon him under Section 18(2A) of the Act on merits. '

8. This view was reiterated by another Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court in Radhey Shyam Chandrika Prasad v. CIT : [1983]139ITR274(All) .

9. It is manifest from the above observations that if the full particulars required to be mentioned in the various columns of the returns have been furnished by the assessee and he has supplied the necessary information in relation to his wealth, it cannot be said that he did not make a full disclosure of his net wealth or it was not made in good faith. Even if the valueof the assets, particulars of which have been fully disclosed, is not accepted by the assessing authority, it would not be possible to accuse the asses-see of bad faith. Before exercising his jurisdiction to reduce or waive the penalty, the Commissioner has to apply his mind to the question whether the assessee had acted honestly in disclosing all the particulars required to be mentioned in the return and if he is so satisfied, then he must consider the application of the assessee for, waiving the penalty.

10. It is apparent that the Commissioner misdirected himself with regardto the scope of the conditions precedent for the exercise of jurisdictionunder Section 18 and Section 18B of the Act. Therefore, the impugned orders cannot be sustained.

11. In the result, I allow the Writ Petitions Nos. 3620 and 3621 of 1977 with costs and quash orders dated March 24, 1976, of, the Commissioner. I direct the Commissioner to dispose of the applications of the petitioners afresh in accordance with law and in the light of the above observations.


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