1. The assessee-respondent is a co-operative society registered under the Co-operative Societies Act and is dealing in grocery articles and piece-goods. For the assessment years 1960-61,1961-62 and 1962-63, the Income-tax Officer treated the business income of the assessee as exempt from taxation. During the assessment year 1964-65 a successor Income-tax Officer took the view that the assessee was not entitled to the exemption. In the view that the Income-tax Officer originally made a mistake in giving the exemption he reopened the assessments in respect of the assessment years 1960-61, 1961-62 and 1962-63 under Section 147(b) of the Income-tax Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as 'the new Act'). In response to the notice issued, the society filed a return, but furnished the same particulars as was done in connection with the original assessment. Though the order of reassessment is not very clear, it may be taken that the Income-tax Officer considered that under Section 14(3) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 (hereinafter referred to as 'the old Act'), as amended by the FinanceAct of 1960, the assessee was entitled, in respect of the assessment years 1960-61 and 1961-62, to an exemption in respect of its business income up to Rs. 15,000 only and that, therefore, the remaining income was assessable. In respect of the assessment year 1962-63 also, in view of the provisions contained in Section 81(i) of the new Act, corresponding to Section 14(3)(i) of the old Act, he took the same view that the assessee would be entitled to exemption only to the extent of Rs. 15,000. Accordingly, he revised the assessment in respect of the three years in question. On an appeal filed by the assessee, the Appellate Assistant Commissioner confirmed this order of reassessment for each of these three years. On a further appeal, the Tribunal considered that there was no information within the meaning of Section 147(b) of the new Act, from which the Income-tax Officer could have reason to believe that the income assessable to tax had escaped assessment, and that, prima facie, the order of reassessment was also defective as it did not disclose how the Income-tax Officer got jurisdiction to invoke the provisions of Section 147. Accordingly, the Tribunal held that the proceedings under Section 147 were without jurisdiction and set aside the assessments in respect of all the three years. At the instance of the revenue, the following question has been referred :
'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was right in law in holding that the proceedings under Section 147(b) of the Income-tax Act, 1961, for the assessment years 1960-61, 1961-62 and 1962-63, were initiated without proper jurisdiction and were, therefore, not valid ?'
2. Learned counsel for the revenue could not point to any material from which it could be concluded that the Income-tax Officer originally invoked the unamended Section 14(3) of the old Act in respect of the assessments for the years 1960-61 and 1961-62. In fact, we find a reference to the amended Section 14(3) in the assessment order for 1960-61, while dealing with the exemption relating to the dividends derived from its investment with other co-operative societies. We have, therefore, to proceed on the basis that in respect of the assessment year 1960-61, the Income-tax Officer applied Section 14(3)(i) of the old Act as amended by the Finance Act, 1960, and in respect of 1962-63, Section 81(i) of the new Act. The argument of the learned counsel for the revenue was that under the amended Section 14(3)(ii) of the old Act and Section 81(ii) of the new Act, as it stood then, the Income-tax Officer could have exempted only a sum of Rs. 15,000 from the profits and gains of the assessee and the exemption granted in respect of the entire business income of the assessee was a mistake, because the assessee is not one of those societies which would come under either Section 14(3)(i) of the old Act or Section 81(i) of the new Act. The further submission was that since the Income-tax Officer had made a mistake inallowing more than Rs. 15,000 as exempt from assessment, Section 147(b) of the new Act was properly invoked in this case.
3. The whole argument of the learned counsel for the revenue proceeds on an assumption that the Income-tax Officer originally had made a mistake in granting exemption more than that provided in Section 14(3)(ii) of the old Act or Section 81(ii) of the new Act. The business income of a cooperative society falling under Clause (i) of the above respective provisions is exempt completely to the entire extent. Therefore, when the Income-tax Officer granted the exemption in respect of the entire income, we can safely assume that the mistake committed by the Income-tax Officer was not in treating the assessee as one falling under Clause (ii) but in exempting the entire income by treating the assessee as falling under Clause (i). Since he had granted the exemption in respect of the entire business income, we have to hold that he treated the society as a credit society falling under one of the categories mentioned in Clause (i) because only if he had treated the society as a credit society he could have exempted the entire income. As between the two possibilities of making the exemption, one on the assumption that the assessee is a credit society and the other by making a mistake in granting more than Rs. 15,000 on the basis that it is not a credit society we would think that the more probable mistake is the former and not the latter. This is all the more so, because the provisions in Section 14(3)(ii) of the old Act and the corresponding Section 81(ii) of the new Act, themselves specifically make the exemption that could be granted and the officer is not likely to have overlooked Section 14(3)(ii) and made a mistake of exempting the entire amount. We are of the view that the officer had considered the society as a credit society and exempted the entire income under Section 14(3)(i) of the old Act and the corresponding Section 81(i) of the new Act.
4. It is seen from the evidence now available that the society is dealing in grocery articles and piece-goods and that it is neither carrying on the business of banking nor providing credit facilities to its members. The contention of the assessee that it sells goods on credit to its members and should, therefore, be taken as providing credit facilities to its members is merely to be stated for rejection. A 'credit society 'within the meaning of Section 14(3)(i) of the old Act and Section 81(i) of the new Act could only mean a society which provides credit by way of loans of money to its members and not a society which sells goods on credit. In fact, the Tribunal also has given a finding that the assessee is not a credit society within the meaning of Section 14(3)(i) of the old Act or Section 81(i) of the new Act, It, therefore, follows that the exemption granted by the Income-tax Officer iu the original assessment to the entire extent of the business income is clearly wrong.
5. The next question, therefore, for consideration is whether on that ground Section 147(b) could have bee a invoked. Learned counsel for the revenue contended that the Income-tax Officer could not be said to have entertained any opinion at the time of making the original assessment that the assessee is a credit society and that, therefore, the invoking of the power under Section 147 could not be construed as a change of opinion. According to the learned counsel, unless the Income-tax Officer at the time of original assessment has given a finding or expressed an opinion that the society is a credit society, it is open to the Income-tax Officer now to go into that question and decide whether the assessee is entitled to exemption or not. Though, normally, the question of change of opinion would arise only when there is an opinion expressly given in the earlier assessment order, we cannot restrict the question to such cases where there is a specific finding or an express opinion. Even in a case where the Income-tax Officer proceeds on an assumption or consideration that the society is a credit society, unless there is some evidence which was not before the Income-tax Officer and which is now produced in the reassessment proceedings, which shows that the earlier assumption or consideration was wrong, it cannot be stated that the order is liable to be revised under Section 147(b). There is no evidence to show that any fresh material, which was not available before the Income-tax Officer originally, had come to light after the order of assessment, which called for the invoking of the power under Section 147(b) of the new Act. In fact, even in these proceedings, the assessee was contending that it is a credit society which is entitled to the exemption in respect of its entire business income. We are, therefore, of the view that the present opinion of the Income-tax Officer amounts only to a change of opinion and on that ground the Income-tax Officer was not entitled to invoke the powers under Section 147(b) of the new Act.
6. We, accordingly, answer the reference in the affirmative and against the revenue, with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 250.