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Cement Distributors Private Ltd. Vs. Inspecting Assistant Commissioner (Central) Range Ii and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petition No. 351 of 1966
Judge
Reported in[1973]87ITR163(Mad)
ActsIncome Tax Act, 1961 - Sections 271, 271(1), 277 and 297(2); Constitution of India - Article 20(1)
AppellantCement Distributors Private Ltd.
Respondentinspecting Assistant Commissioner (Central) Range Ii and anr.
Appellant AdvocateK. Srinivasan, ;D.S. Meenakshisundaram and ;K.C. Rajappa, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateV. Balasubrahmanyan and ;J. Jayaraman, Advs.
Cases ReferredMaqbool Hussain v. State of Bombay
Excerpt:
- - in challenging the impugned notice, thepetitioner claims that on merits there is no case for levy of penalty and that an appeal has been preferred against the original order of assessment which is now pending and that there is every chance of success in the appeal. secondly, it is said that on a comparison of the provisions relating to the imposition of penalty under the old act and the new act, the petitioner has been discriminated since proceedings are initiated under the new act for the imposition of penalty notwithstanding the fact that the petitioner's assessment relates to an assessment year anterior to 1st of april, 1962. the discrimination complained of is said to he in the differential meted out to assessees similarly situated and similarly circumstanced by applying the.....ramaprasada rao, j.1. the petitioner is a private limited company incorporated under the indian companies act. it was an assessee formerly on the file of the income-tax officer, special investigation circle ' b', madras, and now within the jurisdiction of the income-tax officer, central circle ii, madras-34, the 2nd respondent herein. for the assessment year 1959-60 (the previous accounting year ending with october 31, 1958) the petitioner submitted a return of a total income of rs. 4,89,758. the income-tax officer completed the petitioner's assessment under section 23(3) of the indian income-tax act, 1922 (hereinafter called 'the old act'), and would not accept the return of the petitioner and redetermined the total income of the petitioner at rs. 8,10,980. he disallowed certain revenue.....
Judgment:

Ramaprasada Rao, J.

1. The petitioner is a private limited company incorporated under the Indian Companies Act. It was an assessee formerly on the file of the Income-tax Officer, Special Investigation Circle ' B', Madras, and now within the jurisdiction of the Income-tax Officer, Central Circle II, Madras-34, the 2nd respondent herein. For the assessment year 1959-60 (the previous accounting year ending with October 31, 1958) the petitioner submitted a return of a total income of Rs. 4,89,758. The Income-tax Officer completed the petitioner's assessment under Section 23(3) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 (hereinafter called 'the old Act'), and would not accept the return of the petitioner and redetermined the total income of the petitioner at Rs. 8,10,980. He disallowed certain revenue expenditure claimed by the petitioner on the ground that there was no evidence of such incurring of expenditure and that the claim for deduction was not bona fide. While completing the petitioner's assessment on March 16, 1964, after the coming into force of the Income-tax Act of 1961 (hereinafter called ' the new Act'), the Income-tax Officer initiated proceedings for levy of penalty by issuing a notice under Section 271(1)(c) of the new Act. The Officer referred the subject under Section 274(2) of the new Act to the Inspecting Assistant Commissioner, the 1st respondent herein, who has issued the impugned notice under Section 274(2) read with Section 271(1)(c) of the new Act. In challenging the impugned notice, thepetitioner claims that on merits there is no case for levy of penalty and that an appeal has been preferred against the original order of assessment which is now pending and that there is every chance of success in the appeal. Secondly, it is said that on a comparison of the provisions relating to the imposition of penalty under the old Act and the new Act, the petitioner has been discriminated since proceedings are initiated under the new Act for the imposition of penalty notwithstanding the fact that the petitioner's assessment relates to an assessment year anterior to 1st of April, 1962. The discrimination complained of is said to He in the differential meted out to assessees similarly situated and similarly circumstanced by applying the provisions of Section 28 of the old Act in the case of some of the assessees and by applying the provisions of Section 271(1) to some others falling in the same group. The contention as to the discrimination and the consequential affection of Article 14 of the Constitution of India is also rested on the ground that the present penal provisions under the new Act are more rigorous and in this sense the date line, ' 1st of April, 1962 ', fixed for attracting the penalty provisions of the old Act in one case and the provisions of the new Act in the other case is artificial, arbitrary and leads to obvious discrimination. It is also urged that the provisions of Section 297(2(f) and (g) of the new Act laying down different modes of penalty for the same offence or contumacy are arbitrary, oppressive and clearly unjust and for these reasons the relevant provisions have to be held to be unconstitutional and void. The more important ground of attack is that Section 297(2)(f) and (g) of the new Act read with Section 271(1) of the said Act are also repugnant to Article 20(1) of the Constitution of India. It is said that even assuming that the petitioner is guilty of concealment of income, in respect of which penalty is imposable, such penalty for an offence of concealment can be imposed only in accordance with the old Act and not under the provisions of the new Act, and in that respect it is said that Article 20(1) of the Constitution of India is violated. The complaint is stated in the following terms:

'(i) Income-tax Act, 1961, has provided for punishment of an offence of concealment by imposition of penalty and by making it a criminal offence for which an assessee may be brought up before a criminal court as well;

(ii) by making the magnitude of the penalty greater, under the new Act, 1961, than that which would have been inflicted under the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922.'

For the above reasons the petitioner submits that Section 297(2(f) and (g) read with the penalty provisions in Chapter XXI of the new Act are violative of Article 20(1) of the Constitution of India. In the main, the argument is that the proceedings sought to be initiated under the impugnednotice being penal in nature and as this was not contemplated under the old Act, the initiation of such proceedings is without jurisdiction. To put it more simply, it is suggested that the proceedings sought to be commenced, though for the purpose of imposing a penalty, is virtually to book the petitioner as if it has committed an offence, and that not being available to the revenue, since the old Act prohibited such a process against a delinquent assessee, the provisions under which proceedings are initiated should be struck down as offending article 20 of the Constitution of India. The respondents contend that they have jurisdiction in the matter of taking proceedings for penalty against the petitioner in regard to its assessment for 1959-60 under Section 271(1)(c) read with Section 274(2) and Section 297(2)(g) of the new Act. The first contention that Section 297(2)(g) is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution is no longer available in the light of the later pronouncement of the Supreme Court. On the other main contention it is stated that Section 297(2)(g) read with Section 271(1) is not repugnant to Article 20(1) of the Constitution of India as it has no application to the penalty provisions in question. It is pleaded that penalty under the Indian Income-tax Act is not a penalty for a convictable offence. In any event the penalty under the new Act is not a new imposition, nor can it be said that it is more rigorous and greater than that imposable under the corresponding provisions of the old Act.

2. The first contention that the provisions of the new Act, as stated above, are violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India is no longer tenable and it has been fairly conceded to be so in view of the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in Jain Brothers v. Union of India, : [1970]77ITR107(SC) . I am not, therefore, called upon to touch upon this contention. The Supreme Court has said in that case that Section 297(2)(g) of the new Act does not offend Article 14 of the Constitution of India and Sections 271(1) and 297(2)(g) which have to be read together and worked in harmony do not offend any provision of the Constitution and the classification, even if any, made does not savour of discrimination.

3. Before the other arguments of the counsel are considered, the scheme of the provisions of the Income-tax Act, 1922, and the Income-tax Act, 1961, may be perused for a proper appreciation of the position. The Income-tax Act, 1922, under Section 28, provided penalty for concealment of income or improper distribution of profits. If the Income-tax Officer, the Appellate Assistant Commissioner or the Appellate Tribunal, in the course of any proceedings under the old Act, is satisfied that any person has concealed the particulars of his income or deliberately furnished inaccurate particulars of such income, such a person may be directed topay by way of penalty, in addition to the amount of income-tax and supertax, if any, payable by him, a sum not exceeding one and a half times the amount of the income-tax and super-tax, if any, which would have been avoided if the income as returned by such person had been accepted as the correct income. There are certain exceptions which are not necessary for me to consider in the instant case. Section 28(4) provided that no prosecution for an offence against the Act shall be instituted in respect of the same facts on which a penalty has been imposed under this section. The mere fact that under the old Act a prosecution for an offence under the Act is treated as a distinct and separate legal process is by itself expressive of the difference between the two aspects flowing from the concerned conduct of a defaulting assessee. Chapter VIII of the old Act provided for offences and penalties and how they are to be dealt with. Section 52 in particular deals with offences in connection with false statements in declarations. If the statement is false and if it is made knowing it to be false or believing it to be false, then the delinquent is punishable, on conviction before a Magistrate, with simple imprisonment which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both. The Income-tax Act, 1961, made a slight departure in the position. Section 297 speaking about repeals and savings and providing for repeal of the old Act, states that notwithstanding the repeal of the old Act, any proceeding for the imposition of a penalty in respect of any assessment for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1962, or any earlier year which is completed on or after the 1st day of April, 1962, may be initiated and any such penalty may be imposed under the Income-tax Act, 1961 [section 297(2)(g)]. Section 271 appearing in Chapter XXI, which deals with penalties imposable, provides for the imposition of penalty in the case of failure to furnish returns, comply with notices, concealment of income, etc. Under Section 271(1)(c), if the Income-tax Officer or the Appellate Assistant Commissioner in the course of any proceedings under the Act, is satisfied that any person has concealed the particulars of his income or deliberately furnished inaccurate particulars of such income, he may direct that such person shall pay by way of penalty, in addition to any tax payable by him, a sum which shall not be less than but which shall not exceed twice the amount of the income in respect of which the particulars have been concealed or inaccurate particulars have been furnished. We are not concerned with the other portion of this section. In Chapter XXII of the new Act dealing with offences and prosecutions, Section 277 provides for punishment of a defaulting assessee in cases where such a person makes a false statement in declaration. Here again, the provision is similar to Section 52 ef the old Act. The important thing to be remembered is that in both the Acts the differentia is maintained by treating the imposition of a mandatory penaltyleviable by the revenue for disregard of statutory provisions as different from the infliction of a penalty by a Magistrate in a criminal court on the pain of a prosecution launched in the prescribed manner. It is, however,significant that in the new Act the two penal provisions are by no means mutually exclusive. Under the new Act, unlike the provisions of thequondam old Act, the same assessee can be proceeded against for the samemisconduct or misdemeanour under both the situations.

4. It is in the light of the above statutory provisions that the argument of Mr. Balasubrahmanyan, that the impugned notice contemplates only the imposition of penalty for disregard of a statutory provision and that it does not speak of the imposition of penalty for an offence as contemplated in Chapter XXII of the new Act, looms large. Mr. Srinivasan, however, would state that the penalty, whatever may be the source of power or authority which leads to its infliction, can only be characterised as a penal consequence and it should be deemed to be a conviction for an offence within the meaning of Article 20(1) of the Constitution of India.

5. Article 20 of the Constitution appearing in the chapter on ' Fundamental Rights ' deals with only one circumstance, that is, when a person is accused of an offence and he should have been convicted of an offence. Article 20(1) provides:

' No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.'

On the basis of this, Mr. Srinivasan urges that the ' offence ' having been committed when the old law was in force and there being no provision under the old Act for a prosecution being launched for the same violation of the statutory provision of the old Act, the impugned notice which threatens the infliction of penalty is violative of Article 20(1), as the proposal should be deemed to be one which is penal in nature flowing from an offence as is popularly understood. To appeciate this contention, it is necessary once again to recapitulate that both under the old and the new Act, offences were kept distinct and separate from penalties leviable under the Income-tax Acts by the revenue as prescribed therein. If this difference is borne in mind, then I am unable to accept the contention that Article 20 of1 the Constitution prohibits the respondent from issuing the notice and proceeding thereunder. I shall again advert to this later.

6. The question whether a given provision in a statute is a penal one or not is sometimes not easy of comprehension. This is because the word ' penal ' is somewhat ambiguous in its scope and content. A penalty maybe the subject-matter of a breach of statutory duty or may be the subject-matter of a complaint. In ordinary parlance, the word ' penal' may embrace penalties for avoidance of civil liabilities which do not constitute offences against the State. This marked distinction is responsible for any statute intended to protect public revenue, to speak of pecuniary, penalties for any violation of its provisions and also specifically provide for prosecutions in an ordinary criminal court as if it is an offence or crime. Thus, 'penalty' is a slippery word and has to be understood in the context in which it is used in a given statute. All penalties do not flow from an offence as is commonly understood, but all offences lead to a penalty. Whereas the former is a penalty which flows from a disregard of strict statutory provisions, the latter is entailed when there is mens rea and is made the subject-matter of adjudication in a prosecution launched for the purpose in a criminal court. In fact, the new Act provides for a contemporaneous prosecution for submission of false statements in a declaration. If such a defaulting assessee is charged once over with the offence within the meaning of Section 277 of the new Act, then possibly the argument of Mr. Srinivasan can gain some force. I am not, however, expressing any opinion on this. But, if once, it is clear from the scheme of the New Act and its working that the penalty sought to be imposed under Section 297(2)(g) read with Section 271 of the Act is a penalty imposable by the revenue in exercise of its power derived from the express statutory provisions made for the purpose and in the interests of public revenue, then it ceases to be a penalty imposed on the delinquent as if he has been charged for an offence under one or the other provisions in Chapter XXII of the new Act.

7. Article 20 of the Constitution deals with an offence for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act. Mr. Srinivasan's attempt is that the proposal to levy a penalty is also a process by which an assessee is sought to be convicted of an offence.

8. The word ' offence ' is sometimes loosely used even in cases where the subject-matter involved relates to a situation otherwise than a crime or a matter which could be dealt with only by criminal courts. Misdemeanour on the part of an assessee in the matter of submission of returns is sometimes referred to as an offence. But, in the light of the scheme of the Act, the word ' offence ' has to be understood to have acquired a secondary signification of its own in that it is relatable to a matter dealt with by the criminal courts of the land on a complaint made for the purpose by the appropriate statutory authority. It is in this sense that the sentence which follows conviction on the commission of an offence is different from the penalty which is imposed on the same delinquent for such a misconduct which is noticed by a statutory functionary under the Income-tax Actitself and for which misdemeanour he is penalised by levying a penalty. Thus, it is clear that the latter limb of Clause (1) of Article 20, which refers to the commission of the offence, is relatable to an offence with which the delinquent assessee is charged under Chapter XXII of the new Act.

9. This result is achieved even if the nature of the proceedings before the revenue or the Appellate Tribunal is considered in the light of the provisions of the Act. Every one of the authorities functioning in the process of assessment leading to the reckoning of the tax or the discovery of avoidance of tax liability is only functioning administratively and not exercising jurisdiction as if it is a court exercising criminal jurisdiction. Whereas in a criminal court the offence should be brought home to the accused beyond reasonable doubt by assessing the material and evidence placed before the court during trial, which evidence should be strictly in accordance with the prescriptions in the Evidence Act, no such strict principles of the adoption of the rules of evidence are necessary when the Income-tax Officer in the course of the assessment discovers a mis-statement in the declaration and proceeds to penalise the assessee. As was said in Dhakeshwari Cotton Mills Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income-tax, : [1955]27ITR126(SC) the Income-tax Officer is not bound by the strict rules of evidence. Even so, the Supreme Court in Raja Narayanlal Bansilal v. Maneck Phiroz Mistry, : [1961]1SCR417 held the view that in assessment proceedings before the revenue, legal evidence is not required. In Gunda Subbayya v. Commissioner of Income-tax, : [1939]7ITR21(Mad) the court considered the principle as to how far rules of evidence as contained in the Indian Evidence Act would apply and the learned judges expressed the view that the Income-tax Officer is not confined to the evidence as is legally understood and explained in the Indian Evidence Act. In Assistant Collector of Customs, Bombay v. L. R. Melwani : 1970CriLJ885 the question arose as to what is the nature of the proceedings before the Collector of Customs who has the power to levy a penalty in case of breach of the specified provisions of the Customs Act. There again the Supreme Court held at page 964 that the proceedings before the Collector of Customs is not in the nature of a prosecution. As was pointed out in Ranaweera v. Wickramasinghe, [1970] A.C. 951:

' The exercise of quasi-judicial functions in order to reach an administrative decision does not convert the Commissioner into a judicial officer within the meaning of the Constitution.'

The ratio in each of the above decisions lends support to the conclusion that the statutory functionaries while dealing with an assessee's liability or exigibility to income-tax are functioning more as administrative tribunals though they are exercising quasi-judicial functions; but the nature of such proceedings are administrative in character in so far as their right to levy a penalty for any violation of the statutory provisions under the Indian Income-tax Act is concerned. If this is the reasonable conclusion which flows from the Scheme of the Act and the well-established judicial precedents, it would, therefore, appear that the proceedings resulting in the levy of penalty against a delinquent assessee for violation of any of the prescribed statutory provisions of the Income-tax Act, cannot, therefore, be equatable to a punishment inflicted on the said assessee as if he has committed an offence which is triable by a criminal court as prescribed in the Act itself.

10. If the above principles are borne in mind, then the poser projected by Mr. Srinivasan, whether the proceeding before the Income-tax Officer or the other statutory functionaries under the Act resulting in the imposition of penalty would really have an impinge or impact on Article 20(1) of the Constitution can easily be answered. The answer to the problem is lightened since the Supreme Court has expressly pronounced on the matter and particularly the nature, scope and content of Article 20 as a, whole.

11. Article 20 of the Constitution of India reads thus:

' 20. (1) No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.

(2) No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.

(3) No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.'

The case of the petitioner is that no person shall be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence. Since the rigour of the penalty in the new Act is greater and as it is contended that the proceedings are equatable to criminal proceedings in connection with an offence as is popularly understood, Mr. Srinivasan urges that the impugned notice given under the specified provisions therein violates Article 20(1) of the Constitution of India. I have already dealt with how there is a fallacy in the argument. The basic assumption is that Article 20 deals with penalties imposable by quasi-judicial tribunals wishing to reach an administrative decision. That is not the case. Article 20 as a whole deals with convictions for offences and the relevant protection in lieu thereof, the word ' offence ' appearing in this article being understood in common sense as one which istriable in the ordinary criminal courts of the land. The Kerala High Court in Ummali Umma v. Inspecting Assistant Commissioner of Income-tax, `, while upholding the penalty proceedings, which was the subject-matter of the writ petition before it, observed :

' No conviction for any offence is involved in the imposition of a penalty...... A penalty, therefore, would come within the purview of Article 20(1) of the Constitution only if the earlier part of the clause is attracted, i.e., there must have been a conviction for an offence......Penalty is exactednot because an act or omission is an offence but because it is an attempt at evasion of tax on the part of the assessee. Article 20(1) of the Constitution can have no application to a case where a penalty is imposed not as punishment for an offence but for some other collateral purpose.'

Krishnaswami Reddy J. in S. Sannana Chetty & Sons v. Third Income-tax Officer, : [1970]76ITR177(Mad) considered the import of Section 271(1)(c) of the new Act. The learned judge observed:

' It cannot......be said that the institution of proceedings for penaltyis tantamount to prosecution in a criminal court and equally the punishment on a conviction which is criminal cannot be equated with the punishment of penalty which is either civil or quasi-criminal.'

In this view of the matter the learned judge said that Section 277 of the Act is not violative of Article 20(2) of the Constitution. I respectfully adopt this argument, to hold that such penalty proceedings do not in any way violate Article 20(1) of the Constitution as well.

12. The argument that since the rigour of the penalty as provided in the new Act is higher, the provision for imposition of penalty and the proceedings for such imposition offends Article 20(1) has been repelled by a Bench of the Rajasthan High Court, the judgment of which court is found reported in Indra & Co. v. Union of India, . The learned judges therein said:

' What this Article (article 20(1)) hits at is the infliction of a penalty greater than the one that could be inflicted at the time the act was done. However, the procedure prescribed under the new Act cannot on this account be held to be bad. It will be open to the petitioners to urge before the taxation authorities as to what extent a penalty could, if at all, be legally imposed on them. We cannot postulate, in the circumstances, that the provisions of Section 297(2)(g) of the new Act are invalid......'

While considering the scope of Article 20 as a whole, the Supreme Court in Satwant Singh v. State of Punjab, : [1960]2SCR89 observed :

' Under Article 20 of the Constitution all that has to be considered is whether the ex post facto law imposes a penalty greater than that which might be inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.

Importance was laid in this case on the word ' offence '.

Reliance was placed upon Jawala Ram v. State of Pepsu, : [1962]2SCR503 wherein the Supreme Court observed that the word ' offence ' has to be understood in accordance with the meaning given to the word in Section 3(37) of the General Clauses Act which defines 'offence ' to mean an act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in force. In that case, however, it was found by the court that no offence was committed as contended therein and that, therefore, there was no scope for the application of the provisions of Article 20(1) of the Constitution of India. But, this decision, in my view, is no authority for the proposition that every offence which is punishable by any law for the time being in force should also take into its fold a proceeding which would lead to the imposition of a penalty for contumacious conduct under taxing statutes or other allied statutes.

As a matter of fact, a Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court in Raj Narain Singh v. Atmaram Govind, : AIR1954All319 clearly observed as follows:

'The word 'offence' appears in all the three clauses of.article 20 and, in my judgment, the word must bear the same meaning in all the three clauses of the article. The use of the word 'offence' in Clause (1) of Article 20 makes it perfectly clear to me that by the word 'offence' in Article 20 is meant something which is a violation of a law in force and for the violation of which the law prescribes a penalty. The use of the word ' offence ' in Clause (3) also indicates, to my mind, that it has reference to an act in respect of which a person can be accused and where in respect of that accusation there is a question of taking evidence and deciding upon the culpability or otherwise of the person charged. The use of the word 'prosecuted' in Article 20 is also indicative of the fact that it has a reference to a prosecution for an offence before a court...

Breaches which may loosely be termed ' offences ' cannot, to my mind, fall within the purview of Article 20 of the Constitution. We speak loosely of social offences and of departmental offences, but these lapses cannot obviously come within the purview of the word 'offence' within the meaning of Article 20.'

Hegde J., speaking for the Supreme Court, in Assistant Collector of Customs v. L. R. Melwani, stated the proposition as follows :

' It has been repeatedly held by this court that adjudication before a Collector of Customs is not a ' prosecution ' nor the Collector of Customs a court'. In Maqbool Hussain v. State of Bombay, : 1983ECR1598D(SC) this court held that the wording of Article 20 of the Constitution and the words used therein show that the proceedings therein contemplated are proceedings of the nature of criminal proceedings before a court of law or a judicial tribunal and ' prosecution ' in this context would mean an initiation or starting of proceedings of a criminal nature before a court of law or a judicial tribunal in accordance with the procedure prescribed in the statute which creates the offence and regulates the procedure.'

Mr. Srinivasan referred to a decision of our court in P. K. Kalasami Nadar v. Commissioner of Income-tax, : [1962]46ITR1056(Mad) . There the question did not arise as to whether Section 28 of the old Act did violate Article 20 of the Constitution in any manner whatsoever. A general proposition was laid down by the learned judges in that case that the proceedings for levy of penalty under Section 28 of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922, are quite clearly in the nature of criminal proceedings. Unless the charge is established or proved, the person charged goes scot-free and he cannot be called upon to establish his innocence. This general observation of the learned judges cannot be taken advantage of by the petitioner in the instant proceedings where the question is whether the imposition of a penalty in the course of a proceeding by a taxing officer which is only in the nature of a criminal proceeding is equatable to a proceeding in a criminal court.

13. Even so, in the decision in P.S.S. Bommanna Chettiar v. Commissioner of Income-tax, : [1969]73ITR26(Mad) to which I was a party, the poser was as to when a penalty can be levied for the contumacious conduct on the part of an assessee who conceals income. It was pointed out that it is only in case of designed concealment of income and wanton avoidance of the particulars or primary facts that penalty would be attracted as provided. But in that case the issue did not arise as is sought to be made out in the instant case.

14. Finally, I would like to refer to a Full Bench decision of the Allahabad High Court in Raghunandan Prasad Mohan Lal v. Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, : [1970]75ITR741(All) where the question like the one raised in the instant case directly arose. The learned judges, while rejecting a similar contention, observed as follows:

' This Article (article 20) affords protection against conviction and punishment for an offence by a court of law. Penalties are imposed by the income-tax authorities and cannot be regarded as punishment awarded for an offence. In fact, prosecution for an offence under the Income-tax Act is provided separately under the two Acts. Section 52 of the old Act provides for a prosecution and conviction before a magistrate with regard to offences enumerated therein. Similar provisions are to be found inChapter XXII of the new Act. The Supreme Court in Maqbool Hussain v. State of Bombay held that Article 20 contemplates proceedings of the nature of criminal proceedings and the prosecution in this context means an initiation of proceedings of a criminal nature. The first part of Article 20(1) prohibits a conviction while the second part deals with penalty that may be inflicted on conviction by way of punishment.'

There is therefore abundant authority for the view that proceedings initiated by taxing officers under the Income-tax Act for levying a penalty for conduct which is alleged to be contumacious are not, therefore, proceedings which are to be understood and placed on a level with proceedings, which for a similar purpose could/be initiated in a criminal court, for such an offence being tried by criminal courts of the land. I am, therefore, unable to accept the contention that the initiation of proceedings under the relevant statutory provisions of the new Act are in any manner or wise violative of Article 20(1) of the Constitution of India.

15. If this, therefore, is the reasonable conclusion that has to be arrived at, then it follows that the 1st respondent has the necessary jurisdiction to issue the impugned notice under Section 274(2) read with Section 271(1)(c) of the new Act. The challenge against the notice is not acceptable. The writ petition fails and is dismissed with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 250.

16. The standing counsel for income-tax filed a verified petition today to the effect that in the interests of justice the parties appearing as respondents in the main writ petition ought to be substituted in the manner prayed for. There is no opposition. This application is ordered.

17. The judgment of this court shall be forwarded to the newly substituted respondents instead of the parties already on record.


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