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M/S Janki Das Lachchmi Narain v. Commissioner Of Income Tax Alld. - WRIT TAX No. 780 of 1999  RD-AH 1392 (10 November 2004)
Civil Misc. Writ Petition No.780 of 1999
M/s Janki Das Lachchmi Narain v. Commissioner
of Income Tax, Allahabad and another
Hon'ble R.K.Agrawal, J.
Hon'ble Prakash Krishna, J.
(Delivered by R.K.Agrawal, J.)
By means of the present writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner, M/s Janki Das Lachchmi Narain, seeks a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari quashing the order dated 15.2.1999 passed by the Commissioner of Income Tax, Allahabad, respondent no.1, filed as Annexure 5 to the writ petition. The petitioner further seeks a writ, order or direction directing the respondent no.1 to entertain the application under Kar Vivad Samadhan Scheme, 1998, filed on 22.12.1998 for the assessment year 1993-94 and issue necessary order under the aforesaid Scheme and other consequential reliefs.
Briefly stated, the facts giving rise to the present petition are as follows:-
The petitioner is a registered partnership firm and is engaged in the business of edible oil etc. For the assessment year 1993-94, an assessment was framed by the Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax, Special Range, Allahabad vide order dated 27.3.1995. Feeling aggrieved by the said order, the petitioner had preferred an appeal before the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals), Allahabad who, vide order dated 24.10.1995, had rejected the appeal and had confirmed the assessment order. Still feeling aggrieved, the petitioner preferred a second appeal before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, which was filed on 31.1.1996. It is stated that alongwith the appeal, the petitioner has also filed an application for condonation of delay. In the meantime, by Chapter IV of the Finance Act (No.2) of 1998 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"), the Central Government introduced the Kar Vivad Samadhan Scheme, 1998 (hereinafter referred to as "the Scheme"). The Scheme was made applicable to direct taxes as also indirect taxes mentioned therein. Under the Scheme, settlement of taxes was provided under certain circumstances. However, Section 95 provided that the Scheme shall not apply in certain cases. Sub-clause (c) of sub-section (1) of Section 95 of the Act provided that the Scheme shall not apply in respect of tax arrears under any direct tax enactment in a case where no appeal or reference or writ petition is admitted and is pending before any Appellate Authority or the High Court or the Supreme Court on the date of filing of the declaration. The petitioner taking advantage of the Scheme, filed an application in the prescribed form for settlement of tax payable. The application was filed on 22.12.1998. The Commissioner of Income Tax, Allahabad, respondent no.1, however, vide order dated 15.2.1999 had rejected the application filed by the petitioner under the Scheme. The order dated 15.2.1999 is under challenge in the present writ petition.
We have heard Sri Rishi Raj Kapoor, learned counsel for the petitioner, and Sri Ashok Kumar, learned Standing Counsel appearing for the respondents.
Learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the order dated 15.2.1999 passed by the Commissioner of Income Tax is wholly illegal and has been passed in utter disregard and in gross violation of the principles of equity, fair play and natural justice as neither any show cause notice nor any opportunity of hearing was given to the petitioner by the Commissioner of Income Tax before passing the said order. He further submitted that under the Scheme the only requirement was that the appeal should be pending at the time of making of the declaration. There is no procedure for admitting the appeal before the Tribunal and, therefore, as the petitioner had already filed the appeal before the Tribunal way back in January, 1996 alongwith an application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act for condonation of delay in filing the appeal, the appeal would be treated to be pending and the view of the Commissioner of Income Tax that no appeal was pending on the date of filing of the declaration is erroneous and contrary to law. In support of his aforesaid submissions, he has relied upon the following decisions:-
(i) Mela Ram and sons v Commissioner of Income Tax, Punjab, (1956) 29 ITR 607;
(ii) S.B.Jain, Income Tax Officer, Nagpur v. Mahendra, (1972) 83 ITR 104;
(iii) Sheth Enterprises (P) Ltd. v. Commissioner of Customs and another, (1999) 154 CTR 195 (Guj); and
(iv) Shatrushailya Digvijaysingh Jadeja v. Commissioner of Income Tax, (2003) 259 ITR 149 (Guj).
Sri Ashok Kumar, learned Standing Counsel, on the other hand, submitted that under Section 95(1)(c) of the Act it has been specifically provided that the provisions of the Scheme shall not be applicable where no appeal is admitted and pending before the Appellate Authority. According to him, as the appeal was filed beyond time, the limitation having expired, till such time the application for condonation of delay is allowed, the appeal cannot be treated as pending before the Tribunal. Further, the requirement is that it should have been admitted also. The word ''admitted' postulates that the appeal before the Appellate Tribunal should have been filed within time and in accordance with law and, therefore, the Commissioner of Income Tax was justified in rejecting the petitioner's application on the ground that on the date of declaration, no appeal was pending before the Tribunal. He further submitted that under the Scheme settlement of tax payable has been provided and the benefit of the scheme can be taken only when the conditions mentioned therein are fulfilled, otherwise not. He also referred to a clarification issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes in the form of question answer in which it has been stated that the appeal should be pending on the date of filing of the declaration and where the appeal has been filed beyond time and the delay has not been condoned on the date of filing of the declaration, the appeal would not be treated as pending. In support of his aforesaid submissions, he has relied upon the following decisions:-
(i) M/s Ram Sewak Hari Om Brick Kiln, Sirsaganj, Mainpuri v. Sales Tax Officer, Mainpuri and others, 1972 UPTC 670 (Alld);
(ii) State of Haryana v. Maruti Udyog Ltd. and others, 2000(2) UPTC 1167 (SC);
(iii) Deonaria Cold Storage and Ice Factory, Agra v. Commissioner of Income Tax, Agra and another, 2003(1) UPTC 230 (Alld); and
(iv) Hemlatha Gargya v. Commissioner of Income Tax and another, 2003(1) UPTC 511 (SC).
Having heard the learned counsel for the parties, we find that in respect of the assessment year 1993-94 the petitioner had filed an appeal alongwith an application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act for condonation of delay before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Allahabad on 31.1.1996. By Section 86(2) contained in Chapter IV of the Act, the Central Government has enforced the Scheme on 1.9.1998. It provided for settlement of tax payable under the direct tax as well as under indirect tax enactments. However, under Section 95 of the Act, the Scheme was made not to apply in certain cases. So far tax arrears under the direct tax enactment is concerned, Section 95(1) is relevant and is reproduced hereinbelow:-
"95. Scheme not to apply in certain cases.
The provisions of this Scheme shall not apply-
(i) in respect of tax arrear under any direct tax enactment,-
(a) in a case where prosecution for concealment has been instituted on or before the date of filing of the declaration under section 88 under any direct tax enactment in respect of any assessment year, to any tax arrear in respect of such assessment year under such direct tax enactment or in respect of a person who has been convicted for concealment on or before the date of filing the declaration;
(b) in a case where an order has been passed by the Settlement Commission under sub-section (4) of section 245D of the Income-tax Act or sub-section (4) of section 22D of Wealth-tax Act, as the case may be, for any assessment year, to any tax arrear in respect of such assessment year under such direct tax enactment;
(c) in a case where no appeal or reference or writ petition is admitted and pending before any appellate authority or High Court or the Supreme Court on the date of filing of declaration or no application for revision is pending before the Commissioner on the date of filing declaration;"
From a perusal of the aforesaid provision, it would be seen that the Scheme would not apply in a case where no appeal is admitted and pending before any Appellate Authority. The question is as to whether the appeal filed by the petitioner on 31.1.1996 alongwith the application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act for condonation of delay before the Tribunal can be said to be ''admitted and pending' before the Tribunal or not.
In the case of Sushila Rani (Smt.) v. Commissioner of Income Tax and another, (2002) 2 SCC 697, the Apex Court has held that the Scheme was introduced by the Central Government with a view to collect revenue through direct and indirect taxes by avoiding litigation. Para 5 of the report is reproduced below:-
"5.KVSS was introduced by the Central Government with a view to collect revenues through direct and indirect taxes by avoiding litigation. In fact the Finance Minister while explaining the object of KVSS stated as follows:-
"Litigation has been the bane of both direct and indirect taxes. A lot of energy of the Revenue Department is being frittered in pursuing large number of litigations pending at different levels for long periods of time. Considerable revenue also gets locked up in such disputes. Declogging the system will not only incentivise honest taxpayers, it would enable the Government to realize its reasonable dues much earlier but coupled with administrative measures, would also make the system more user-friendly...."
In the case of Killick Nixon Ltd., Mumbai v. Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax, Mumbai and others, (2003) 1 SCC 145, the Apex Court has held that the Scheme of KVSS is to cut short litigation pertaining to taxes which were frittering away the energy of the Revenue Department and to encourage the litigant to come forwards and to pay up a reasonable amount of tax payable in accordance with the Scheme after declaration thereunder.
In the case of Dr. Renuka Datla (Mrs.) and others v. Commissioner of Income Tax, Karnataka and another, (2003) 2 SCC 19, the Apex Court after examining the provisions of the Scheme has held as follows:-
"7. On an analysis of these provisions, it is clear that a person could avail of the benefit of the Scheme, if -
(1) there was a determination of the amount of tax etc. on or before 31.3.1998 ((Section 87(m)(i)); and
(2) the determination has been modified in consequence of giving effect to an appellate order (ibid); and
(3) the declaration had been filed in the prescribed form before the designated authority between 1.9.1998 and 31.12.1998 (Section 88, 89) and
(4) the amount of the modified demand has remained unpaid on the date of declaration (Section 87(m)(i)); and
(5) an appeal or reference or writ petition before the authorities or court in respect of Items (1), (2) and (4) on the date of the filing of the declaration is pending(Section 95(i)(c))"
It has further held that not all direct tax under Section 87(m) are entitled to the benefit of the Scheme. If any appeal etc. is not pending in respect of the tax arrears, the benefit of the Scheme is not available under Section 95(1)(c). If an appeal etc. is pending, it is not for the designated authority to question the possible outcome of the appeal nor for the High Court to hold that the appeal was ''sham', ''ineffective' or ''infructuous'.
In the case of Union of India and another v. Baroda Pharmaceuticals Ltd., (2003) 11 SCC 688, the Apex Court has held that if a benefit is sought under the Scheme like Kar Vivad Samadhan Scheme the party must fully comply with the provisions of the Scheme. If all the requirements of the Scheme are not made, then on principle of equity the Court cannot extend the benefit of that scheme.
In the case of Hemlatha Gargya (supra) the Hon'ble Supreme Court has held that voluntary disclosure scheme 1977 has conferred a benefit on those who had not disclosed their income by affording them protection against the possible legal consequences of such non-disclosure under the provisions of the Income Tax Act where the assessee seeks to claim the benefit under the statutory scheme they are bound to comply strictly with the conditions under which the benefit is granted. There is no scope for the application of any equitable consideration when the statutory provision of the Scheme are stated in such plain language.
Thus, from the decisions of the Apex Court, referred to above, the following principle emerges:-
(i) The scheme has been brought into force to put an end to the litigation and to recover the tax payable from the tax payers who had opted for the Scheme;
(ii) The conditions of the Scheme have to be strictly complied with and if a person does not fall under the four corners of the Scheme, the benefit cannot be granted;
(iii) The appeal should be pending on the date when the declaration has been filed and the merits of the appeal cannot be gone into by the designated authority.
In the case of Mela Ram and sons (supra) the Apex Court has held that an appeal presented out of time is an appeal and an order dismissing it as time barred is one passed in appeal. The Apex Court has held as follows:-
"Now, a right of appeal is a substantive right, and is a creature of the statute. Section 30(1) confers on the assessee a right of appeal against certain orders and an order of assessment under Section 23 is one of them. The appellant, therefore, had a substantive right under Section 30(1) to prefer appeals against orders of assessment made by the Income Tax Officer. Then, we come to Section 30(2), which enacts a period of limitation within which this right is to be exercised. If an appeal is not presented within that time, does that cease to be an appeal as provided under Section 30(1) ? It is well established that rules of limitation pertain to the domain of adjectival law, and that they operate only to bar the remedy but not to extinguish the right. An appeal preferred in accordance with Section 30(1) must, therefore, be an appeal in the eye of law, though having been present beyond the period mentioned in Section 30(2) it is liable to be dismissed in limine. There might be a provision in the statute that at the end of the period of limitation prescribed the right would be extinguished, as far example, Section 28 of the Limitation Act; but there is none such here. On the other hand, in conferring a right of appeal under Section 30(1) and prescribing a period of limitation for the exercise thereof separately under Section 30(2), the legislature has evinced an intention to maintain the distinction well - recognised under the general law between what is a substantive right and what is a matter of procedural law. In NagendranathDey v. V. Suresh Chandra Dey, [(1932) L.R.59 I.A. 283] Sir Dinshaw Mulla, construing the word "appeal" in the third column of the Limitation Act observed:
"There is no definition of appeal in the Code of Civil Procedure, but their Lordships have no doubt that any application by a party to an appellate Court, asking it to set aside or revise a decision of a subordinate Court, is an appeal within the ordinary acceptation of the term, and that it is no less an appeal because it is irregular or incompetent."
These observations were referred to with approval and adapted by this Court in Raja Kulkarni and others v. The State of Bombay [(1954) SCR 384]. In Pramotho Nath Roy v. W.A.Lee [AIR 1921 Cal 415], an order dismissing an application as barred by limitation after rejecting an application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act to excuse the delay in presentation was held to be one "passed on appeal" within the meaning of Section 109 of the Civil Procedure Code. On the principles laid down in these decisions, it must be held that an appeal presented out of time is an appeal, and an order dismissing it as time-barred is one passed in appeal."
In the case of S.B.Jain (supra) the Apex Court following its earlier decision in the case of Raja Kulkarni and others and Mela Ram & sons (supra) has held the question whether that proceeding was barred by limitation or not is irrelevant for determining whether under Section 297(2)(a)(ii) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 the proceedings were pending or not. Under the said Section, actual pendency of a proceeding is required.
In the case of Sheth Enterprises (P) Ltd. (supra) the facts before the Gujarat High Court were that the order in original was passed on 25.5.1998 and appeal against that order was filed on 17.9.1998 beyond the period of limitation. The declaration under the Scheme was rejected by the designated authority on 28.2.1999 on the ground that the appeal was time barred. The Gujarat High Court has held that the appeal was admitted and pending on the date of filing of the declaration and that it made no difference that the appeal was treated as time barred and that ultimately the appeal came to be dismissed on that ground. The Gujarat High Court directed the designated authority to accept the declaration as complying with the requirement and to extend its benefit.
In the case of Shatrushailya Digvijaysingh Jadeja (supra) the Gujarat High Court was considering a case where the assessee had filed revisions under Section 264 of the Income Tax Act before the Commissioner of Income Tax, Rajkot after the expiry of the period for filing the revision. The assessee had also applied for condonation of delay. After filing the revision applications, the assessee applied for settlement of tax due under the Scheme. The declaration was rejected by the designated authority on the ground that no revision was pending on the date of declaration. The Gujarat High Court has held that Section 95(1)(c) of the Scheme uses the expression "admitted and pending" in so far as the appeals are concerned but uses only the word "pending" as far as the revisions are concerned and the attempt made by the Revenue to distinguish the authority of the Apex Court would have borne fruit if the legislature had used in Section 95(1)(c) the expression "admitted and pending" for revision and only "pending" for appeal.
In the case of M/s Ram Sewak Hari Om Brick Kiln (supra) this Court has held that once the Appellate Authority accepted the appeal as proper by specific order and admitted them, they do not become not maintainable as a result of subsequent change of law.
In the case of Deonaria Cold Storage and Ice Factory (supra) this Court has held that the declaration under the Scheme ought to be made to the designated authority on or before 31.12.1998 which date had been extended to 31.1.1999 and it is for the declarant to ensure that the declaration reached the designated authority by 31.1.1999, i.e., by the date fixed.
In the case of Maruti Udyog Ltd. (supra) the Apex Court was considering the question as to what was the meaning of the word ''entertained'. It has held that the word ''entertained' means ''admit to consideration'.
In the case of Gopal Films v. Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax and others, (1999) 237 ITR 655, the Karnataka High Court has held that where a revision petition is filed beyond time unless the delay is condoned, it cannot be said that the revision is pending. In such a case only when it is admitted by condoning the delay, the revision proceedings can be said to be pending and on condonation of delay by the Commissioner and admission, the pendency would relate back to the date of filing of the revision petition. In the aforesaid case the revision was filed on 5.1.1999 alongwith an application for condonation of delay whereas the declaration under the Scheme was filed on 6.1.1999. The declaration was rejected by the designated authority, which has been held to be valid by the Karnataka High Court.
In the case of Gufic Pharma Ltd. v. J.G.Arora, (1999) 238 ITR 835, the Gujarat High Court has held that it is not the condition for operation of the Scheme that the appeal, revision or reference should have come before 31.3.1998, or before the coming into force of the Scheme. It was not intended to curtail the right of any aggrieved party to prosecute his remedies under law. The mere fact that the assessee had not filed a revision prior to the coming into force of the Scheme, could not be held against the assessee if he can ultimately act within the precincts of the statute for pursuing a bona fide dispute, he can also claim the benefit of the Scheme when necessary conditions for availing such benefit have been shown to exist. In the aforesaid case, the assessee had filed a revision petition under Section 264 before the Commissioner on 29.1.1999 challenging the order passed under Section 154 dated 1.1.1999 and filed a declaration under Section 89 of the Act. The designated officer, namely, the Commissioner of Income Tax had rejected the declaration stating that the revision against the order which was made without objection, was infructuous and was merely to take advantage of the Scheme, which could not be taken note of. The Gujarat High Court has held that the designated authority, the Commissioner, has jurisdiction to see only the existence of jurisdiction which made the Scheme operative in the case. Whether the revision has merit or will be successful is not his domain.
Similar view has been taken by the Apex Court in the case of Dr. Renuka Datla (Mrs.) (supra).
In the case of Paresh Premji Rajda v. Commissioner of Income Tax, (1999) 239 ITR 11, the Calcutta High Court has held that where the application for condonation of delay which was filed alongwith the application for revision under Section 264 of the Income Tax Act has been rejected, the revision was to be treated as non est and when it was non est, there would not be any question of pendency of the revision application on 29.1.1999 when the declaration was filed by the assessee.
In the case of Lukkose John Thoppil v. Commissioner of Income Tax, (2000) 242 ITR 1, the Kerala High Court has held that where the revision petitions were filed on 28.10.1998 and the declarations were filed on 28.10.1998, it could not be said that the revision petitions were not pending on the date of filing of the revision petitions. The declarations were valid and had to be considered and it cannot be read that the revision which is required to be pending under Section 95(1)(c) of the Act, should be maintainable or in which the relief could be granted, will be amounting to re-writing the section.
In the case of Radhika Prakashan P. Ltd. v. Union of India and another, (2002) 256 ITR 265, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has held that where the appeal filed by the declarant before the Tribunal was dismissed in default for appearance on 4.9.1998 and was restored later on 1.6.1999 and subsequently dismissed on merits on 10.5.2000, the declaration filed by the assessee under the Scheme on 28.1.1999 could not have been rejected by the designated authority on the ground that no appeal was pending on the date of filing of declaration as the term ''restoration' itself contemplates that original position reverts back.
In the case of Sri Amar Lal Kirana Stores v. Commissioner of Income Tax, (2003) 259 ITR 572, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has held that in order to take the benefit of the Scheme, it is necessary for the assessee to show as a fact that on the date of filing of declaration under the Scheme an appeal or reference or a writ was admitted for final hearing and was pending before any Appellate Authority or the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be. The use of the word ''admitted and pending' in Section 95(1)(c) is important and significant. The deliberate use of the word ''admitted' prior to the word ''and pending' can never be regarded as redundant or otiose. It has its application to all the three types of cases, namely, appeal, reference and writ petition. The Madhya Pradesh High Court has held that where the appeal before the Tribunal has not been filed within time, it cannot be said to be an admitted appeal on the date of declaration but it was only an appeal pending and, therefore, the benefit of the Scheme is not available.
Thus from the aforesaid cases it is settled that an appeal in order to be pending must as a matter of fact be pending and it is immaterial as to whether it has been filed beyond time or is not in the prescribed form. Further it is not to be seen as to whether the appeal has any merit or Naib Tehsildar. In case the appeal has been field beyond the period of limitation, in the event the application for condonation of delay has been allowed it will be treated as having been properly filed.
It may be mentioned here that this Court vide order dated 7.9.1999 while entertaining the writ petition had directed that the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal to take up the petitioner's application under Section 5 of the Limitation Act and pass appropriate orders thereon in accordance with law. Pursuant to the aforesaid direction, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal had allowed the application filed under Section 5 of the Limitation Act and had condoned the delay in filing the appeal vide order dated 16.2.2000. The consequence of the order dated 16.2.2000 would be that the appeal would be treated to have been filed within limitation.
Applying the aforesaid principles to the facts of the present case we find that under Rule 4A of the Appellate Tribunal Rules, 1963 (hereinafter referred to as "the Rules), the powers and functions of the Registrar have been defined. Under clauses (iii), (iv) and (v) thereof, the Registrar has been conferred with the power and duty to scrutinise all appeals and applications to find out whether they are in conformity with the Rules, to point out defect in such appeal and application to the party requiring them to rectify the defects and if the same had not been rectified, to obtain orders from the Bench for the return of the appeal and the applications, to check whether the appeals are barred by limitation and if so, intimate the party and place the matter before the Bench for orders. Under clause (vi), the Registrar has been empowered to fix a date of hearing of the appeal and even direct the issue of notice therefor subject to the direction of the President, Senior Vice-President, Vice-President and Senior Member of the Bench. Under Rule 12 of the Rules, the Tribunal has been empowered to reject a memorandum of appeal if it is not in the prescribed form or return it for being amended within such time as it may allow. From a reading of the Rules, it does appear that there is no provision for admitting the appeal by the Tribunal. The words ''admitted and pending' used in Section 95(1)(c) of the Act refer to the appeal, reference or writ petition and would be applicable to such appeals where there is a procedure for its admission. In the absence of any procedure for admission, like in the present case before the Departmental authority, it cannot be said that the declarant has to fulfill this requirement also in order to avail the benefit of the Scheme. It is well settled that once the delay has been condoned, it relates back to the date of filing of the appeal and is treated to have been filed within limitation and, thus, would be treated as pending. Moreover, we find that in the present case the petitioner had filed the appeal before the Tribunal as far back as on 31.1.1996 and if the Tribunal had not passed any order under Rule 12 of the Rules rejecting the memorandum of appeal, it should be treated to be pending subject to the objection on the application filed for condonation of delay as the petitioner cannot be made to suffer for no fault of it.
We are, therefore, unable to persuade ourselves to subscribe to the view taken by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of Sri Amar Lal Kirana Stores (supra).
In view of the foregoing discussion, we are of the considered opinion that once the delay has been condoned by the Tribunal, the appeal would be said to be pending before the Tribunal on the date when a declaration was filed and, therefore, Commissioner of Income Tax, Allahabad was not justified in rejecting the declaration on this ground. Thus, the order dated 15.2.1999 cannot be sustained and is hereby set aside. The Commissioner of Income Tax, Allahabad is directed to pass appropriate orders in accordance with law on the declaration filed by the petitioner in the light of the observations made above.
In the result, the writ petition succeeds and is allowed. However, the parties will bear their own costs.
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