High Court Of Allahabad
Jhunjhunwala Vanaspati Ltd. vs. Assistant Commissioner Of Income Tax & Anr.
Asst. Year 1990-91
M. Katju & Mrs. Poonam Srivastava, JJ.
Civil Misc. Writ Petn. No. 388 of 1994
17th February, 2004
S.P. Gupta, Rajesh Kumar & Rakesh Ranjan Agrawal, for the Petitioner : Bharatji Agrawal & A.M. Mahajan, for the Respondents
M. Katju, J. :
This writ petition has been filed for quashing the impugned directions and notice dt. 23rd March, 1994 (Annexs. 5 and 6 to the petition), under s. 142(2A) of the IT Act, 1961. The petitioner has also prayed for a mandamus restraining respondent No. 1, the Asstt. CIT, Central Circle I, Varanasi, from proceeding in pursuance of the aforesaid directions and notice. Heard learned counsel for the parties.
The petitioner is a company registered under the Indian Companies Act. The petitioner established a vanaspati manufacturing unit at Varanasi. It maintains its account on mercantile basis. For the asst. yr. 1990-91, the petitioner filed a return under the IT Act on 31st Dec., 1990, declaring a loss of Rs. 24,61,860. Notice under s. 143(2) of the Act, dt. 18th June, 1991, was served on the petitioner on 21st June, 1991. Thereafter, also several notices dt. 15th July, 1991, 30th July, 1991, 7th Nov., 1991, 9th Nov., 1992, etc., were issued to the petitioner asking for various details and making various queries. However, it is alleged in para 9 of the petition, that at no stage of the assessment proceedings, respondent No. 1 told or indicated to the petitioner that the account books of the petitioner were of complex nature and he was finding it difficult to understand, appreciate or apprehend the entries in the account books.
It is alleged in para 10 of the petition that during the assessment in question the respondent No. 1 examined the account books of the petitioner in detail and formed a full and final opinion in regard to the assessment of the petitioner. Respondent No. 1 assessed the income of the petitioner at Rs. 62,47,993 vide assessment order dt. 24th March, 1993 (Annex. 1 to the petition). The petitioner filed an appeal to the CIT(A), Varanasi, on 20th April, 1993. It is alleged in para 14 of the petition that the appeal was heard on 5 or 6 dates, and on each of the dates the assessing authority of the petitioner, namely, respondent No. 1, appeared on behalf of the Department. However, at no point of time and at no stage he stated that the account books of the petitioner were of complex nature and there was difficulty in understanding, appreciating and comprehending the entries in the account books.
The CIT(A) by his order dt. 15th March, 1994, allowed the appeal, set aside the assessment order and remanded the matter to the AO for fresh assessment. True copy of the appellate order is Annex. 3 to the petition. It is alleged in para 17 of the petition that there is no mention anywhere in the assessment order or appellate order that the account books of the petitioner were of complex nature and there is any difficulty in understanding, appreciating or comprehending the entries in the account books. It is alleged in para 18 that there is no complexity in the petitionerâs account nor are they of such nature that there could be any difficulty on the part of respondent No. 1 to understand, appreciate or comprehend the same. However, on 24th March, 1994, the petitioner received directions under s. 142(2A) of the Act, purporting to be dt. 23rd March, 1994, from the respondent No. 1. By the aforesaid notice, the petitioner has been directed to get its accounts audited by a chartered accountant and to furnish a report of such audit in the prescribed form, duly signed and verified by the chartered accountant. In the aforesaid directions, one Shri N.C. Agrawal has been appointed by the respondent No. 1 as the chartered accountant for this purpose. True copy of the directions is Annex. 4. Photostat copy of the relevant provisions of ss. 142(2A), (2B), (2C) and (2D) are Annex. 4A to the petition.
It is alleged in para 21 of the petition that a perusal of the impugned directions shows that they are all in the nature of seeking information which is already on record and which if required can easily be given either by the petitioner or on a bare perusal of the account books. It is alleged that none of the information sought is such that it cannot be obtained either from the petitioner or from looking into the account books.
It is alleged in para 22 of the petition that the directions only say that the respondent No. 1 had examined the petitionerâs return, P&L a/c, balance sheet and other documents and also the account books/documents furnished by the petitioner in the course of the assessment proceedings. The direction further states that they have been issued having regard to the nature and complexity of the petitionerâs accounts and also on the basis of material on which the assessment has been reopened. Similar direction under s. 142(2A) of the Act has been given by respondent No. 1 in respect of the asst. yr. 1991-92 (vide Annex. 5 to the petition). It is alleged that this direction does not mention the basis on which this direction is given nor is it accompanied by any annexure. The narrative of this direction does not mention that it is founded on information on the basis of which the assessment has been reopened.
It is alleged in paras 25 and 26 of the petition that for the asst. yrs. 1990-91 and 1991-92 the account books of the petitioner were audited by an authorised chartered accountant.
It is alleged in para 27 of the petition that the impugned directions under s. 142(2A) have been issued to the petitioner without issuing any show-cause notice as to why such directions be not issued. It is implicit that opportunity of hearing should be given to a party before issuing the directions under s. 142(2A) of the Act. It is alleged that the impugned directions are violative of the rights of the petitioner and prejudicial to its interest.
It is alleged in para 32 of the petition that under the impugned directions there is no mention worth the name of any entry or aspect of the account books on the basis of which it could be said that the account books of the petitioner are of such nature and of such complexity that they require a special audit under s. 142(2A) of the Act. There is no finding that the account books are of complex nature, and that the accounts cannot be appreciated without a special order. Hence, it is alleged that the impugned directions are wholly illegal and without jurisdiction.
The petitioner has also alleged that the proceedings under s. 148 are in violation for the asst. yr. 1990-91. A counter-affidavit has also been filed and we have perused the same.
In para 3(a) of the counter-affidavit it is mentioned that for the asst. yr. 1990-91, the petitioner filed the return claiming a loss of Rs. 24,61,860. The assessment was, however, finalised on an income of Rs. 62,47,990. Addition of Rs. 62,47,993 was made under s. 68 in respect of certain credits appearing in the account books of the petitioner whose genuineness could not be established by the petitioner. Besides, the claim of depreciation and investment allowance were also denied as the petitioner could not give satisfactory evidence about acquisition and installation of the plant and machinery and its claim that the plant and machinery were fabricated locally was found to be false since M/s Sudha Industries through whom most of the machinery was claimed to be fabricated, was found to be non-existent.
In para 3(b) of the counter-affidavit it is mentioned that the petitioner avoided furnishing information in the course of assessment proceedings about the manufacturers/dealers through whom the plant and machinery were purchased. The petitionerâs claim that the plant and machinery were locally fabricated after procuring steel and other parts did not appear to be convincing considering the fact that the plant for manufacture of vanaspati required sophisticated machinery and there were not many manufacturers of vanaspati plants. Enquiries were pursued in this regard in the course of assessment for the asst. yr. 1991-92. It was then found that the other fabricator, M/s Bharat Fabricator, was also not traceable at the address furnished by the petitioner-company.
The petitioner showed investment as on 31st March, 1990, of Rs. 35,78,717 claiming that the aforesaid plant and machinery have been fabricated through certain parties. However, these parties were not found at the addresses given by the petitioner and it could not be believed that the sophisticated plant and machinery for manufacture of vanaspati could have been fabricated on payment of Rs. 1,02,122.
The Chief Director, Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies, Directorate of Vanaspati, Government of India, sent a report to the Director of IT, New Delhi, stating that such a plant costs three crores. Thus, it is evident that the information furnished by the petitioner was incorrect. In para 3(b) of the counter-affidavit it is stated that from the facts it is evident that investment in plant and machinery for the asst. yr. 1990-91 has been understated by Rs.1,12,98,883. Thus, there was reason to believe that understated investment assessable to tax escaped assessment in the relevant assessment year. Hence, notice under s. 148 was issued on 18th March, 1994.
In para 4 of the counter-affidavit it is stated that for the asst. yr. 1991-92 the return of income was filed by the petitioner along with the P&L a/c and balance sheet audited by M/s Garg & Company, Calcutta, chartered accountant. The report of the statutory auditor clearly shows that the petitioner did not maintain proper records showing full particulars of the fixed assets. The relevant part of the said report of the auditors of the petitioner- company clearly mentions that the company has not maintained proper records showing full particulars including details and situation of fixed assets.
In para 5 of the counter-affidavit it is stated that apart from the aforesaid remarks of the auditors, Schedule 16 to the notes on accounts submitted by the petitionerâs auditor shows that various items are subject to confirmation and reconciliation with the seized books and records.
In paragraph of the counter-affidavit it is stated that when the deponent made scrutiny of the stock register, the production in the various months as compared to the actual consumption of oil was almost an impossibility. The production in the month of January, 1991, is about 134 per cent of the actual consumption. Moreover, as per auditorâs report, the total consumption is 1,166.883 M.T., whereas the same is only, 1,147.513 M.T. as per stock register. All these facts show the complexity and intricacy of the account books specially those relating to arrival of raw materials, consumption, yield, shortage and wastage. These are most complicated and require special audit by a qualified chartered accountant. Apart from that there are several units belonging to the Jhunjhunwala group and between these concerns there are a large number of transactions of money but adjustments have been made by books entries, which require proper verification. These adjustment entries have been passed in a very complex manner. Details are given in para 11 of the counter-affidavit.
In para 12 of the counter-affidavit it is stated that in the book entries out of 809 book entries for the asst. yr. 1991- 92, 397 entries were made only on the last date on 31st March, 1991, and these adjustments have been made in a very complex manner.
In para 14 it is stated that big factories are run by the Jhunjhunwala group. The family members are assessees but the details of returned income of the money are so meagre which clearly shows that the investment appears to have been made from unaccounted source.
In paras 15 to 22 of the counter-affidavit it is stated that approval was sought for from the CIT (Central), Kanpur, by submitting a detailed proposal. The proposal mentioned in Annex. CA4 gives full details about the complexity of the account and the interest of the Revenue. The CIT (Central), Kanpur, granted approval, vide para 22.
From the facts of the case, we find no merits in this petition. It is evident from these facts that the petitionerâs accounts are complex in nature and hence they require special audit. Section 142(2A) of the IT Act states : “If, at any stage of the proceedings before him, the AO, having regard to the nature and complexity of the accounts of the assessee and the interests of the Revenue, is of the opinion that it is necessary so to do, he may, with the previous approval of the Chief CIT or CIT, direct the assessee to get the accounts audited by an accountant, as defined in the Explanation below sub-s. (2) of s. 288, nominated by the Chief CIT or CIT in this behalf and to furnish a report of such audit in the prescribed form duly signed and verified by such accountant and setting forth such particulars as may be prescribed and such other particulars as the AO may require.” A bare perusal of sub-s. (2A) of s. 142 shows that all that is required therein is that the AO should be of the opinion that in view of the nature and complexity of the accounts of the assessee and the interest of the Revenue it is necessary to direct special audit of the assesseeâs accounts.
In our opinion, it is not necessary for the AO to give a show-cause notice or give a hearing to the assessee before issuing the directions under s. 142(2A). In our opinion, the direction under sub-s. (2A) of s. 142 is purely administrative in nature and not quasi-judicial. Moreover, in our opinion, such a direction does not have civil consequences. It does not affect the assesseeâs rights or liabilities. Hence, the decision of the Supreme Court in State of Orissa vs. Binapani Dei AIR 1967 SC 1269 does not apply. No doubt, an administrative order if it has civil consequences can only be passed after giving opportunity of hearing, but in our opinion a direction under sub-s. (2A) of s. 142 does not have civil consequences because it does not affect his rights and does not create any liability against the assessee. It is only the assessment order which will create a liability. The purpose of the direction under sub-s. (2A) of s. 142 is to ensure that a correct assessment order is passed so that the Revenue is not deprived of its dues. Hence, we do not agree with learned counsel for the petitioner that an opportunity of hearing or show-cause notice has to be given to the assessee before passing the direction under s. 142(2A). Detailed reasons have been given in Annex. CA4 to the counter-affidavit about the complexity of the accounts of the petitioner, the suppression of investment, etc.
In Gurunanak Enterprises vs. CIT (2003) 180 CTR (Del) 203 : (2003) 259 ITR 637 (Del), the Delhi High Court observed : “It is not within the province of judicial review to minutely analyse the materials on which the opinion of the AO is rested to find out whether the same is sufficient for the authority concerned to come to the conclusion that the accounts of the assessee need to be subjected to special audit. As noticed above, what is complex to one may be simple to another and, therefore, the issue has to be examined from the view point of the AO concerned. The Court is not expected to substitute its own understanding and comprehension of the accounts of an assessee.
We also do not find any substance in the submission of learned counsel for the petitioners that merely because no special audit under the said provision had been directed in the past several years or that their accounts had already been subjected to statutory audit under s. 44AB of the Act and the petitionersâ assessments were completed without noticing any complexity in the accounts, the AO is denuded of his power to order special audit subsequently, even though the nature of business and the method of accounting adopted by the assessee had remained the same as in the past. If the facts and circumstances so warrant, a special audit under s. 142(2A) may be ordered in respect of any year.”
In Kumar Films (P) Ltd. vs. CIT (2003) 179 CTR (Pat) 39 : (2002) 258 ITR 257 (Pat), the Patna High Court held that the High Court in writ jurisdiction cannot judge the satisfaction of the authority when it has ordered for appointment of an auditor after taking note of the nature of the controversy and accounts. We agree with the view of the Patna High Court also.
In Living Media Ltd. vs. CIT (2002) 175 CTR (SC) 299 : (2002) 255 ITR 268 (SC), the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Delhi High Court in this connection. In U.P. State Handloom Corpn. Ltd. vs. CIT (1988) 69 CTR (All) 195 : (1988) UPTC 705, the Allahabad High Court upheld the directions under s. 142(2A). In Swadeshi Cotton Mills Co. Ltd. vs. CIT (1987) 63 CTR (All) 335 : (1987) UPTC 1101, a Division Bench decision of this Court held that the satisfaction of the ITO while issuing direction under s. 142(2A) has to be on an objective assessment, regard being had to the nature of accounts. The Division Bench on the facts of the case upheld the direction under s. 142(2A).
In our opinion, this Court cannot sit in appeal over the decision of the ITO in directing special audit under s. 142(2A). As held by the Supreme Court in Tata Cellular vs. Union of India AIR 1996 SC 11, this Court has a very limited scope for interference with administrative directions.
In the very recent decision of the Division Bench of this Court in Pushpak Jyoti vs. State of U.P., decided on 11th Dec., 2003, this Court explained in detail the theory of judicial restraint while examining the power of judicial review of administrative decisions. In Pushpak Jyotiâs case (supra) this Court considered the entire case law including the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in this connection, and was of the view that the Court should exercise judicial restraint in such matters.
38. For the reasons given above, there is no merit in this petition and it is accordingly dismissed.
[Citation : 266 ITR 657]