Bombay H.C : This petition raises a question as to the scope, validity and operation of s. 281 of the IT Act.

High Court Of Bombay : Nagpur Bench

Gangadhar Vishwanath Ranade & Ors. vs. ITO

Section Art. 226, 281

Asst. Year 1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65

Tulpule & Padhye, JJ.

Special Civil Appln. No. 959 of 1974

9th January, 1981

Counsel Appeared

S.V. Natu, L.K. Khamborkar & M.N. Phadke, for the Petitioners : K.H. Deshpande and A. Shelat, for the Respondent


This petition raises a question as to the scope, validity and operation of s. 281 of the IT Act.

2. The setting in which this question is raised can be briefly stated to be as follows. Petitioner No. 1, hereinafter referred to as “Gangadhar”, was an assessee liable to pay income-tax and was doing business since about the year 1950. He was a partner in “United Capital Construction Co.,” which was a firm, till about the year 1960 and was also carrying on business as a contractor. He was assessed to income-tax right from the commencement of his business. The assessment for the years 1962-63, 1963-64 and 1965-66 of the firm of which Gangadhar was a partner was first completed on 6th Nov., 1964. It appears that this assessment was reopened by the CIT on 4th Nov., 1966, and a fresh assessment order was passed against Gangadhar for the years 1962-63 to 1964-65 and he was assessed to income-tax on a sum of Rs. 50,570 for the year 1962-63, Rs. 42,599 for the year 1963-64 and Rs. 75,000 for the year 1964-65. This assessment for the aforesaid years became final on 7th Aug., 1967, there having been no appeal filed against that assessment order.

The transactions which the petitioner, Gangadhar, entered into-and the fact that he entered into these transactions is an admitted position-are as follows. The first of these transactions is a mortgage for a sum of Rs. 75,000 to the bank of Maharashtra, which mortgage was executed on 2nd Dec., 1967. On 21st Feb., 1969, the petitioner, Gangadhar, declared a trust in respect of the said property in favour of his wife and other persons as beneficiaries of the trust. The trust property was subsequently transferred to the beneficiaries on 27th Feb., 1969. In April and May 1969, the petitioner, Gangadhar, transferred shares which he held in certain companies in favour of petitioners Nos. 4 and 5 who are his nephews. He also transferred another batch of shares on 2nd Aug., 1969, in favour of these nephews. On 27th Jan., 1972, some of the properties belonging to or standing in the name of the petitioner, Gangadhar, were attached by a prohibitory order. That was in respect of four insurance policies on the life of Gangadhar. Notice came to be issued to Gangadhar on 23rd Oct., 1972. The house property which was mortgaged by Gangadhar in favour of the Bank of Maharashtra also came to be attached. Subsequent to this attachment, it appears that a show cause notice was issued under s. 281 dt. 21st Jan., 1974. The petitioner, Gangadhar, showed cause to that notice. The concerned ITO, it appears, then held an enquiry and solicited certain information from the assessee, Gangadhar, and also recorded evidence of witnesses who were summoned, namely, petitioners Nos. 2, 4 and 5. He then passed an order which is the impugned order in the present case on 9th May, 1974. The three items of property which he dealt with were the shares, house property and the insurance policies. Concluding. he stated that he had every reasons to believe that the conduct and the behaviour of the assessee- petitioner in hurrying to transfer during the pendency of the proceedings under the IT Act was with the intention to defraud the Revenue. He, therefore, proceeded to hold that these transfers were void as against the Department under s. 281 of the IT Act. His decision, however, specifically excluded the insurance policies which were the subject-matter of a decision before the Supreme Court. The present petition challenges this order and prays that the order dt. 9th May, 1974, passed under s. 281 by the ITO be quashed. A stay was also prayed for of further proceedings. This Court, while issuing rule, granted interim stay of these proceedings which stay was continued by the order of this Court on 18th June, 1974. Since then, these proceedings pursuant to s. 281 are still pending. Though the property, viz., house property, is attached on 23rd Oct., 1972, no further steps have been taken. We are not aware and it is not known whether any notice under s. 226 is issued with regard to the shares transferred in favour of the petitioners Nos. 4 and 5. With regard to the four policies which were the subject-matter of a decision of the Supreme Court, we have only two days ago decided that matter in Petition No. 1248 of 1977 in Gangadhar vs. LIC

3. We will first set out s. 281 of the IT Act. This section was first placed on the statute book in the IT Act of 1961, and was not there in the Indian IT Act of 1922. Since the section has subsequently undergone a change in the year 1975 and inasmuch as it is the amended section which was applicable at the time when these proceedings were started, we may set out that section which reads thus: “281. Where, during the pendency of any proceeding under this Act, any assessee creates a charge on or parts with the possession by way of sale, mortgage, exchange or any other mode of transfer whatsoever, of any of his assets in favour of any other person with the intention to defraud the Revenue, such charge or transfer shall be void…” There cannot be any dispute that it is this section which was applicable when the ITO, in the year 1974, issued notice and also passed his order on 9th May, 1974.

4. Three submissions were placed before us by Shri Natu. Shri Natu firstly contended that the ITO had no jurisdiction or authority to pass an order of this kind under s. 281. It was Shri Natu’s contention that the section, in terms, does not confer any such power or jurisdiction upon the ITO. Shri Natu emphasised that the respondent, in his return, has described what was done in pursuant of the notice dt. 21st Jan., 1974, as the proceedings. The order passed by the ITO, it was his submission, if he had no jurisdiction to pass such an order and is not an authority named thereunder, then, for that short reason, the order must be struck down. The second contention which was urged before us by Shri Natu was that it is not clear from the Act as to which of the several officers can take action under s. 281 in the hierarchy of the officials who are entrusted with the duty of discharging the functions under the IT Act. He submitted that there are several officers and any one of whom can discharge those functions right from the Income-tax Inspector to the Board of Revenue. In such a case, therefore, the ITO would not be justified in holding an enquiry of this kind. Since there was no authority indicated in the Act, Shri Natu’s submission was that the ITO could not usurp the ordinary jurisdiction of the civil Court to decide whether a transfer is fraudulent. Shri Natu referred to s. 53 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, and sections 53 and 55 of the Provincial Insolvency Act, 1920, and the Presidency Towns Insolvency Act. To illustrate his argument and to further support it, it was pointed out that in the Insolvency Act and the Presidency Towns Insolvency Act, the forum or authority is indicated. No such forum is indicated or authority designated in the Transfer of Property Act. Therefore, under the Transfer of Property Act, and in cases where a transfer is fraudulent so as to defraud any of the creditors, it is the ordinary Court which has jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the civil Court is not ousted merely because s. 281 finds a place in the IT Act. As a corollary and ancillary submission to the aforesaid submission under s. 281, Shri Natu submitted that the proceedings before the IT authorities cannot be termed as proceedings. Further, if they were to be treated as proceedings, they would debar the assessee from any remedy except the one under the Constitution. The IT Act provides for appeals, further appeals and reference to the High Court through the tribunals under that Act. Sec. 281 is not included in the list of appellate orders under s. 246. The assessee has, therefore, no remedy at all once the ITO chooses to pass an order under s. 281. On the other hand, if a civil suit had been filed, the assessee would have been able to challenge the decree or the decision of the civil Court by an appeal and a second appeal too. That right or remedy is deprived of, where the ITO decides to proceed under s. 281. It was Shri Natu’s further submission, and in furtherance of the aforesaid, that where there are two remedies provided, of which one is more onerous, then, under Art. 14 of the Constitution, the more onerous remedy shall be struck down where it does not provide for any corresponding machinery for vindication of the grievances of the persons concerned. If there are no guidelines for an officer, if there are circumstances indicating in which of the cases the more onerous remedy can be availed of, the concerned officer being free at his discretion to choose between one of the two remedies, the onerous remedy cannot stand. This would amount to discrimination and, therefore, would offend Art. 14.

An argument based upon limitation and the provisions of the Limitation Act was also pressed into service in this connection. It was urged that these transfers were effected, as we stated, between the years 1967 and 1969. No suit to declare these transfers void could have been laid in the year 1974, as the limitation to do so had already expired. By recourse, therefore, to the provisions of s. 281, the assessee-petitioner cannot be deprived of a valuable right which had accrued to him, namely, that of limitation. The third contention which was urged by Shri Natu before us was that since the order passed by the ITO was a judicial order or a quasi-judicial order and determines that the transfer are fraudulent leaving no remedy to the assessee-petitioner to challenge that declaration, the order itself, if examined, cannot be found to be sustainable as no reasons have been given by the ITO while coming to the conclusion which he did. Shri Natu made a serious grievance that petitioners Nos. 2, 4 and 5 as well as petitioner No. 3 who is the beneficiary under the trust were not noticed at all. No order can be passed against them in their absence and without any opportunity having been given to them to defend the transaction in their favour, as that violates the primary principles of natural justice. A decision which is, therefore, against the persons who were not parties to the proceedings and which decision is untenable on the basis of the material which was placed before the ITO, Shri Natu contended, cannot be sustained. It was urged that the very gist of s. 281 was that the transfers must be with an intention to defraud the Revenue. It was pointed out that the impugned order does not say that they were so effected with a view to defraud the Revenue. It does not take into account the various circumstances and facts which were placed before the ITO showing that the assessee was indebted to the transferees before he effected the transfers in their favour. They were also unaware of any proceedings against the assessee. The two conditions which are necessary for attracting the operation of s. 281 are the pendency of proceedings and an intention to defraud the Revenue. If these conditions do not exist, then, it was urged, the very basis for passing an order under s. 281 does not exist. Thirdly, in this context, it was urged that, at the most, what might emerge from the evidence which was adduced before the ITO was that the assessee was indebted to the transferees. Those debts of the transferees incurred by the transferor were satisfied by the transfers. Therefore, it can, at the most, be preference of one creditor leaving other creditors without any asset to realise. A transfer to satisfy debts, it was his submission, cannot be said to be to defraud the Revenue. It is only in cases arising under s. 54 of the Provincial Insolvency Act, 1920, where there is a fraudulent preference, that transfers in favour of some of the creditors can be assailed. The ITO, however, did not consider whether the transferees were the creditors of the assessee or otherwise. Such transfer in favour of creditors is not a fraudulent transfer at all. Even if it ultimately results in some of the creditors being left without any property from which they could recover their debts, the transfer itself does not become bad. Shri Natu relied upon a number of decisions in support of his contention.

5. It appears that this petition was heard at some length before another Bench of this Court. An order was passed on 10th Nov., 1980, adjourning the petition to enable the ITO concerned or his successor to file an Addl. return. It appears that certain submissions were made before that Bench which heard this petition earlier and the Court thought that it would be more appropriate for the respondents to state their submissions which they advanced in writing before the Court. An Addl. return, therefore, was filed and in that return, in para 2, it is stated that provisions of s. 281, “clearly indicate that it is for the authority concerned first to come to the conclusion as to whether a particular transfer made during the pendency of proceedings under the Act has been effected by the assessee with an intention to defraud the Revenue. If the authority on the available material finds that the transfer in question comes under s. 281, he declares his intention of treating such transfer as void and not acceptable. This is done as a manifestation of his intention to recover the tax or other dues of the Revenue by proceedings against the property in question.” The return further proceeded to say that the assessee’s remedies are not barred either under the Act or otherwise. During the course of submissions made before us also, it was urged that s. 281, and the exercise of the power which is conferred under s. 281 and the intention to do so, operate as mere declaration of the Revenue to proceed against the property in the manner in which recovery proceedings are to be taken under the IT Act. Action under s. 281 can be taken by an overt act. It can also be taken by prior recording of an intention to do so where a property is sought to be attached which is already transferred by an assessee. The intention of the Revenue to treat the transfer as fraudulent and coming within the mischief of s. 281 is manifest by the Act itself. However, the said intention to treat the transfer as one coming within the mischief of s. 281 may also be expressly recorded in the record of the case in writing. The object of recording such an intention of the Revenue does not amount to any decision. Learned counsel for the respondent submitted that this expression of an intention is a mere preliminary and prior step to proceed against the property. It is not an adjudication so that the right of the parties are in any way determined. Those rights, he submitted, are available both under the ordinary law and also under the provisions of the Second Schedule to the IT Act. An order passed under s. 281 cannot be, in the proper sense of the term, called an order as it does not decide anything. It seems to be his submission that it is not an order in the sense that it adjudicates the rights of the parties. It merely says, demonstrates and records an intention on the part of the Revenue to proceed against the property which, in its opinion, was transferred during the pendency of proceedings to defraud the Revenue. It is nothing but a declaration or expression of an opinion on the part of the Revenue to take action and to treat the properties as available to the Revenue under s. 281. This would mean, according to learned counsel for the respondent, that the Department may choose any of the remedies which are available to it either under the IT Act or otherwise. The parties may also choose such remedies as they have under the Act or otherwise de hors the Act. All that the declaration serves, though described as an order, is to be the starting point or a preliminary stage for further action. It was urged that it was nothing but an expression of an intention or declaration of an intention by the authority which was entitled to entertain such an opinion to proceed to recover the tax from the property which, in its opinion, was so fraudulently transferred. Looked at from this point of view, it was urged that most of the arguments urged on behalf of the petitioners lose their force.

We are inclined to accept this submission and statement made on behalf of the respondent-Union of India with regard to s. 281, in view of the further reasons which we shall presently set out. In view of what we have said above and in the view which we take of the provisions of s. 281, it is unnecessary for us to refer further to the return and other submissions made on behalf of the Union of India. We would now revert to s. 281 once again.

6. We may state that though s. 281 is on the statute book since the year 1961, there appears to have been very few cases which have arisen under that section. We may firstly refer to the Second Schedule in the IT Act which provides for the procedure for recovery of tax. The relevant rules which may be referred to are rr. 2, 3, 4, 9 and 11 along with sub-rules. The procedure for recovery of tax, as laid down in these rules, is that where a certificate is received from the ITO by the TRO of the IT Department, he has to issue a show cause notice on the defaulter asking him to make payment of the sums specified in the certificate. When the amount is not paid within the period allowed in the notice, then the TRO is entitled to proceed against the defaulter by any of the four methods laid down in r. 4, viz., attachment and sale of movable as well as immovable property of the debtor-assessee or by appointment of a receiver to manage his movable and immovable properties. Where property is thus attached by the TRO and any claim is preferred to him in that behalf, then the rules provide for investigation of such claims. The procedure for preferring an objection and its disposal is to be found on a combined reading of rr. 9 and 11. We do not propose to refer to these rules in detail except to sub-r. (6) of r. 11 which provides as follows: “Where a claim or an objection is preferred, the party against whom an order is made may institute a suit in a civil Court to establish the right which he claims to the property in dispute; but, subject to the result of such suit (if any), the order of the TRO shall be conclusive.” Sub-rule (4) of r. 11 lays down: “Where, upon the said investigation, the TRO is satisfied that, for the reason stated in the claim or objection, such property was not, at the said date, in the possession of the defaulter or of some person in trust for him or in the occupancy of a tenant or other person paying rent to him, or that, being in the possession of the defaulter at the said date, it was so in his possession, not on his own account or as his own property, but on account of or in trust for some other person, or partly on his own account and partly on account of some other person, the TRO shall make an order releasing the property, wholly or to such extent as he thinks fit, from attachment or sale.”

We may mention that the provisions of sub-rules (1) to (6) of r. 11 of the Second Schedule are analogous to the provisions of Order 21 and rr. 58 to 63 of the CPC. It will thus be seen that where property is attached by the TRO, the procedure contemplated by the IT Act contemplates filing of objections by the claimant who claims that the property does not belong to the defaulter but belongs to him. The claim or objection can be preferred apparently both to the attachment as well as sale as sub-rule (1) of r. 11 indicates. Once the claimants make an objection and claim the property as belonging to them, the TRO has to decide that objection and record his conclusion, whereupon, under sub-rule (6), the parties would be entitled to take out proceedings as contemplated therein. We may note that in sub-rule (6), the words “the party against whom the order is made” clearly connote and are capable of embracing both the Revenue as well as the claimant. Therefore, where the TRO records a finding against the Department, it is the Department which would be entitled to institute a suit in the civil Court. On the other hand, where the finding is against the claimant, the claimant would be entitled to file a suit.

7. Adverting to s. 281 once again, it is clear that s. 281 does not indicate by itself as to which is the authority and what is the forum for a decision as to whether the impugned transfer was to defraud the Revenue. It was pressed before us that s. 281 is a provision which is similar to the provision under s. 53 of the Transfer of Property Act. It is a section which is a substantive statement of law and does not indicate a procedure for enforcing that provision of law. It does not also name the authorities or forum which would be entitled to apply these provisions and to decide in accordance there with. Shri Natu pointed out that s. 116 of the IT Act names the authorities who are entitled to function under the IT Act. Sec. 124 of the IT Act speaks of the jurisdiction of the ITOs while sections 131 to 136 speak of powers of the ITOs. The substance of his submission is that even if it were to be held that the ITOs being persons entrusted with the duty of discharge of functions or exercise of functions under the IT Act, s. 116 would indicate that there are a number of such authorities down to the IT Inspector. Sec. 281 does not say as to which of the authorities would exercise that function. Even assuming that the ITO being entrusted with the duty to exercise functions and discharge of functions under the Act can be said to be entrusted also with the duty of performing his obligation under s. 281, still, it does not lay down guidelines to the ITO or any of the authorities under the Act. As to in what circumstances he will proceed under s. 281 and in what circumstances he will proceed by way of ordinary suit is left to him. He has an unlimited discretion in the matter. Shri Natu’s contention was that s. 281 by itself does not bar a suit like the provision under s. 293. Under s. 293, an assessment order is barred from the cognizance of the civil Court. His submission, therefore, was that a finding as to whether the transfer is made during the pendency of proceedings under the IT Act and effected with the intention to defraud the Revenue is not a matter which is barred under the IT Act from the jurisdiction of the civil Court. The ITO, therefore, could arbitrarily and according to his discretion or whim, choose in a given case to go to the civil Court to obtain a declaration as contemplated in s. 281 and in another case proceed himself and make a declaration as he has done in the present case. It is in this context that he invoked Art. 14 and contended that since this discretion would operate in a discriminatory manner, Art. 14 is attracted and s. 281, being offensive to the principle of equality of law, capable of discrimination in the applicability of law to similarly circumstanced people, must be struck down.

8. If we read s. 281 and s. 53 of the Transfer of Property Act, it will be seen that those two sections are pari materia. So far as s. 53, sub-s. (1) of the Transfer of Property Act is concerned, the transfer is voidable at the option of any creditor so defeated or delayed. We do not think that that makes any difference so far as both the sections are concerned. In both the cases, it is only the creditor or the Revenue so defeated or defrauded or delayed, who can take action or proceedings to get it declared that a transfer is fraudulent. Where the creditor or the Revenue is not defeated, there is no question of their proceeding to get the transfer declared as effected for the purpose of defrauding the Revenue. A transfer which is otherwise not fraudulent may become fraudulent in certain circumstances. Neither s. 281 of the IT Act nor s. 53, sub-s. (1) of the Transfer of Property Act declares a transfer to be void ab initio so that the title of the transferee is gone. It merely says what the law is. It is, therefore, really a substantive declaration of what the law of the land is. In the absence of s. 281, recourse could certainly be had to the provisions of s. 53, sub-s. (1) of the Transfer of Property Act. But, as is clear, that would apply only in cases of transfers of immovable property. The legislature, in its wisdom, thought it necessary to introduce s. 281 in the IT Act. The question, however, is whether by introducing s. 281 in the IT Act, 1961, the legislature wanted to confer a power and jurisdiction which was exclusive upon the IT authorities or otherwise. In other words, the question is whether s. 281 as found in the IT Act which is pari materia with s. 53(1) of the Transfer of Property Act only declares what the law is, or whether s. 281, by its placement in the IT Act, provides a complete adjudicatory machinery for the IT Department to declare a transfer as fraudulent, whether of movable or immovable property. We are unable to think that s. 281, in the form in which it was, or in the form in which it is after its amendment in the year 1975, does anything further, except saying as to what the law is in respect of transfers effected during the pendency of any proceedings under the IT Act, which come within the mischief and circumstances laid down in s. 281. It does not thereby say that any conclusion or declaration by an authority entrusted with the functions to be performed under the IT Act will operate as conclusive or adjudicatory. It merely has the character of an expression of an intention or opinion on the part of such authority, that it intends to treat the transfers as affected by s. 281 and, therefore, not standing in the way of recovery proceedings to be taken by the TROs. We think that the jurisdiction of the TRO as contemplated by r. 11 is not taken away by the expression of any opinion or intention by the ITO expressed under or purporting to act under s. 281. That adjudicatory process still survives and can be availed of by the claimant to claim that the transfer was not made either during the pendency of proceedings or in cases prior to 1975 “with intention to defraud the Revenue”. The effect of the 1975 amendment is to do away with the necessity of an intention to defraud the Revenue being found or thought (sic) before the transfers can be held to be not affecting the rights of the Revenue to recover the money from the property of the defaulter. Sec. 281, therefore, in our opinion, like s. 53 of the Transfer of Property Act merely declares what the law of the land is. Therefore, in view of what we have held and pointed out, the expression of an intention on the part of the ITO to act or proceed under s. 281 does not take the character of any adjudication as to the nature of the transfer. It is merely a step to recover the dues of the State from the defaulter.

9. Shri Natu conceded that if we take that view of s. 281 of the IT Act, then his challenge under Art. 19(1)(f) or for that matter the former Art. 31 of the Constitution fails and would not be of any avail to him. For the reasons which we have given above, we find that s. 281, and any expression of an intention, or action which may be described by the label of an order, does not mean anything further than that the Department has decided to proceed against the property as being available to it, and the transfer being void so far as the claim of the Revenue was concerned. It then is subject to the recovery procedure laid down under the Act and the attendant procedures which follow therefrom. In a given case, the Department may also, instead of resorting to the provisions of the Second Schedule, go to the civil Court to obtain a declaration to that effect. We do not think that s. 281 precludes the IT Department from filing a suit. In our opinion, merely upon the expression of an opinion or intention on the part of the ITO to proceed against the property of the persons concerned, their right to file a declaratory suit before the civil Court is not taken away. We may, in this connection, also refer to s. 53 of the Insolvent Act which also goes to show and indicate that the transfer made by an insolvent before his adjudication as an insolvent, within two years before the filing of the petition for adjudication is voidable only at the option of the receiver, though a declaration in that behalf to that effect can be made by a Court. The jurisdiction of the Court and the authority to do so is indicated in s. 53, but the action or the intention to do so is clearly of the receiver. The intention may be manifested in any way permissible to the receiver, either by making an application to the Court which is hearing the insolvency proceedings, or with the permission of the Court, by filing a suit.

In the view which we have taken, it is unnecessary to refer in detail to the authorities which have been relied upon and cited before us. Shri Natu relied upon the decision in S. C. Prashar vs. Vasantsen Dwarkadas (1963) 49 ITR 1 (SC) : TC 51R.1727, and a number of decisions in the same volume which follow that decision. We may only refer to some of the observations made by justice Hidayatulla, as he then was, in the majority judgment. It was pointed out firstly (at p. 55), “that the liability to the State is independent of any consideration of time and, in the absence of any provision restricting action by a time-limit, it can be enforced at any time.” There the question was as to whether the limitation to reopen an assessment after the limitation period has passed confers a right which cannot be taken away by an amendment to the Act. Such a question does not arise before us. But his Lordship after referring to the Limitation Act as the “Statute of Repose” observed that “there is no repose till the tax cannot be collected.” Dealing with the contention of the violative character of the amendment and the attack based upon Art. 14, it was pointed out that in the approach to the question of discrimination and the violation of the guarantee of equality, one must first find out the object of the impugned provision and compare it with the topic of legislation and then try to discover if there is a connection between the two, and a reasonable basis for making a difference between classes of persons affected by the law. As we have pointed out and in the view which we have taken, we do not think that upon the interpretation of s. 281 which we have placed, there is or there can be any scope for the attack based on discrimination under Art.14.

10. We may then briefly mention the other two decisions upon which Shri Natu placed reliance, viz., Umar Sait vs. Union of India (1967) 63 ITR 122 (Mad) : TC52R.1410 and Inayat Hussain vs. Union of India (1980) 122 ITR 227 (Bom) : TC52R.651. Since we have held that the proceedings which may be taken pursuant to the declaration or expression of an opinion by the ITO or authority under s. 281 are a mere prelude to the procedure for recovery of tax and that the rights of the parties are in no way affected, we do not think that it is in any way necessary to refer to the decision in these two cases. We do not think that they are, in the present case, applicable in any way. The result, therefore, is that the petition fails and will have to be dismissed. It is true that this matter has been pending for a long time and the property of the assessee is under attachment since the year 1972. A grievance was made that the proceedings are not being brought to an end early. We do not think that there is much force in this contention for the simple reasons that the petitioner himself in the year 1974 obtained a stay order form this Court relating to further proceedings. Nevertheless, we do feel that the proceedings are already inordinately delayed and we direct that the ITO concerned shall dispose of those proceedings with speed and within as short a time as possible. As we have indicated, it does not appear that, after the attachment, the properties are being put to sale as r. 11, sub-rule (1) permits. The petitioners other than petitioner No. 1 would be entitled to make their claims and objections before the ITO who shall, if such claims are made, decide them in accordance with law. We direct the ITO concerned to do so within three months of the receipt of objections, if any.

Rule discharged.

No order as to costs.

[Citation : 177 ITR 163]

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