Delhi H.C : Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was justified in holding that the assessee was not liable for penalties under s. 18(1)(a) of the WT Act, 1957 ?

High Court Of Delhi

Commissioner Of Wealth Tax vs. Smt. Angira Devi Gupta

Sections WT 18(1)(a)

Asst. Year 1970-71, 1971-72, 1972-73, 1973-74

Arijit Pasayat, C.J. & D.K. Jain, J.

WT Ref. Nos. 280 to 283 of 1993

7th September, 2000

Counsel Appeared

R.C. Pandey with Mrs. Prem Lata Bansal, for the Revenue : None, for the Assessee

JUDGMENT

ARIJIT PASAYAT, C.J. :

These four references have been made under s. 27(1) of the WT Act, 1957 (in short “the Act”), at the instance of the Revenue by the Tribunal, Delhi Bench “D” (for short “the Tribunal”), and the following questions have been referred for the opinion of this Court :

“1. Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was justified in holding that the assessee was not liable for penalties under s. 18(1)(a) of the WT Act, 1957 ?

2. Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was justified in confirming the order of the AAC ?”

2. The factual position as indicated in the statement of case is as follows : The assessee filed her returns of wealth for the asst. yrs. 1970-71 to 1973-74 belatedly. Proceedings under s. 18(1)(a) of the Act were initiated. The assessee submitted that being an old lady, she had to depend on the accountants for preparation to statements and filing of the returns. Since the accountant, Shri Banarsi Dass, was busy for finalisation of accounts work of other assessees, there was some unintended delay in filing the returns. The plea did not find acceptance by the WTO who imposed penalties for all the four years. The assessee preferred appeals before the first appellate authority, i.e., the Appellate Assistant Commissioner (in Short “the AAC”), who deleted the penalties. The order of the AAC was assailed before the Tribunal by the Revenue. By order dt. 17th Jan., 1982, the Tribunal accepted the assessee’s plea and directed deletion of the penalties imposed for the four assessment years. The findings of the Tribunal are as follows : “That apart, the contention of the assessee as to the assessee being an old lady and having been prevented from filing the returns in time by reason of her accountants being busy and not available and these facts having not been rebutted either by the WTO or else by the learned Departmental Representative at our stage. This contention of the assessee which is based on facts, pure and simple constitute sufficient cause within the meaning of s. 18(1)(a) of the Act and in that view of the matter, we have to hold that the assessee was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the returns in time for all the assessment years under appeal. Yet, that apart, the assessee has applied for extension of time up to 30th of September, of each year. The assessee could apply for extension of time even belatedly, i.e., after the expiry of the last dates for filing of the returns and it is for the Revenue to have discussed the extension application and if though fit and warranted by facts to have rejected these applications. But since these belated applications praying for extension of time have not been rejected by the Revenue, these have to be taken to have been allowed and in that view of the matter, to the extent, the extension of time was prayed for by the assessee in these applications, time for filing of the returns has to be held to have been extended.” On being moved by the Revenue, references have been made as stated above.

3. Learned counsel for the Revenue submitted that the explanation offered was too brittle to warrant acceptance. Any fanciful explanation offered should not be a substitute for a plausible explanation and the Tribunal wihtout application of mind has accepted the explanation by the assessee and directed deletion of the penalties imposed.

There is no appearance on behalf of the assessee in spite of service of notice. The question whether there was a sufficient cause for the delay in filing of the returns is essentially factual. The Tribunal has recorded a finding with reference to materials on record that sufficient cause existed for belated filing of the returns. The finding being factual, which cannot be called to be perverse or unreasonable, in our view no question of law arises. We, therefore, decline to answer the questions referred.

The references are returned unanswered.

Decision in favour of References returned unanswered

[Citation : 247 ITR 485]

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