Gujarat H.C : The petitioner and the respondent in this batch of petitions are common, so are the facts and submissions, and hence all these petitions were taken up for hearing and final disposal together at the admission stage.

High Court Of Gujarat

Surat City Gymkhana vs. DCIT

Sections 147, 148, Art. 226

Asst. Year 1990-91, 1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96

B.C. Patel & D.A. Mehta, JJ.

Special Civil Appln. Nos. 9763, 9766 to 9768, 9770 & 9773 of 2001

25th January, 2002

Counsel Appeared

S.N. Soparkar & K.H. Kaji, for the Petitioner : Mihir Joshi for Manish R. Bhatt, for the Respondent

JUDGMENT

D.A. MEHTA, J. :

The petitioner and the respondent in this batch of petitions are common, so are the facts and submissions, and hence all these petitions were taken up for hearing and final disposal together at the admission stage.

The petitioner is a charitable trust. It has been registered under the Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950, vide certificate of registration dt. 24th Feb., 1983. On the same day the petitioner-trust has also been registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. The petitioner applied to the CIT for being registered under s. 12A of the IT Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’), and has been accordingly registered on 24th Feb., 1983. It is further relevant to note that the petitioner-trust was also granted certificate under s. 80G of the Act by CIT Surat, on 22nd Dec., 1986, for the first time and thereafter the recognition under s. 80G of the Act has been renewed from time to time.

The petitioner-trust was assessed since asst. yr. 1984-85 and its claim of exemption under s. 11 of the Act was duly granted for asst. yrs. 1984-85 to 1987-88. Similarly for asst. yr. 1988-89 to 1990-91, the AO once again granted exemption under s. 11 of the Act. However, for asst. yrs. 1991-92 and 1992-93, the assessment orders under s. 143(3) of the Act were passed on 11th Nov., 1992, and 10th Feb., 1995, respectively denying the claim of exemption under s. 11 of the Act. It appears that the AO initiated proceedings under s. 147 of the Act for asst. yrs. 1988-89, exemption under s. 11 was rejected. Therefore, the petitioner-trust went in appeal for all the five assessment years before CIT(A), but as it failed, second appeals were preferred before the Tribunal.

The Tribunal vide its order dt. 20th Jan., 2000, allowed the appeals by recording the following findings : (i) The reassessments for asst. yrs. 1988-89 to 1990-91 were quashed as no reasons were recorded and even facts or material, the reassessments were held to be illegal and without jurisdiction. (ii) For all the five years it was held that the petitioner-trust was a charitable institution under s. 11 (1) of the Act and was entitled to exemption under s. 11 of the Act.

The operative portion of the Tribunal’s order reads thus : “For the reasons discussed above and particularly keeping in view the various judicial pronouncements on the issue considered by us as above, we hold that the assessee trust is entitled to the claim of exemption under s. 11 of the Act. We would accordingly hold that the assessee trust is a charitable institution under s. 11(1) of the IT Act and would be entitled to exemption under s. 11 if other conditions regarding application and utilization of income as per the provisions of ss. 11 to 13 are satisfied in the instant case. With these observations the appeals of the assessee for asst. yrs. 1988-89 to 1990-91 are allowed and for asst. yrs. 1990-91 and 1991-92 the appeals are disposed of pro tanto as above.”

5. At this stage we may note that the Tribunal’s order quashing the reassessment proceedings for asst. yrs. 1988- 89 to 1990-91 was accepted by the respondent-Revenue but tax appeals being Tax Appeals No. 80 and 81 of 2000 were preferred for asst. yrs. 1991-92 and 1992-93. The said tax appeals have been dismissed by this Court after hearing both the sides by its order dt. 25th Sept., 2000.

6. It is in this backdrop of factual events that these petitions have been filed challenging the validity of notice issued under s. 148 of the Act, dt. 9th Jan., 2001, for each of the assessment year under consideration. The relevant facts for each of the assessment year are briefly recapitulated hereunder. Asst. yr. 1990-91

7. On 27th Nov., 1992, notice under s. 148 of the Act was issued and in pursuance thereto assessment order was passed on 10th Feb., 1995, under s. 143(3), r/w s. 147 of the Act whereby the petitioner’s claim for exemption under s. 11 was denied. On 22nd Sept., 1995, the CIT(A) dismissed the appeal and the second appeal was decided by the Tribunal on 20th Jan., 2000. The notice under s. 148 of the Act has been issued on 9th Jan., 2001. The petitioner called upon the respondent to supply reasons recorded under s. 148(2) of the Act and the said reasons were supplied in August, 2001. The present petitions were filed on 20th Sept., 2001, and the same were circulated for hearing on 19th Oct., 2001, but were taken up for hearing on 22nd Oct., 2001.

7.1. It appears that the petitioner furnished return of income on 20th July, 2001 in response to notice under s. 148 of the Act. The respondent issued a questionnaire letter dt. 3rd Sept., 2001, fixing the hearing on 17th Sept., 2001. The petitioner asked for time to comply with the questionnaire letter and the respondent by his letter dt. 10th Oct., 2001, fixed the next date of hearing on 19th Oct., 2001. As the petitioner asked for time once again the respondent informed that the case was adjourned to 23rd Oct., 2001, for the last and final time. On 22nd Oct., 2001, the petitioner once again asked for time and pointed out to the respondent that the assessment was getting barred by limitation only on 31st March, 2002, and the respondent could at least keep the assessment proceedings pending till end of November, 2001. However, as the request was rejected by the respondent on 23rd Oct., 2001, the chartered accountant of the petitioner appeared in person and submitted a detailed letter dt. 23rd Oct., 2001. It appears that another letter dt. 23rd Oct., 2001, was also submitted by the petitioner but the same was received in the office of the respondent on 25th Oct., 2001, in the evening at 5.05 p.m. Thereafter, on 27th Oct., 2001, the petitioner once again wrote to the respondent. On 2nd Nov., 2001, the respondent sent a letter to the petitioner stating that assessment orders were passed on 23rd Oct., 2001, and as the second letter dt. 23rd Oct., 2001, and letter dt. 27th Oct., 2001, were received by the respondent after completion of the assessment proceedings, the respondent was unable to take any cognizance of the contents of the said letters. On 7th Nov., 2001 the chartered accountant of the petitioner once again wrote to the respondent. In the meantime it appears that the assessment order was served on the petitioner on 29th Oct., 2001, wherein gross receipts to the tune of Rs. 16,74,229 were taxed as total income holding that the petitioner was not entitled to exemption under s. 11 of the Act by virtue of s.13(1)(c) of the Act. Asst. yrs. 1991-92 & 1992-93

8. The facts pertaining to these two assessment years are same as for asst. yrs. 1990-91, except for the fact that for these two years the original assessments were framed under s. 143(3) of the Act. Moreover, in reassessment orders passed on 23rd Oct., 2001, the gross receipts to the tune of Rs. 12,45,266 and Rs. 15,69,825 respectively have been brought to tax. Asst. yr. 1993-94

9. On 25th March, 1998, notice under s. 148 of the Act was issued and assessment was framed on 8th March, 2000, wherein the respondent himself granted exemption under s. 11 of the Act as held by the Tribunal for preceding years. It is this reassessment order which is reopened by impugned notice dt. 9th Jan., 2001, issued under s. 148 of the Act. In the fresh assessment framed on 23rd Oct., 2001, the respondent has taxed gross receipts of Rs. 18,56,183. Asst. yr. 1994-95

10. The return of income was filed by the petitioner on 27th July, 1994, and the petitioner’s claim for exemption under s. 11 of the Act was accepted on 27th Oct., 1994, under s. 143(1) of the Act. On 19th Nov., 1998, notice under s. 148 of the Act was issued and return in response to the said notice was submitted on 28th Dec., 1998. On 25th Oct., 2000, the respondent issued notice under s. 143(2) of the Act and on 23rd Nov., 2000, the respondent dropped the proceeding initiated under s. 147 of the Act. Fresh notice under s. 148 was issued on 9th Jan., 2001, and in the assessment framed in pursuance of the said notice gross receipts of Rs. 20,29,255 have been brought to tax on 23rd Oct., 2001. Asst. yr. 1995-96

The petitioner submitted return of income on 10th July, 1995. It is the say of the petitioner that the said return was accepted, but the petitioner has not been intimated about the same. However, on 19h Nov., 1998, notice under s. 148 of the Act was issued and return was filed on 28th Dec., 1998. Notice under s. 143(2) of the Act was issued on 25th Oct., 2000, and on 23rd Nov., 2000, the proceedings initiated under s. 147 of the Act were dropped. Fresh assessment in pursuance to impugned notice under s. 148 of the Act dt. 9th Jan., 2001, has brought to tax gross receipts of Rs. 21,61,335 on 23rd Oct., 2001.

In the backdrop of the aforesaid materials and the facts and circumstances of the case Mr. S.N. Soparkar and Mr. K.H. Kaji appearing on behalf of the petitioner submitted that : (a) For the first three assessment years, viz., asst. yrs. 1990-91, 1991-92 and 1992-93 there was no scope for initiating proceedings under s. 147 of the Act because all that the respondent was required to do was to give effect to the order of the Tribunal which was passed for the said three assessment years, (b) That for the fourth year viz., asst. yr. 1993-94 the respondent himself having followed the order of the Tribunal while framing assessment originally on 8th March, 2000, it was not open to the respondent to issue notice under s. 148 of the Act for the second time, as the original assessment had been framed in pursuance of the notice dt. 25th March, 1998, and that too after the order of the Tribunal. It was not open to the respondent to contend that he was not aware of the direction given in para 31 of the Tribunal’s order. (c) Insofar as the 5th and 6th years are concerned, viz., asst. yr. 1994-95 and 1995-96, it was contended that the respondent originally accepted the claim of the petitioner, issued notice under s. 148 of the Act on 19th Nov., 1998, for both the years, dropped that initiation under s. 147 of the Act on 23rd Nov., 2000, i.e., after the date of the Tribunal’s order and after considering the assessee’s submission in pursuance to the notice issued under s. 143(2) of the Act and hence the respondent should not be permitted to initiate fresh proceedings under s. 147 of the Act as there was no change in either facts or circumstances of the case.

13. It was further contended on behalf of the petitioner that the impugned notices issued under s. 148 of the Act were solely with the intention of withholding large amount of refund that had become due to the petitioner as a consequence of the order of the Tribunal and hence the entire action was mala fide and should be struck down as such. In support of this contention the sequence of events and proceedings was pointed out to show undue haste in which the assessment had been framed and to the questionnaire letter issued by respondent to show undue haste in which the assessment had been framed and to the questionnaire letter issued by respondent to show that the requirements under the said letter were nothing but repetition of details which were already available with the respondent. In support of the contention that the action of the respondent was tainted with mala fide and assessment had been framed in undue haste the attention of the Court was also invited to the fact that entire gross receipt had been taxed which was against the settled legal position. This Court had specifically laid down in case of CIT vs. Ganga Charity Trust Fund (1986) 53 CTR (Guj) 365 : (1986) 162 ITR 612 (Guj) : TC 23R.996, and in case of CIT vs. Shri Plot Swetamber Murti Pujak Jain Mandal, (1994) 119 CTR (Guj) 144 : (1995) 211 ITR 293 (Guj) : TC 23R.1228, that even in case of charitable trust the assessment has to be framed on the basis of the net income, which had to be worked out on a commercial basis.

14. As against this, Shri Mihir Joshi, learned standing counsel appearing on behalf of the Revenue submitted that these petitions should not be entertained and required to be dismissed summarily at the threshold because : (i) The petitioners were barred by delay and laches. (ii) At least there was acquiescence on behalf of the petitioner : the petitioner having submitted returns of income on 20th July, 2001, and responded to the notice issued under s. 142(1)/143(2) of the Act. (iii) As could be seen from the various letters exchanged, the petitioner had been given adequate opportunities and there was no haste in framing assessment. (iv) That the petitioner had already preferred appeals against fresh assessment framed on 23rd Oct., 2001, and hence should be relegated to the alternative statutory remedy. (v) That the respondent had recorded reasons and from the said reasons it could be gauged that they were in accordance with requirement of s. 147 of the Act read with proviso to the said section as well as Expln. 1 and Expln. 2(c)(iii) of the Act. (vi) That the Tribunal’s order was relevant only for the first three assessment years and not for the later three years, and hence the notices issued under s. 148 of the Act were not to give effect to the Tribunal’s order but were independent of the same. (vii) That the assessment order could not be treated as being bad in law or nullity on the ground of undue haste and only remedy that the petitioner now had, was by way of appeal and the petitioner had already availed of the said remedy.

15. In rejoinder, it was submitted that there was no delay or laches as contended by the respondent, as the petitioner had been supplied with the reasons recorded only in August, 2001, and immediately the petitioner had filed the petitions within reasonable period thereafter. Insofar as acquiescence was concerned reliance was placed on decision of this Court in case of P.V. Doshi vs. CIT 1977 CTR (Guj) 683 : (1978) 113 ITR 22 (Guj) : T51R.608 to submit that if the respondent did not have jurisdiction no consent could clothe him with such jurisdiction. It was further submitted that from the facts on record it was apparent that there was no failure on the part of the petitioner, and even assuming some failure or omission could be ascribed to the petitioner, the respondent was also liable for the escapement of income, if any, due to error on his part and the settled legal position as per decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Parshuram Pottery Works Ltd. vs. ITO 1977 CTR (SC) 321 : (1977) 106 ITR 1 (SC) : TC 51R.1141, was that in such circumstances action under s. 147(a) of the Act (as the provision then stood) was not permissible. To meet the contention of the respondent regarding availing of alternative remedy, reliance was placed on decision of the apex Court in case of Calcutta Discount Co. Ltd. vs. ITO (1961) 41 ITR 191 (SC) : TC 51R.779. It was submitted that in cases where the statutory remedy like appeal would result in long drawn out proceedings resulting in harassment of assessee it was incumbent upon the High Court to intervene. It was further pointed out that there was no distinction between first three assessment years and later three assessment years as the distinction sought to be drawn on behalf of the respondent, but as could be seen from the facts the reasons recorded were common, based on the findings of the Tribunal and furthermore, for the

4th, 5th and 6th years the petitioner’s case was on a better footing as the respondent had already taken into consideration the Tribunal’s order in the original proceedings.

16. It is well settled that any challenge to initiation of reassessment proceedings has to be tested primarily on the basis of the reasons recorded. The case of Revenue must succeed or fail on the basis of reasons recorded. In the present case in para 4 of the reasons recorded, it is stated thus : “4. The founder members and also other members falling in the list of persons under s. 13(3)(a) (list placed on record) of the Act have contributed to the institution by a sum exceeding Rs. 25,000 upto the relevant previous year. Sec. 13 as amended by the Finance Act, 1970-71 w.e.f. 1st April, 1971, has excluded the benefit of s. 11 in case adversely affected by the provisions of s. 13(1)(c) of the IT Act, if the benefit directly enures to the prohibited persons under s. 13(3) as per sub-cl. (i) of cl. (c) of s. 13, the provision of s. 11 or s. 12 would not operate to exclude such income of the previous year if it directly or indirectly enures for the benefits of prohibited persons listed in sub-s. (3) of s. 13 in the following conditions prescribed in s. 13(1)(c) of the Act. (i) if such trust or institution has been created or established after the commencement of this Act and under the terms of the trust of the rules governing the institution, any part of such income enures, or (ii) if any part of such income or any property of the trust or the institution (whenever created or established) is during the previous year used or applied”. Thereafter, in the same para extract from the decision in case of CIT vs. Ratan Trust (1997) 141 CTR (SC) 304 : (1997) 227 ITR 356 (SC) : TC S23.2435 has been reproduced. In para 5, it is stated thus : “5. Whereas the assessee-trust despite being charitable institution as per order of the Tribunal at the instance of the assessee itself is not eligible to exemption by virtue of provisions of s. 13(1)(c) of the IT Act so as to exclude its income from total income of the previous year with reference to provisions of s. 11 or s. 12 in view of the law having liable to tax has escaped assessment. That apart there is also failure on the part of the trust in making full and true disclosure of such material facts relevant to such income eligible to tax with reference to s. 11 r/w s. 13(1)(c) as evident from the return of income filed.”

17. Therefore, the reasons recorded go to show that the respondent is of the view that exemption under s. 11 of the Act would not be available to the petitioner in view of provision of s. 13(1)(c)(i) r/w s. 13(3) of the Act. But what is more pertinent is that in para 5, it is recorded by the respondent that the income liable to tax has escaped assessment in view of the law having emerged from the order of the Tribunal. The respondent further goes on to state: that apart, there is also failure on the part of the trust in making full and true disclosure of such material facts relevant to such income eligible (exigible?) to tax with reference to s. 11 r/w s. 13(1)(c) as evident from the returns of income filed. On a plain reading of the reasons recorded following facts emerge : (a) List of prohibited category of persons was available on record with the AO; (b) liability to tax with reference to s. 11 r/w s. 13(1)(c) of the Act is evident from the return of income filed as per his own say; (c) income has escaped assessment in view of the law having emerged from the order of the Tribunal.

Having regard to the fact that the reasons recorded as extracted hereinbefore, themselves bring out contradiction in terms it cannot be stated that any failure or omission can be ascribed to the petitioner. Thus, it is not possible to state that there is any failure on part of the petitioner-trust in making full and true disclosure of all material facts necessary for the assessment of the assessment year in question. Even otherwise, provisions of s. 13 open with a non obstante clause and hence by virtue of the said provisions exception to the exemption provided by s. 11 is carved out and an assessee is denied the exemption under s. 11 of the Act in case where the income or property of the trust is used or applied or enures for the benefit of any person referred to in s. 13(3) of the Act. In the present case, it is the respondent who avers applicability of provision of s. 13(1)(c) and hence the onus is on him to establish the failure, if any. From the reasons recorded it is apparent that he is of the opinion that the Tribunal has specifically directed the respondent to initiate action as there is failure of the prescribed condition or that some portion of the property or income of the petitioner-trust enures for the benefit of the prohibited category of persons or some portion of the property or income is applied or used for the benefit of the prohibited category of persons specified in s. 13(3) of the Act. The law is well settled, a person who makes a positive averment is required to establish the same. It is not for the person against whom the averment is made to establish negatively that the state of affairs averred by the other person do not exist. Furthermore, the Tribunal nowhere states that provisions of s. 13 of the Act are applicable. All that is stated is to grant exemption under s. 11 of the Act subject to other conditions being fulfilled. Even otherwise, as stated, provision of s. 13 carves out an exception to the applicability of provision of s. 11 of the Act, and hence, the exception has to be stated and established by the person who seeks to invoke and apply the exception. The petitioner in the present case has prima facie established as can be seen from the order of the Tribunal, apart from the fact that the petitioner has also been granted exemption for asst. yrs. 1984-85 to 1987-88 (and the same is not disturbed), that it is entitled to exemption under s. 11 of the Act and hence it will be the respondent who will have to establish that the petitioner is not so entitled. The impugned notice having been issued after expiry of the period of four years from the end of the relevant assessment year, the respondent shall have to establish that there was any omission or violation on the part of the petitioner to place all material facts necessary for the assessment of the assessment year in question. An omission or failure presumes a statutory obligation. From the reasons recorded itself it is apparent that the list of persons falling within the prohibited category as stipulated in s. 13(3) of the Act was already available on record. Thereafter, what inference in facts or in law had to be drawn was the duty of the respondent and in case the respondent failed on the said count such failure or omission cannot be laid at the doorstep of the petitioner. In this context reliance placed by Mr. Joshi on the provision of Expln. 1 to the effect that even if the list was available it would not amount to disclosure within the meaning of proviso merely because the AO could have with due diligence discovered material evidence is to be stated to be rejected. This is not a case where a significant material or relevant evidence was hidden in mass of papers submitted along with the return of income. The entire scheme of assessment of charitable institution is laid down in ss. 11, 12 and 13 and the provisions operate as an integrated code and the respondent cannot be heard to state that he had not applied his mind to the applicability or otherwise of provision of s. 13 of the Act especially when he had initially declined to grant exemption under s. 11 of the Act. At the same time, it is extremely significant that for the 4th year i.e., asst. yr. 1993-94, the AO granted exemption in light of the order of the Tribunal in spite of the fact that in para 31 of its order (reproduced hereinbefore) the Tribunal had very categorically referred to provision of s. 13 of the Act. Similarly for the 5th and 6th years i.e., asst. yrs. 1994-95 and 1995-96 the respondent had issued notice under s. 148 of the Act for both the years and processed the returns by issuance of notice under s. 143(2) of the Act for both the years and these notices were issued after order of the Tribunal, and then on consideration of the entire data of evidence available before him dropped the proceedings.

Mr. Joshi also referred to Expln. 2(c)(iii) under s. 147 of the Act and contended that there was escapement of income by virtue of excessive relief having been granted to the petitioner and on the basis of such escapement the respondent was within his right to initiate the proceedings to reassess such escaped income. At the time of hearing, a pointed query was put to him as to whether the said Explanation viz. Expln. 2 has to be read subject to proviso to s. 147 of the Act or de hors the same and he fairly submitted that the said Explanation i.e., Expln. 2 shall have to be read subject to proviso under s. 147 of the Act. Thus, once again the controversy boils down to the fact as to whether there was any omission or failure on part of the assessee.

Insofar as the contention regarding delay and laches is concerned it is apparent that the petitioner waited for the reasons recorded and on receipt of the same decided that on basis of such reasons the proceedings were without jurisdiction and hence challenged the same. Mr. Joshi contended that it was not necessary for the petitioner to wait till reasons were supplied to the petitioner but the petitioner could have challenged the impugned notice immediately on the service of the said notice without waiting for the reasons recorded. The petitioner could have done so. However, if the petitioner chose to wait for being supplied the reasons recorded it cannot be stated that such action on part of the petitioner deprived the petitioner of remedy available to it under the Constitution. In a case where on the receipt of the reasons recorded the assessee feels that it would be better to submit to the jurisdiction of the AO, no prejudice would be caused to the Revenue. However, where reasons are demanded it would be better if they are supplied so as to enable the petitioner to make up its mind as to whether such reasons are germane to the belief as to escapement of income or otherwise. It has to be borne in mind that recording of reasons under s. 148(2) of the Act, is a mandatory condition precedent and notice issued under s. 148 of the Act is a serious proceeding resulting in dislodgment of earlier assessment and no person should be compelled to face another innings of assessment without disclosure of reasons. When the initiation of reassessment proceeding is based on recording of reasons then it becomes all the more obligatory on the part of the authority concerned to disclose and communicate reasons, for appreciation and proper defence at least on demand after submission of the return in compliance with the notice. At that stage, refusal is unwarranted in law and citation of absence of provisions in the Act tantamounts to closure of the eyes to realities. Law in fact permits no privilege in that behalf. The assessee is entitled to contest the issue effectively. This is possible only on obtaining the reasons. It cannot be gainsaid that the satisfaction of the conditions, being a sine qua non, can be judged only on the basis of the reasons. Refusal is thus arbitrary and prejudicial. Thus, the contention regarding delay and laches fails.

Insofar as acquiescence is concerned this Court in case of P.V. Doshi vs. CIT (supra) has specifically laid down that it is not possible for the assessee to waive fulfilment of mandatory condition precedent and if they do not exist the AO cannot assume jurisdiction and any consent by way of participation in proceeding cannot confer jurisdiction on the authority where none exists.

The submission on behalf of the respondent that as the assessment framed had been challenged by way of appeal this Court should not intervene is answered by the following classic passage from the judgment of the apex Court in case of Calcutta Discount Company Ltd. vs. ITO (supra). “That though the writ of prohibition or certiorari would not issue against an executive authority, the High Courts had power to issue in a fit case an order prohibiting an executive authority from acting without jurisdiction. Where such action of an executive authority acting without jurisdiction subjected, or was likely to subject, a person to lengthy proceedings and unnecessary harassment, the High Courts would issue appropriate orders or directions to prevent such consequences. The existence of such alternative remedies as appeals and reference to the High Court was not, however, always a sufficient reason for refusing a party quick relief by a writ or order prohibiting an authority acting without jurisdiction from continuing such action. When the Constitution conferred on the High Courts the power to give relief it became the duty of the Courts to give such relief in fit cases and the Courts would be failing to perform their duty if relief were refused without adequate reasons.”

25. Before parting we may observe that during course of hearing we had called for the original files of the respondent in view of the fact that submissions were made on behalf of the petitioner to the effect that the assessment had in fact not been framed on 23rd Oct., 2001, but subsequently an attempt had been made by the respondent to overreach the process of the Court, that though the respondent had been served with process of the Court on 23rd Oct., 2001, in the later half of the day he had chosen to remain silent about passing of the assessment order on the said day. However, we feel that it is not necessary for deciding the present controversy to enter into the larger question as to what would be the effect of perusal of original files of the authority as contended by Mr. Joshi. Needless to state that, it is always open to the Court to undertake such an exercise and in a given case strike down or uphold the proceedings which have been challenged on the basis of such perusal of the original records. Once the petitioner has prayed for a writ of certiorari in the petition, the respondent cannot be heard to state that the respondent must be given an opportunity to meet with the case which develops on perusal of the original records. Such a request on behalf of the respondent can be considered provided it becomes necessary to fasten any liability personally on a particular authority. In view of what is stated it is not necessary for us to elaborately deal with the contention raised by both the sides on this aspect of the matter. Suffice it to state that the Court is not happy with the manner in which the reassessment proceedings have been conducted. In this context, the approach prescribed by the apex Court in case of CIT vs. Simon Carves Ltd. 1976 CTR (SC) 418 : (1976) 105 ITR 212 (SC) : TC 51R.1541 may be usefully reproduced : “The taxing authorities exercise quasi-judicial powers and in doing so they must act in a fair and not a partisan manner. Although it is part of their duty to ensure that no tax which is legitimately due from an assessee should remain unrecovered, they must also at the same time not act in a manner as might indicate that scales are weighted against the assessee. we are wholly unable to subscribe to the view that unless those authorities exercise the power in a manner most beneficial to the Revenue and consequently most adverse to the assessee, they should be deemed not to have exercised it in a proper and judicious manner.”

26. We have considered various judicial authorities cited before us by both the sides, even if some of them might not have been specifically referred to and discussed in the judgment.

27. The petitions are allowed accordingly. The impugned notices dt. 9th Jan., 2001 issued under s. 148 of the Act in all the assessment years are quashed and set aside. As a consequence all the subsequent proceedings and the assessment orders dt. 23rd Oct., 2001, passed by the respondent are quashed and set aside and the respondent is directed to refund the taxes collected by him in pursuance of such assessment orders. There shall be no order as to costs.

[Citation : 254 ITR 733]

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