Case Law Details

Case Name : Pr. Commissioner of Income Tax-4 Vs Gulbarga Associates (p) Ltd. (Delhi High Court)
Appeal Number : ITA 52/2015, CM APPL 23522/2015
Date of Judgement/Order : 24/03/2017
Related Assessment Year :
Courts : All High Courts (3629) Delhi High Court (1146)

The central question that arises for consideration before this Bench is whether the words “the Principal Chief Commissioner or Chief Commissioner or Principal Commissioner” in Section 260A (2) (a) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (‘Act’) mean only the ‘jurisdictional’ Principal or Chief Commissioner of Income-tax (CIT) or could it include any CIT including the CIT (Judicial)?

The question assumes significance in light of the stand of the Revenue that unless the ‘jurisdictional’ CIT receives a certified copy of the order of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), the limitation of 120 days within which an appeal has to be filed does not commence. It requires to be clarified at the outset that the expressions ‘Revenue’ and ‘Department’ are used interchangeably throughout the judgment.

Answers to the Questions

The answers to the questions referred to this Court are answered thus:

Q: (i) What is the correct interpretation to be placed on the expression “received by the Assessee or the Principal Chief Commissioner or the Chief Commissioner or Principal Commissioner” in Section 260A (2) (a) of the Act? Does it mean ‘received’ by any of the named officers including the CIT (Judicial)?

Ans: The word „received‟ occurring in Section 260A (2) (a) would mean received by any of the named officers of the Department, including CIT (Judicial). The provision at present names four particular officers i.e. the Principal Commissioner, Commissioner, Principal Chief Commissioner, and the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax. These are the only designations of the officers who could receive a copy of the order. In the absence of a qualifying prefix „concerned‟, the receipt of a copy of the order of the ITAT by any of those officers in the Department including the CIT (Judicial) will trigger the period of limitation.

Q: (ii) Does limitation begin to run for the purposes of Section 260A (2) (a) only when a certified copy of the order of the ITAT is received by the ‘concerned’ CIT within whose jurisdiction the case of the Assessee falls notwithstanding that it may have been received by any other CIT, including the CIT (Judicial) prior thereto? Is it open to the Court to read the word ‘concerned’ into Section 260 A (2) (a) of the Act as a prefix to any of the officers of the Department named therein?

Ans: In Section 260A (2) of the Act, the words CIT, Pr CIT or Chief CIT are not prefixed or qualified by the word ‘concerned’. There is no warrant for the Court to read into the provision such a qualifying word. The Court rejects the contention of the Revenue that limitation for the purposes of Section 260A (2) (a) begins to run only when a certified copy of the order of the ITAT is received by the ‘concerned’ CIT within whose jurisdiction the case of the Assessee falls notwithstanding that it may have been received by any other CIT, including the CIT (Judicial) prior thereto.

Q: (iii) In the context of Section 254 (3) of the Act, is there an obligation on the ITAT to send a certified copy of its order to a CIT other than the one whose details are given to it during the pendency of the appeal? Will change in the jurisdiction concerning the case of the Respondent Assessee to another CIT subsequent to the order of the ITAT have the effect of postponing the time, from which limitation would begin to run in terms of Section 260 A (2) (a) of the Act, to when such CIT receives the order of the ITAT?

Ans: As far as the obligation of the ITAT under Section 254 (3) of the Act is concerned, the said obligation is satisfied once the ITAT sends a copy of an order passed by it to the Assessee as well as to the Pr CIT or the CIT or even the CIT (Judicial). The ITAT has to be simply go by the details as provided to it in the memo of parties. If there is a change concerning the jurisdiction of the CIT and it is some other CIT who has jurisdiction, it will not have the effect of postponing the commencement of the period of limitation in terms of Section 260A (2) (a) of the Act. The statute is not concerned with the internal arrangements that the Department may make by changing the jurisdiction of its officers. It is for the officer of the Department who first receives a copy of the ITAT‟s order to reach it in time to the officer who has to take a decision regarding the filing of an appeal.

Q: (iv) After the decision of this Court in CIT v. Sudhir Choudhrie (2005) 278 ITR 490, do the decisions in CIT v. Arvind Construction Co. (P.) Ltd. (1992) 193 ITR 330 and CIT v. ITAT (2000) 245 ITR 659 (Del) require to be reconsidered, explained or reconciled?

Ans: The decisions in CIT v. Arvind Construction Co. (supra) and CIT v. ITAT (supra) were rendered in the context of Section 256 of the Act (and not Section 260 A (2) (a) of the Act) and also prior to the decision in CIT v. Sudhir Choudhrie (supra). While the former decisions may not require reconsideration, they require to be reconciled with the latter decision in CIT v. Sudhir Choudhrie (supra). The decisions in CIT v. Arvind Construction Co. (supra) and CIT v. ITAT (supra) are of no assistance to the Revenue in its interpretation of Section 260 A (2) (a) of the Act.

Q: (v) After the change of procedure where orders of the ITAT are pronounced in the open, is it incumbent on the Department through its DR or CIT (Judicial) to apply for a certified copy of the order of the ITAT and should limitation for the purposes of Section 260A (2) (a) be computed from the date on which such certified copy is made ready for delivery by the ITAT?

Ans: While there is no requirement for the DR or CIT (Judicial) to apply for a certified copy of the ITAT, in any event under the extant ITAT Rules, a copy of the order is sent to the CIT (Judicial). In the context of Section 260A(2)(a) of the Act, once an order is listed for pronouncement in the ITAT, the DR or the CIT (Judicial) should be taken to be aware of the order. From that point, it is a purely an internal administrative arrangement as to how the DR or CIT (Judicial) obtains and further communicates the order to the officer who has to take a decision on filing the appeal. It is possible that immediately after pronouncement, the AR or the DR or both may apply for a certified copy of the order of the ITAT. In that case, the time taken for the certified copy to be readied for collection by the applicant will be excluded while computing limitation. But here again, if earlier to such date, a copy is received by a party from the ITAT, then such earlier date will be the starting point for limitation.

Q: (vi) Whether the receipt of a certified copy of the order of the ITAT by the CIT (Judicial) is sufficient to trigger the commencement of the limitation period under Section 260 A (2) (a) of the Act?

Ans: The receipt of a certified copy of the order of the ITAT by CIT (Judicial) would trigger the commencement of the limitation period under Section 260 A (2) (a) of the Act.

Q: (vii) In the context of a common order of the ITAT covering several appeals, whether limitation for all the appeals would begin to run when the certified copy is received first by either the CIT (Judicial) or any one of the officers of the Department mentioned in Section 260 A (2) (a) or only when the CIT ‘concerned’ receives it? Where the same CIT has jurisdiction over more than one Assessee in the batch, will limitation begin to run for all such appeals when such CIT receives the order in either of the Assessee’s cases?

Ans: Where there, is a common order of the ITAT covering the several appeals, limitation would begin to run when a certified copy is received first by either the CIT (Judicial) or one of the officers of the Department and not only when the CIT „concerned‟ receives it. When the same CIT has jurisdiction for more than one Assessee, the limitation begin to run for all from the earliest of the dates when the DR of CIT (Judicial) or any CIT first receives the order in any of the cases forming part of the batch disposed of by the common order. If there are four separate orders passed, then the limitation begins to run when such separate orders are received first by any officer of the Department.

Q: (viii) Whether administrative instructions issued by the Department for its own administrative convenience can have the effect of altering the time from which limitation will begin to run for the purposes of Section 260 A (2) (a) of the Act?

Ans: Instructions issued by the Department for its administrative convenience cannot alter the time when limitation would begin to run under Section 260A (2) (a) of the Act. To reiterate these administrative instructions are for the administrative convenience of the Department and will not override the statute, in particular, Section 260A (2) (a) of the Act.

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