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Case Law Details

Case Name : Rakesh Balubhai Padariya Vs PCIT (ITAT Ahmedabad)
Appeal Number : I.T.A. No. 283/Ahd/2023
Date of Judgement/Order : 15/12/2023
Related Assessment Year : 2018-19

In a landmark decision, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) Ahmedabad has upheld the order passed by the Principal Commissioner of Income Tax-3, Ahmedabad, challenging the adequacy of inquiry by the Assessing Officer (AO) regarding political donations claimed under Section 80GGC. The case, Rakesh Balubhai Padariya Vs PCIT, revolves around the assessment year 2018-19, where the assessee’s claim of a deduction amounting to Rs. 25,00,000 for donations made to a political party named “Apna Desh Party” was scrutinized and subsequently challenged under Section 263 of the Income Tax Act, 1961.

Background and Principal CIT’s Observations

The assessee filed a return declaring a total income of Rs. 66,20,230 for AY 2018-19. During the assessment finalized on 08/10/2020 under Section 143(3), the assessee claimed a deduction for a donation of Rs. 25,00,000 under Section 80GGC. However, upon verification, the Principal CIT noted discrepancies in the donation receipts and the absence of the assessee’s name in the official donor list on the party’s website, raising concerns over the genuineness of the donation. Further investigation linked the donation to a broader network of bogus donations facilitated by accommodation entries, leading to the conclusion that the donation claimed was bogus.

No AO Inquiry on Political Donation Receipts for 80GGC Deduction

ITAT’s Analysis and Decision

The ITAT Ahmedabad, after a thorough review, concurred with the Principal CIT’s findings. The Tribunal highlighted the lack of inquiry from the AO’s side, especially considering the discrepancies in the donation receipts and the lack of documentation to substantiate the genuineness of the loan from which the donation was allegedly funded. The Tribunal underscored the necessity of a more in-depth investigation into such claims, given the public availability of the donor list and the established modus operandi of “Apna Desh Party” in facilitating bogus donations. Consequently, the ITAT dismissed the assessee’s appeal, affirming the Principal CIT’s revision order under Section 263 as both lawful and justified.

Implications for Tax Compliance

The ITAT’s ruling highlights the critical need for transparency and meticulous documentation in claiming tax deductions, particularly those related to political contributions. It serves as a cautionary tale for taxpayers and practitioners alike, stressing the importance of due diligence and the potential consequences of inadequate inquiry or documentation. As tax laws and scrutiny evolve, the adherence to compliance and the provision of verifiable evidence become paramount in safeguarding against legal challenges and ensuring the legitimacy of tax claims.

In conclusion, the ITAT Ahmedabad’s decision in Rakesh Balubhai Padariya Vs PCIT marks a significant moment in tax jurisprudence, reinforcing the essential standards of inquiry and documentation required for claiming deductions under Section 80GGC. This case sets a benchmark for future assessments, urging both taxpayers and assessing officers to approach tax deductions, especially those involving political donations, with heightened diligence and integrity.

Rakesh Balubhai Padariya Vs PCIT (ITAT Ahmedabad)

Introduction: In a landmark judgment dated 15/12/2023, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) Ahmedabad, in the case of Rakesh Balubhai Padariya Vs PCIT, upheld the revision order passed by the Principal Commissioner of Income Tax-3, Ahmedabad, concerning the denial of a deduction claim under Section 80GGC of the Income Tax Act. The case revolved around the alleged donation of Rs. 25,00,000 to a political party, “Apna Desh Party,” by the assessee, and the subsequent claim for a deduction under Section 80GGC for the Assessment Year 2018-19.

Detailed Analysis: The crux of the dispute centered on the genuineness of the receipts issued by the political party for the donation made. The Principal Commissioner of Income Tax (PCIT) noted discrepancies in the donation receipts, such as the absence of cheque number, bank name, and date of cheque, raising doubts about the authenticity of the transactions. Furthermore, upon examining the party’s website, which lists donors, the assessee’s name was conspicuously absent for the receipts in question, indicating the donation could be bogus.

The search action under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act on “Apna Desh Party” and related entities uncovered a racket involving bogus donations in exchange for accommodation entries. Statements from Abdul Razzak B Pathan, President of “Apna Desh Party,” further substantiated the claim that the transactions recorded in the party’s books were non-genuine and merely book entries.

The ITAT Ahmedabad, in reviewing the case, emphasized the lack of enquiry by the Assessing Officer (AO) into the genuineness of the receipts issued for the donations. The AO had accepted the assessee’s claim without delving into the discrepancies noted by the PCIT or verifying the genuineness of the receipts and the source of the donations. This oversight led to the conclusion that the assessment order was erroneous and prejudicial to the interests of the revenue.

Conclusion: The ITAT Ahmedabad’s decision to dismiss the assessee’s appeal against the revision order under Section 263 of the Income Tax Act underscores the critical importance of ensuring the genuineness of receipts for donations, especially when such transactions are claimed as deductions under the Act. The ruling highlights the need for thorough scrutiny by the AO in verifying the authenticity of transactions and the adherence to the principles of natural justice in the assessment process. This judgment serves as a precedent for similar cases, reinforcing the necessity for transparency and verifiability in claims for deductions under Section 80GGC, thereby safeguarding the interests of the revenue and ensuring compliance with the provisions of the Income Tax Act.

FULL TEXT OF THE ORDER OF ITAT AHMEDABAD

This appeal has been filed by the Assessee against the order passed by the Ld. Principal Commissioner of Income Tax-3, (in short “Ld. PCIT”), Ahmedabad in DIN & Order No. ITBA/REV/M/REV5/2022- 23/1050288020(1) vide order dated 01.03.2023 passed for Assessment Year 2018-19.

2. The assessee has taken the following grounds of appeal:-

“1.1 The order Under Section. 263 passed on 01.03.2023 by Pr. CIT-3, A’bad holding that the order of assessment passed under Section 143(3) on 08.10.2020 was erroneous and prejudicial to the interest of the revenue to the extent the deduction under Section 80GGC of Rs. 25,00,000/- was allowed without making adequate inquiry is wholly illegal, unlawful and against the principles of natural justice.

1.2 The order passed by Under Section.263 on 01.03.2023 by Pr. CIT-3, A’bad holding the order of assessment passed under Section 143(3) on 08.10.2020 as erroneous and prejudicial to the Revenue is illegal and unlawful. The ld. Pr. CIT has erred in law and or on facts in invoking the powers of revision under Section 263 of the Act, since the condition precedent were not satisfied.

2.1 The ld. CIT has grievously erred in law and or on facts in holding the order of assessment passed under Section 143(3) on 08.10.2023 by AO to the extent of claim of deduction under Section 80GGC was erroneous and prejudicial to the interest of the Revenue for want of adequate inquiry and on merits held to be inadmissible.

2.2 That the in the facts and circumstances of the ld. Pr. CIT ought not to have held that the order of assessment passed under Section 143(3) on 10.2020 by AO to the extent of claim of deduction/s 80GGC was erroneous and prejudicial to the interest of the Revenue for want of proper inquiry and on merits held to be inadmissible.

2.3 The Pr. CIT has grievously erred in law and or on facts in relying upon the material, statements etc. relating to Apna Desh Party which was neither confronted nor copy provided to the appellant during the course of revision proceedings. The ld. Pr. CIT has grievously erred in law and or on facts in holding the impugned donation to the political party as bogus.”

3.The brief facts of the case are that the Assessee had filed return of income for AY 2018-19 on 31/10/2018 declaring total income at 66,20,230/-. The Assessment was finalised under Section 143(3) of the Act on 08/10/2020 accepting returned income. On verification of case records, Principal CIT noted that assessee has claimed deduction under Section 80GGC of Rs. 25,00,000/- for donation made to one political party “Apna Desh Party” which in the facts of the instant case, was found to be bogus. Accordingly, Principal CIT issued notice under Section 263 of the Act, in response to which the assessee submitted as under:

“2.3 So far as the reasons stated by you in the above said notice, the appellant would like to point out that the bank statement clearly narrate the name of Apna Desh Party in respect of donation of Rs. 10,00,000/- each given on 19.03.2018, 21.03.2018 and Rs. 5,00,000/- given on 23.02.2018 by cheque no.135, 139 and 140 respectively. Even the receipts issued by said party – donee bear the date of the cheque whereas there appears to be any inadvertent lapse on its part to mention the details of cheque number and name of the bank. The ledger account of this party also bear the aforesaid details. It is clarified that even if any payment is to be made by RTGS, the banker has to be given the cheque or make net banking. The bank statement also indicate the details of RTGS with UTR number.”

4.On going to the facts of the assessee on record and assessee’s submission, Principal CIT observed that assessee has furnished copy of three donation receipts of Rs. 5,00,000/- dated 22/03/2018, Rs. 10,00,000/- dated 19/03/2018 and Rs. 10,00,000/- dated 21/03/2018 totalling to Rs. 25,00,000/- being made to “Apna Desh Party”. On perusal of such receipts, it was found that receipts do not contain details of cheque number, bank name, date of cheque issued It was further observed that though assessee has given donation in cheque, same is found to be out of amount received of Rs. 35,00,000/- from Ranchhorbhai Tapubhai Patel. It was further observed that on perusal of website which provides list of donors and name-wise list, it was observed that above list does not include the name of assessee for three different receipts which clearly proves that donation is bogus. Principal CIT also noted that Search action under Section 132 of the Act was carried out on 07.09.2022 in multiple locations including APNA DESH PARTY, it’s related persons and other layering dummy entities/exit providers. The findings emanating from search action and post search investigation as well as survey action undertaken in the case of controller of dummy entities established the allegation of involvement, inter-alia, of APNA DESH PARTY in the racket of bogus donation in connivance with the dummy/paper entities facilitating accommodation entries to the donors. The search under Section 132 of the Act was carried out by ADIT, Ahmedabad, and as per report received from Investigation Wing, above referred party was receiving bogus donations in lieu of cash. Further statement of Abdul Razzak B Pathan, President of “Apna Desh Party”, it became clear that whatever purchase/expenditure have been claimed to have made by APNA DESH PARTY from the entities enlisted above are non-genuine and merely book entries. Principal CIT observed that this goes on to prove beyond doubt that these purchase/ expenditure entries were recorded in the books of “Apna Desh Party” with the ulterior motive to layer the funds received by “Apna Desh Paty” in the garb of donation and no actual transactions have ever been carried out. In view of aforesaid facts, Principal CIT held that donation received by “Apna Desh Party” is bogus and cash has been received back by the Assessee in lieu of cheque. The donation receipts submitted by Assessee contain the signature of Mr. A. Razak whose statement was elaborately discussed in 263 order wherein he has admitted that cash has been given in lieu of cheque. The entire modus operandi of said political party indicates that donation given by Assessee is bogus. The Assessee has claimed deduction under Section 80GGC of the Act which is bogus and therefore to that extent Assessment Order passed by AO is erroneous and prejudicial to the interest of Revenue. Principal CIT observed that though Assessee has given cheque of Rs. 25,00,000/- but as per modus operandi elaborated in the 263 order, Assessee has received cash against such donation which is not found to be recorded in books of account. Principal CIT also observed that before making donation Assessee has received loan of Rs.35,00,000/- from Ranchhorbhai Tapubhai Patel and no evidences regarding such loan was called for by the Assessing Officer as per provision of Section 68 of the Act. According to the Principal CIT, it was quite unusual that Assessee is taking loan for making such donation and which also suggest that above referred loan does not appear to be genuine loan. Accordingly, in light of the above facts, Principal CIT held that AO has not made proper inquiries into the nature of such loan and that the AO accepted the assessee’s version without any discussion in assessment order. While passing the Assessment Order, AO did not enquire into the details /list of donation received by such party which is available on public domain and such list does not include the name of Assessee. Accordingly, in light of the above facts, Principal CIT held that the above facts clearly proves that assessment order passed by AO is prejudicial to interest of revenue as well as erroneous as envisaged under Section 263 of the Act. Accordingly, the Principal CIT set aside the assessment order as being erroneous and prejudicial to the interests of the Revenue and directed the assessing officer to pass fresh assessment order after calling for additional details/evidences as required for verification of the issue.

5. The assessee is in appeal before us against the aforesaid order passed by principal CIT setting aside the assessment order under Section 263 of the Act. The counsel for the assessee submitted that adequate opportunity was not provided to the assessee both during the course of search as well as revision proceedings under Section 263 of the Act. Further, the counsel for the assessee submitted that the observations made by the Principal CIT were general observations regarding the modus operandi of the “Apna Desh Party” in question and no specific allegation has been made against the The counsel for the assessee relied on the case of Smt. Shardaben B. Patel112 taxmann.com 118 (Ahmedabad – Trib.) wherein the Ahmedabad Tribunal held that where Principal Commissioner invoked revision under Section 263 on ground that an information was received from DIT (Investigation) that long term capital gain (LTCG) earned by assessee on sale of shares was bogus and accordingly, disallowed claim of assessee for exemption under Section 10(38) in respect of such LTCG, since assessee had filed all relevant documents in relation to LTCG which reflected occurrence of transaction of sale of shares in normal course on platform of stock exchange, impugned revision under Section 263 was unjustified. The counsel for the assessee submitted that all the information and material which were used by the principal CIT while passing the 263 order were not provided to the assessee so as to give an opportunity to rebut the same.

6. In response, DR submitted that the assessing officer passed a cryptic order and did not make any efforts to enquire into the receipts issued by “Apna Desh Party” to ascertain whether they were genuine or not, while allowing deduction to the assessee under Section Chapter VI of the The DR submitted that the Assessing Officer simply accepted the version of the assessee and did not make any effort to make any inquiries regarding the source of making the aforesaid donations (loans received by the assessee prior to giving of such donations) and also did not verify the genuineness of the receipts issued by “Apna Desh Party”. Accordingly, it was submitted that the order passed by the principal CIT under Section 263 of the act is correct, looking into the instant facts, where there was an evident lack of enquiry on part of the assessing officer while completing the assessment.

7. We have heard the rival contentions and perused the material on record. In the case of Rajmandir Estates (P.) 77 taxmann.com 285 (SC), during relevant year, assessee-company had increased its share capital by issuing 7.93 lakhs shares of Rs.10 each at a premium of Rs.390/-. Assessing Officer completed assessment without holding requisite investigation except for calling for records. Principal Commissioner passed order under Section 263 and opined that this could be a case of money laundering which went undetected due to lack of requisite enquiry into increase of share capital including premium received by assessee and non-application of mind. High Court by impugned order held that since assessee with an authorised share capital of Rs.1.36 crores raised nearly a sum of Rs.32 crores on account of premium and chose not to go in for increase of authorised share capital merely to avoid payment of statutory fees was an important pointer necessitating investigation and thus, Commissioner was justified in treating assessment order erroneous and prejudicial to interest of revenue. The Supreme Court dismissed the special leave petition filed against impugned order passed by High Court. In the case of Deniel Merchants (P.) Ltd.95 taxmann.com 366 (SC), the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed SLP order of High Court that where Assessing Officer did not make any proper inquiry while making assessment and accepting explanation of assessee insofar as receipt of share application money was concerned, Commissioner rightly set aside such assessment order under Section 263. In the case of Principal CIT vs. Swati Bajaj 139 taxmann.com 352 (Calcutta), the Hon’ble High Court held that where Assessing Officer was fully aware of investigation which was being done on penny stock companies and failed to take note of such report to put assessee on notice and commence an enquiry by calling upon assessee to justify genuineness of claim of LTCG/STCL and merely accepted submission that stock broker was a public sector company in such case assumption of jurisdiction under Section 263 by Commissioners was fully justified. In the case of Pratik Syntex (P.) Ltd.94 taxmann.com 12 (Mumbai – Trib.), where AO made addition to assessee’s income under sec. 68 in respect of amount received as share capital, in view of fact that assessee could not even give correct address of share applicant companies and, moreover, such companies were not in a financial position to subscribe to shares issued at a huge premium, impugned addition was to be confirmed. In the case of Ramanbhai Bholidas Patel 148 taxmann.com 92 (Ahmedabad – Trib.), the Tribunal held that Section 54B would not be applicable in case land was not used for agricultural purposes in two years preceding date of transfer; where Assessing officer had not made necessary inquiry before allowing deduction under Section 54B but grossly allowed claim made by assessee, revisional order passed by Principal Commissioner under Section 263 setting aside assessment order, should not call for any interference.

8. Accordingly, on going to the instant facts, we observe that there was an evident lack of enquiry by the assessing officer, while accepting the claim of deduction of donation by the assessee, while framing the assessment order. In the instant case, certain noteworthy discrepancies emanating from facts of the case ought to have been enquired by the assessing officer, while framing the assessment, and he should not have simply accepted the version offered by the In this case, an analysis of receipts issued by “Apna Desh Party” it was observed that such receipts did not contain details of cheque number, bank name, date of cheque etc. issued. The Ld. PCIT has also correctly observed that on perusal of website of “Apna Desh Party”, which provided list of donor and name-wise list, the list did not include the name of the assessee in respect of three different receipts, which also establishes the fact that the donation is bogus. It was further observed that though the assessee has given donation in cheque, same is found to be out of donation / loan received of Rs. 35,00,000/- from Ranchhorbhai Tapubhai Patel. We agree with the observations made by Ld. PCIT that it is quite unusual that assessee is taking loans for making the aforesaid donations and accordingly, the Assessing Officer should have made further enquiries to ascertain whether the aforesaid loan is genuine in the first place or not. While passing the assessment order, the Assessing Officer did not enquire into the details / list of donations received by such party which is available in public domain and such list does not include the name of the assessee. While framing the assessment, the Assessing Officer simply accepted the version of the assessee and did not make any attempt to verify the genuineness of the receipts issued by “Apna Desh Party”. Accordingly, looking into the totality of facts as highlighted above, even without considering the material which Ld. PCIT took note of pertaining to adverse material / information obtained during search proceedings, in our view the assessment order is still erroneous on account of evident lack of enquiry in respect of information available in public domain. Therefore, the arguments of the Ld. Counsel for the assessee that Ld. PCIT could not have held that the assessment order is erroneous and prejudicial to the interest of the Revenue, on the basis of material which was not confronted to the assessee, merits no consideration. Accordingly, in the present facts, we observe that despite the apparent discrepancies emanating from the facts of the case placed on record, the assessing officer simply allowed the claim of deduction of donation by the assessee, without carrying out the necessary enquiries which ought to have been made looking into the instant facts.

9. Accordingly, looking into the instant facts, we find no infirmity in the order passed by the principal CIT under Section 263 of the Act, so as to call for any interference.

10. In the result, the appeal of the assessee is dismissed.

This Order pronounced in Open Court on 15/12/2023

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