Introduction: The Karnataka High Court recently examined a case (Rajya Vokkaligara Sangha Vs Commissioner of Income Tax (Exemptions)) where exemptions under sections 11 and 12 of the Income Tax Act, 1961, were denied without prior notice. In the said case, the court ruled on the issuance of a writ or appropriate directive to modify an order granting a stay, which directed the assessee to pay 20% of the demand.
Analysis: The petitioner contended that the stay order was cryptic and displayed no application of mind. They pointed out that their detailed request for exemptions under sections 11 and 12 of the Act had been decided in their favour in other proceedings related to the assessment year 2016-17. However, they were not notified when the exemption was denied and only found out through an upload on the portal.
The court agreed that financial hardship should have been considered in the stay grant, and that the lack of any evidence of application of mind while passing the impugned order was concerning. With the appeal pending since January 2019, the court found that simply directing the Authority to reconsider and pass fresh orders on the application of stay would be a futile exercise.
Conclusion: The Karnataka High Court, considering that the appeal has been pending since 2019 and the order was without clear reasoning, decided to suspend any recovery steps until the disposal of the pending appeal before the First Appellate Authority. This decision underlines the importance of clear communication and reasoned orders in matters of tax exemptions and recovery proceedings.
FULL TEXT OF THE JUDGMENT/ORDER OF KARNATAKA HIGH COURT
The petitioner has sought for issuance of writ in the nature of mandamus or passing of appropriate direction to modify the order granting stay at Annexure-A whereby the Authority in its order dated 23.4.2019, while considering the request for grant of stay, has directed the assessee to pay an amount of 20% of the demand and accordingly, has granted a conditional order of stay of the demand.
2. Learned counsel for the petitioner would submit that the order at Annexure-A passed on the application for stay is a cryptic order with no application of mind. It is submitted that in terms of the detailed request made out in the reply at Annexure-F, the Authority ought to have applied its mind and exercised discretion appropriately. It is submitted that the very contention raised has been decided in favour of the assessee in certain proceedings with respect to the assessment year 2016-17 in light of exemptions under Sections 11 and 12 of the Income Tax Act. 1961 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’ for brevity). It is submitted that there is no notice prior to denying exemption under Sections 11 and 12 of the Act which though uploaded in the portal was not intimated to the assessee.
3. It is further submitted that while considering grant of stay, financial hardship was required to be considered and there is no application of mind while passing impugned order. It is pointed that details have been setout in their application regarding prima-facie case in their favour. It is submitted that the appeal is pending since January-2019 and at this stage, the question of passing order directing Authority to reconsider and pass fresh orders on application of stay would be futile exercise and in fact, Authority must be directed to dispose of the appeal expeditiously and in the light of the merits as made out in the application for stay, there may be direction to the Authority not to take any precipitative steps till conclusion of the appeal.
4. Learned counsel for the revenue would submit that at the most, the order at Annexure-A requires to be set aside and matter be remanded for consideration in accordance with the applicable requirements.
5. Noticing that the appeal is of the year 2019 and also the order at Annexure-A is cryptic order assigning absolutely no reasons, it would meet the ends of justice while taking note of the contentions raised on stay application, that the Authority is directed not to take any precipitative steps for recovery of demand till the disposal of the appeal pending before the First Appellate Authority. It is needless to state that the Authority may expedite the hearing of the appeal. Accordingly, petition is disposed off and the order at Annexure-A dated 23.04.2019 is set aside subject to the observations made above.