In a recent taxation case, the apex court had to also consider a complaint of plagiarism. The issue was about a land deal – with the assessee saying that the sale consideration was Rs 4.10 lakh, as in the documents, and the taxman arguing that the amount was Rs 34.85 lakh, as found in some loose papers captured during a raid operation.

The High Court had relied heavily on the order of the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) and that of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), and held that no substantial questions of law had been raised. Accordingly, it dismissed the appeal. Which, therefore, resulted in the Department bringing up the case before the Supreme Court.

“Mr G. N. Vahanvati, the learned Solicitor General has at the very outset raised serious objection to the order of the High Court pointing out that Division Bench had merely plagiarised substantial portions from the order of the Commissioner and Tribunal in arriving at its conclusion and no independent assessment on the questions of law that arose for consideration, had been made,” reads the text of the apex court verdict dated September 14.

“It is true that the Division Bench of the High Court has borrowed extensively from the orders of the Tribunal and the Commissioner and passed them off as if they were themselves the author’s,” noted the apex court. “We feel that quoting from an order of some authority particularly a specialised one cannot per se be faulted as this procedure can often help in making for brevity and precision, but we agree with Mr Vahanavati to the extent that any `borrowed words’ used in a judgment must be acknowledged as such in any appropriate manner as a courtesy to the true author(s).”

Yet, the apex court had to ultimately dismiss the taxman’s appeal, with there being no infirmity in the order of the High Court.

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October 2020