Court: HIGH COURT OF DELHI
Citation: THE COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. PREETI N. AGGARWALA, ITA NO. 456/2007
Brief :The department filed an appeal in the High Court and claimed that as the Tribunal’s order was received on a particular date, the appeal was on time. However, the assessee obtained information from the Tribunal under the Right to Information Act and pointed out that the order was served on an earlier date and that the appeal was belated. HELD taking a serious view of the matter and summoning the Revenue Secretary and Chairman CBDT.
O R D E R
In this appeal filed by the Revenue, order dated 05.12.2001 of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal is impugned. The appeal was filed on 23.01.2007 and it is stated in the appeal that copy of the impugned order of the ITAT was received by the Department only on 29.09.2006. On that basis, it is claimed by the appellant that the appeal is within limitation. Learned counsel for the respondent however, has obtained the information from the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal under the Right to Information Act. Copy of the communication dated 05.03 .2009 conveying the information is handed to us.
We had also called for the original file containing the application of the respondent/ assessee under the RTI Act and the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has forwarded that file. As per the communication dated 05.03.2009, copies of the order were first sent to the Income Tax Department on 31.01.2002 which was not received by the Department (sent to Revenue). It was again sent on 01.01.2003 to the Central Circle Office and this time also the same was not accepted. Thereafter, the Income Tax Department obtained the certified copy of the order which was delivered on 29.09.2006. On this basis, learned counsel for the respondent contends that the limitation is to be counted from 31.02.2002 when the Tribunal’s order was initially sent but the Income Tax Department refused to accept the same. The file sent by the Income Tax Department contains the photo-state copy of the Dispatch Register. As per this Register, 266 orders were sent by the Tribunal to the Department. The Department received these orders on 08.02.2002 except certain orders mentioned therein which includes the order in question. Another photocopy of the Dispatch Register which is in this file shows that 422 orders were sent by the Tribunal again to the Department but all these orders were returned by the Department except order mentioned at Serial No. 422. From this, it is clear that the information contained in communication dated 05.03.2009 is correct, namely, copies of the orders were sent on 3 1.01.2002 and 01.01.2003 but were not accepted by the Department.
Mr. Sahni, learned counsel appearing for the appellant submits that in all likelihood the aforesaid orders were not sent to the correct offices and that is why those were returned.
Be that as it may, it shows lack of coordination between ITAT and the Income Tax Department for supply of certified copies. It also shows the un- organized manner in which the Income Tax Department is functioning. We have been observing various kinds of shortcomings and lapses committed by the Income Tax Department in filing and pursuing the appeals in the High Court. It is seen even when most of the appeals are filed within stipulated period and limitation, they are hardly in order ever and, substantial time is taken by the Department in removing the objections raised by the Registry. In most of the cases, delay in refilling the appeals is more than 100 days. Many times the delay in re- filing the appeal after removing objections goes beyond 300 days and even more than 500 days. Sometimes objections relate to non filing of legible copies of the documents or the impugned order, the Department takes abnormal time for supplying those copies and clearing such objections. This itself results in delay in taking up these matters. The Registry has, also, informed that many appeals which were filed 2-3 years ago are still lying under objections and those objections have not been removed. The tax effect in some of the appeals is very substantial. Even then no due care is taken by the Department in removing the objections and getting the appeals listed. It creates another kind of suspicion as well.
Another difficulty which is repeatedly encountered in these appeals is that counsel for the Department for want of proper instructions, is not able to provide information regarding those matters where similar issues arise. In many decisions rendered by the Tribunal, we find that the Tribunal has either followed its own order pertaining to the earlier Assessment year of the same assessee or the order passed on the same issue in the case of some other assessee. The counsel pleads ignorance as to whether any appeal was preferred against those orders and if preferred they are not able to give the particulars of the appeals or the outcome of those appeals or the stage at which those appeals are. Sometimes repeated adjournments are given to the counsel for the Revenue to supply such information. However, the Department is not able to give the information. This is happening only because there is no organized system which is adopted by the legal section of the Income Tax Department in pursuing these appeals. It is also because of non-computerization of the legal cell. Because of lack of proper coordination between different Departments or in action on the part of the officers of the nature specified above, the Department may be losing huge revenue. There are many other problems and it is not necessary to spell out all those problems in this order.
Though we find that most of the counsel appearing on behalf of the Revenue are well prepared and well equipped with the knowledge of law and are able to render their assistance to this Court, for lack of proper instruction and information in some of the cases at times they find themselves in helpless situation.
Since repeated oral instructions given to the Department from time to time to set its house in order have fallen into deaf years, we have no option but to bring these aspects to the notice of the higher authorities by means of this order. We also feel it necessary to summon Secretary (Revenue), Govt. of India as well as Chairman CBDT.
The Secretary Revenue as well as Chairman CBDT shall appear in the Court on 01.12.2010 at 4.00 P.M.
A.K. SIKRI, J.
SURESH KAIT, J. NOVEMBER 11, 2010