On a plain reading of Section 153C, it is evident that the Assessing Officer of the searched person must be “satisfied” that inter alia any document seized or requisitioned “belongs to” a person other than the searched person. It is only then that the Assessing Officer of the searched person can handover such document to the Assessing Officer having jurisdiction over such other person (other than the searched person).Online GST Certification Course by TaxGuru & MSME- Click here to Join
Furthermore, it is only after such handing over that the Assessing Officer of such other person can issue a notice to that person and assess or re-assess his income in accordance with the provisions of Section 153A. Therefore, before a notice under Section 153C can be issued two steps have to be taken. The first step is that the Assessing Officer of the person who is searched must arrive at a clear satisfaction that a document seized from him does not belong to him but to some other person. The second step is – after such satisfaction is arrived at – that the document is handed over to the Assessing Officer of the person to whom the said document “belongs”. In the present cases it has been urged on behalf of the petitioner that the first step itself has not been fulfilled. For this purpose it would be necessary to examine the provisions of presumptions as indicated above. Section 132(4A)(i) clearly stipulates that when inter alia any document is found in the possession or control of any person in the course of a search it may be presumed that such document belongs to such person. It is similarly provided in Section 292C(1)(i). In other words, whenever a document is found from a person who is being searched the normal presumption is that the said document belongs to that person. It is for the Assessing Officer to rebut that presumption and come to a conclusion or “satisfaction” that the document in fact belongs to somebody else. There must be some cogent material available with the Assessing Officer before he/she arrives at the satisfaction that the seized document does not belong to the searched person but to somebody else. Surmise and conjecture cannot take the place of “satisfaction”.
It is evident from the above satisfaction note that apart from saying that the documents belonged to the petitioner and that the Assessing Officer is satisfied that it is a fit case for issuance of a notice under Section 153C, there is nothing which would indicate as to how the presumptions which are to be normally raised as indicated above, have been rebutted by the Assessing Officer. Mere use or mention of the word “satisfaction” or the words “I am satisfied” in the order or the note would not meet the requirement of the concept of satisfaction as used in Section 153C of the said Act. The satisfaction note itself must display the reasons or basis for the conclusion that the Assessing Officer of the searched person is satisfied that the seized documents belong to a person other than the searched person. We are afraid, that going through the contents of the satisfaction note, we are unable to discern any “satisfaction” of the kind required under Section 153C of the said Act.
This being the position the very first step prior to the issuance of a notice under Section153C of the said Act has not been fulfilled. Inasmuch as this condition precedent has not been met, the notices under Section 153C are liable to be quashed. It is ordered accordingly. The writ petitions are allowed as above. There shall be no order as to costs.