Friday, April 6, 2012

AO & appellate authorities are not mere tax gatherers; have duty to be fair to the assessee


The assessee, a professional, offered income of Rs.19.41 crores. The AO passed an assessment order u/s 143(3) assessing the total income at Rs.22.43 crores and raised a demand of Rs.1.18 crores. The assessee filed a stay application before the CIT (A) who directed that a refund of Rs. 78 lakhs due for a subsequent year be adjusted and the balance of Rs.41 lakhs be paid. The CIT (A) held that considering “the financial status and affairs” of the assessee, the payment of the balance demand would not cause financial hardship. The assessee filed a Writ Petition to challenge the rejection of the stay application. HELD by the Court allowing the petition:

The power which is vested in the AO u/s 220(6) and on the CIT (A) to grant a stay of demand is a judicial power. It is necessary for both the AO as well as the appellate authorities constituted under the Income-tax Act to have due regard to the fact that their function is not merely to act as tax gatherers, but equally as quasi judicial authorities, they owe a duty of fairness to the assessee. This seems to be lost sight of in the manner in which the authority has acted in the present case. The parameters for the exercise of the jurisdiction to grant a stay of demand has been set out in several judgments of this Court, including in KEC International vs. B.R.Balakrishnan 251 ITR 158. The assessee’s submissions on merits require consideration. The CIT (A) ought to have devoted a more careful consideration to the issue as to whether a stay of demand was warranted. As out of a total demand of Rs.1.18 crores, Rs.78 lakhs has been adjusted, the balance has to be stayed.

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