It cannot be said that this is a case where no opportunity of hearing was provided to the petitioner and that there was any violation of the principle of natural justice: Calcutta High Court
It seemed that the petitioner could not make out a case of any patent jurisdictional error or that the assessing officer acted contrary to any specific provision of law in course of the impugned assessment proceeding. The Hon’ble High Court at Calcutta before the Hon’ble Mr. Justice Md. Nizamuddin held such an opinion in the matter of Unisource Hydro Carbon Services Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. vs. Union of India & Ors. [W.P.A. No. 11041 of 2021].
The facts of the case relate to an instant Writ Petition whereby the petitioner had challenged impugned Assessment Order dated 4th June 2021 relating to Assessment Year 2018-2019 under Section 143(3) read with Section 144B of the Income Tax Act, 1961, on the alleged ground of violation of the principle of natural justice by the respondent for not giving an adequate and effective opportunity of hearing to the petitioner and also, on the merit of the Assessment Order on the ground that the Assessing Officer had committed a jurisdictional error and that the alternative remedy had no bar in entertaining this Writ Petition since violation of natural justice is considered as a jurisdictional error.
It appeared from the impugned Assessment Order of the Writ Petition that the said impugned Order contained elaborate discussion covering material evidence and the documents filed by the petitioner during the assessment proceeding before passing the impugned Assessment Order. The attached annexures in the Writ Petitioner showed that the petitioner was granted sufficient opportunity for hearing from time to time during the said assessment proceeding which appeared from the records attached by the petitioner itself.
It further appeared from a notice that was issued seeking clarification on the issue of investments/advancements/loans and business loss in response to the return in the question of the petitioner. Another notice was issued under Section 142(1) of the Act which asked the petitioner to furnish the relevant documents on or before 15th December 2020. Another subsequent notice under Section 142(1) of the Act was issued for furnishing the documents in question that were asked for since there was no compliance to the earlier notice under Section 143 of the Act which was duly served upon the petitioner via email. Another notice was issued on 18th January 2021, asking for the complete details as called in the previous notices. Likewise, several notices were issued calling for the complete details of the required documents. The petitioner, as it appeared at Annexure ‘P-4’ of the Writ petition, had filed an application, dated 23rd April 2021, praying for further adjournment and extension of time until 24th May 2021 for filing reply to the show-cause notice under Section 143(3) of the Act. A Covid Test Report was submitted, dated 5th May 2021, by the petitioner, Mr. Shyam Sundar Chowkhani who claimed to be the erstwhile director for the first time before the respondent authority, and prayed for such extension, to which the Hon’ble Court cleared and clarified stating that no further extension would be provided.
The petitioner, then, filed a reply on 24th May 2021, before the Assessing Officer, in response to the show-cause dated 23rd April 2021, discussing facts, laws, evidence, and case laws in detail, as well as, on merit relating to the impugned assessment proceeding, and hence, concluding with a prayer for a further adjournment of the impugned assessment proceeding and to give adequate opportunity for full compliance of the notice, but not asking for a personal hearing.
It also appeared that the petitioner had filed documents containing details of loan creditors. On the other hand, the Assessing Officer had passed the impugned Assessment Order containing elaborate reasons after observing the principles of natural justice in course of the impugned assessment proceeding which appeared from annexed to the Writ Petition by the petitioner itself.
Thus, the petitioner, hence, challenged the impugned Assessment Order both on merit as well as on the alleged ground of violation of the principle of natural justice by the respondent concerned for not providing the opportunity of hearing which the petitioner considered as jurisdictional error.
The Hon’ble Court before the Hon’ble Mr. Md. Nizamuddin considered these facts and shreds of evidence, and said, “… The Income Tax Act is a self-complete code and the petitioner has specific statutory appellate forum for redressal of its grievance if so aggrieved against the impugned assessment order, before the Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) and further appeal before the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal which has the power to decide both on facts as well as on law and further before the High Court under Section 260A of the Income Tax Act.” The Hon’ble Court was also of the opinion that, “High Court sitting in Writ Jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India should not disturb or interfere with the finding of the Assessing Officer in his assessment order which are based on material facts and evidence and to substitute the findings of an Assessing Officer in the assessment order with its own finding when statutory alternative remedy for adjudication of assessment order on merit, evidence and law is available under Income Tax Act, 1961 before the Appellate forum.”
With regard to the question of whether principles to natural justice were violated or not by the respondent concerned in course of the impugned assessment proceeding, the Hon’ble Court held that this wasn’t a case where opportunity was not provided to the petitioner and there was no violation of the principle of natural justice. It had also been established that despite a series of adjournments on the prayer of the petitioner and after several notices provided to the petitioner by the Assessing Officer during the assessment proceeding, the petitioner could not make a case of any patent jurisdictional error, or that the assessing officer acted against any specific provision of law during the course of the impugned proceeding.
Thus, the Hon’ble Court held that sufficient opportunities were given to the petitioner and there was no violation of the principle of natural justice during the impugned assessment proceeding. The Court was also convinced that it could not be said that the assessing officer/respondent who passed the assessment order was having inherent lack of jurisdiction or his action during the course of the impugned assessment proceeding was contrary to any specific provision of law. Furthermore, the Hon’ble Court also stated that the impugned assessment order was not liable to have interfered within the Constitutional Writ Jurisdiction of the Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.