Thursday, 14 April 2016

Acceptance of letters without acknowledgment is unacceptable: HC

We find this conduct on  the  part of the  Assessing Officer  to

accept a stay application and not immediately give acknowledgement of
its receipt is unacceptable.  The least that is expected of an civil servant
is to be fair and civil.  In the absence of the above, his conduct is not
one becoming of an Officer belonging to the prestigious Indian Revenue
Service.   The least that is expected of an Officer is that when a person
files   an   application   /   letter,   which   is   accepted   by   him,   an
acknowledgement should be forthwith given  to the  party filing the
application or letter.   In case he refuses to accept the letter he should
endorse  on the  letter  / application  the  reason  why  it is not being
accepted with a line or two for the refusal to accept.  In case he does
accept it and give an acknowledgment he can deal with the applications
/ letters as is appropriate in accordance with law.     We believe   that
what has happened in this case is an aberration.  However, the Chief
Commissioner of Income Tax would ensure that his Officers do not
behave in such an high handed and unfair manner, not expected of civil
servants. 
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY
ORDINARY ORIGINAL CIVIL JURISDICTION
WRIT PETITION (L) NO.  526 OF 2016 
Piramal Fund Management Pvt. Ltd.  .. Petitioner
v/s. 
Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax
Mumbai & Ors.  .. Respondents 

                         CORAM : M.S. SANKLECHA &
            A.K. MENON, J.J. 
                                          DATED  : 17th MARCH, 2016.


1. This petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India has
been   filed   primarily   against   the   refusal   of   the   Assessing   Officer   to
accept the petitioner's application for stay dated 17th February, 2016.
2. The Assessing Officer for the Assessment Year 2012­13 had by
order dated 19th  January, 2016 raised a demand of Rs.52.08 crores.
Being aggrieved by the assessment order, the petitioner had filed an
appeal  on  24th  February, 2016  to  the   Commissioner  of  Income  Tax
(Appeals).   Thereafter, the petitioner approached the Assessing Officer
Uday S. Jagtap 
on 18th February, 2016 inter alia with its application for stay in terms of
Section 220(6) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.   This was along with an
application dated 17th Februarcy, 2016 for stay of penalty proceedings.
The Assessing Officer accepted the stay application for demand and
also   application   for   stay   of   penalty   proceedings.     However,   the
Assessing Officer gave acknowledgement only of application for stay of
the penalty proceedings but did not provide an acknowledgment of
having accepted and received the stay application dated 17th February,
2016.  This action on the part of the Assessing Officer led the petitioner
to file this petition on 23rd February, 2016 and also serve it upon the
Assessing Officer on 23rd February, 2016 itself.   Immediately thereafter,
the   Assessing   Officer   provided   an   acknowledgment   to   the   stay
application in terms of Section 220(6) of the Act dated 17th February,
2016 on 23rd February, 2016 to the petitioner.   
3. The Assessing Officer has filed an affidavit­in­reply wherein he
has stated that in view of the on going discussion with the Officers of
the petitioner, there was no occasion for him to refuse to acknowledge
the stay application.  He further states that the petitioner should have
filed   its   application   for   stay   at   the   ASK   center   located   in   Aayakar
Bhavan, where the Income Tax Department has made arrangements for

acceptance of  tapal  addressed to  all the officers located at Aayakar
Bhavan.  
4. We   find   that   in   his   affidavit,   the   Assessing   Officer   states   all
applications are to be filed only with the ASK centre, yet he gives
acknowledgement of the application for stay of penalty when handed
over  to   him.     Further,   he   also   gives  the   acknowledgement   on   23rd
February,   2016   of   the   stay   application   dated   17th  February,   2016
received by him on 18th February, 2016.  This acknowledgement on 23rd
February, 2013 is given immediately on the Writ Petition being served
upon him.   Thus, the explanation offered in the affidavit is at variance
with his conduct.  Thus, the affidavit is not acceptable.
5. Mr. Mohanty, the learned Counsel for the Revenue contends that
in any case, no coercive proceedings were resorted to by him.   Thus,
there   was   no   mala­fide.     This   is   hardly   any   consolation   as   in   the
absence of the party having an acknowledged copy of the stay, the party
would never know when the coercive proceedings would commence
and at all time be on tenterhooks.   
6. We find this conduct on  the  part of the  Assessing Officer  to

accept a stay application and not immediately give acknowledgement of
its receipt is unacceptable.  The least that is expected of an civil servant
is to be fair and civil.  In the absence of the above, his conduct is not
one becoming of an Officer belonging to the prestigious Indian Revenue
Service.   The least that is expected of an Officer is that when a person
files   an   application   /   letter,   which   is   accepted   by   him,   an
acknowledgement should be forthwith given  to the  party filing the
application or letter.   In case he refuses to accept the letter he should
endorse  on the  letter  / application  the  reason  why  it is not being
accepted with a line or two for the refusal to accept.  In case he does
accept it and give an acknowledgment he can deal with the applications
/ letters as is appropriate in accordance with law.     We believe   that
what has happened in this case is an aberration.  However, the Chief
Commissioner of Income Tax would ensure that his Officers do not
behave in such an high handed and unfair manner, not expected of civil
servants. 
7. Be that as it may, the stay application is still pending decision.
Normally, we would have let the Assessing Officer decide the same.
However, looking at the manner in which the petitioner has been dealt
with by the Assessing Officer in regard to its stay application dated 17th

February, 2016, it would be in the interest of justice that the application
for stay filed by the petitioner be heard by another Officer different
from the Assessing Officer i.e. respondent no.1 herein.  The Officer to
deal with the petitioner's stay application dated 17th July, 2016 is to be
selected / nominated by the Revenue.  
8. At  this  stage, Mr.  Mohanty, learned Counsel  for  the   Revenue
states that the stay application would now be disposed of by Additional
Commissioner of the Income Tax, i.e. respondent no.2 in the present
petition. 
9. Accordingly, the respondent no.2 is directed to deal with the
petitioner's application for stay in accordance with law.
10. The Petition is disposed of in the above terms.  No order as to
costs.
  (A.K. MENON, J.)                   (M.S. SANKLECHA, J.)

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