Penalty Proceedings Are “Quasi-Criminal” And Ought To Comply With Principles Of Natural Justice: ITAT Mumbai

In the case of Meherjee Cassinath Holdings Pvt. Ltd vs. ACIT, ITAT Mumbai has held that:

Apart from the aforesaid discussion, we may also refer to the one more seminal feature of this case which would demonstrate the importance of non-striking off of irrelevant clause in the notice by the Assessing Officer. As noted earlier, in the assessment order dated 10.12.2010 the Assessing Officer records that the penalty proceedings u/s 271(1)(c) of the Act are to be initiated for furnishing of inaccurate particulars of income. However, in the notice issued u/s 274 r.w.s. 271(1)(c) of the Act of even date, both the limbs of Sec. 271(1)(c) of the Act are reproduced in the proforma notice and the irrelevant clause has not been struck-off. Quite clearly, the observation of the Assessing Officer in the assessment order and non-striking off of the irrelevant clause in the notice clearly brings out the diffidence on the part of Assessing Officer and there is no clear and crystallised charge being conveyed to the assessee u/s 271(1)(c), which has to be met by him. As noted by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Dilip N. Shroff (supra), the quasi-criminal proceedings u/s 271(1)(c) of the Act ought to comply with the principles of natural justice, and in the present case, considering the observations of the Assessing Officer in the assessment order alongside his action of non-striking off of the irrelevant clause in the notice shows that the charge being made against the assessee qua Sec. 271(1)(c) of the Act is not firm and, therefore, the proceedings suffer from non-compliance with principles of natural justice inasmuch as the Assessing Officer is himself unsure and assessee is not made aware as to which of the two limbs of Sec. 271(1)(c) of the Act he has to respond.

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