S. 271(1)(c): Concealment of income and furnishing of inaccurate particulars are distinct and separate charges. A nebulous notice which contains both charges is null and void ab initio (All judgements on the topic relied upon by the assessee and the department have been referred to and discussed)
It is quite clear, that `suppressio vari’, or ‘suppression of truth’, which has, in section 271(1)(c) of the IT Act, as its equivalent, `concealment of income’, and `suggestio falsi’, literally, ‘suggesting or stating a falsehood’, which manifests itself as ‘furnishing of inaccurate particulars thereof, are two distinctly separate charges; that leveling of either of these charges has to be explicitly brought to the notice/knowledge of the assessee, sans which, the assessee, under a nebulous notice containing both these charges, is rendered incapable of defending the charge per se. This would be in utter violation of the principles of natural justice, such notice being null and void ab initio. It is also pertinent to note at this juncture that the notice u/s 274 is a mandatory statutory notice without which, the initiation of penalty proceedings would be nugatory, nay, non est in the eye of the law. Therefore, the argument of the Department that where initiation of penalty in the Assessment Order, the levy in the penalty order and the confirmation of such penalty in the first appellate order are on one and the same charge, the contents of the notice u/s 274 are of no effect, the assessee having been duly apprised of the specific charge against them, is not acceptable in law.