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Sony India Pvt. Ltd vs. ACIT (Delhi High Court)
March, 24th 2014

Having said that this is a case in which technically no fault could be found with the assessing officer, we feel that there was there was an element of impropriety in his action in issuing the garnishee order under section 226(3) on 17.2.2014, the very day on which he rejected the stay application filed by the petitioner under section 220(3). It is expected of him, having rejected the stay application, to wait for a reasonable period before he takes coercive steps to recover the amounts since the petitioner, faced with an order rejecting the stay application, may need some time to make arrangements to pay the entire tax demand or come up with proposals for paying the same in instalments. That opportunity was not afforded by the assessing officer in the present cases.

The assessing officer is a prospector of the revenue and he is no doubt expected to protect the interests of the revenue zealously, but such zeal has to be tempered with the rules of fair play and an anxiety to ensure that a opportunity is not lost to the assessee to make alternative arrangements for clearing the tax dues, once the stay applications filed under section 220(3) are rejected. Taking away the amount of Rs.43.87 crores from the bank account of the petitioner may perhaps not be legally faulted, but taking into account the haste with which the assessing officer acted in the present case it seems to us that there was an element of arbitrariness in the action of the assessing officer. In our opinion, since the stay applications filed by the petitioners are pending before the Tribunal, the more appropriate course would be to issue the following directions.

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