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Vijay Prakash Agrawal vs. CIT (Allahabad High Court)
April, 24th 2013

Non-grant of refunds: Strictures passed against Dept for harassing honest taxpayers

A search was conducted at the premises of the assessee during which cash of Rs. 25 lakhs was seized. The assessee succeeded in the block assessments and the said amount of Rs. 25 lakhs became refundable to the assessee. However, the said amount was not refunded to the assessee on the ground that there were demands outstanding against a third party who was also named in the search warrant. The assessee claimed that he had no relation with the third party and the fact that there were demands outstanding there did not mean that the assessee’s refund could be blocked. The department refused to pass an order on the assessee’s application for refund. HELD by the High Court allowing the plea:

It is but evident that the department has failed to discharge its legal obligation in not refunding the seized amount. The argument of the department that unless a direction is issued, a speaking order shall not be passed on the application for refund of the amount due to him is not appreciated. It shows that the officers of the Income-tax Department are shirking their responsibilities. Speedy and affordable justice is the requirement of the day. But it cannot be achieved until the executive including tax-man discharge their duties faithfully honestly within the four corners of law. The revenue official failed to take any decision right or wrong on the refund application filed by the assessee and passed on the buck on the Court. Time has come for the heads of the departments to keep a strict vigil on such shirkers and to fix their responsibility. While it is no doubt true that collection of revenue is a serious matter for the State -and the bounden duty of the authorities functioning under the Act is to implement the provisions of the Act, there should be safety and assurance to an honest tax-payer. An honest tax-payer should not be subjected to unnecessary harassment and an action not warranted in law, which can be of very serious consequence to the tax-payer if is allowed to remain without correction, such harassment and browbeating of an honest tax-payer will otherwise drive even such honest tax-payers to become cynical and lead to a situation where taxpayers will get a feeling that paying taxes honestly is not a worthwhile exercise; that the tax authorities are a menace to the society rather than simply being representatives of the State for enforcing the tax provisions. The department shall pay costs of Rs. 15,000 to the assessee (Sandik Asia 280 ITR 643 (SC), Gujrat Flouro Chemicals 348 ITR 319 & Raghavendra Sherrigar (2005) 1425 STC 153) followed)

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