CIT vs. Awadh Hotels (P) Ltd (Allahabad High Court)
May, 23rd 2012
S. 234A, 234B & 234C interest, though mandatory, is not payable if AO does not direct it to be charged in assessment order
The AO passed a s. 143(3) assessment order in which he omitted to direct that interest u/s 234A, 234B & 234C should be levied. The Tribunal, relying on Ranchi Club Ltd 247 ITR 209 (SC) held that in the absence of a specific direction, interest was not leviable. Before the High Court, the department relied on the larger bench decision in Anjum M.H Ghaswala 252 ITR 1 (SC) and argued that as interest u/s 234A, 234B & 234C was mandatory, there was no need for the assessment order to specifically direct that interest should be charged. HELD dismissing the appeal:
In CIT vs. Ranchi Club Ltd 247 ITR 209 (SC) it was held that the order of the AO in the assessment order to charge interest has to be specific and clear and the assessee must be made to know that the AO after applying his mind has ordered charging of interest. In Anjum M.H. Ghaswala 252 ITR 1 (SC), it was held, in the context of whether the Settlement Commission could waive interest, that the levy was mandatory and could not be waived. Subsequently, in Insilco Ltd 278 ITR 1 (SC), the Supreme Court remanded the matter to decide whether the law laid down in Ranchi Club had been changed by Anjum M.H. Ghaswala or not. Ranchi Club Ltd has not been expressly overruled nor has a different view been taken in Anjum M.H. Ghaswalas case. There is also no force in the departments argument that even if assessment order or computation sheet does not provide for interest, since interest is mandatory, it can be charged in the demand notice which is signed by the AO. Even if a provision of law is mandatory and provides for charging of tax or interest, the view taken in Ranchi Club Ltd is that such charge by the AO should be specific and clear and assessee must be made to know that the AO has applied his mind and has ordered charging of interest. The mandatory nature of charging of interest and the actual charging of interest by application of mind and the mention of the proviso of law under which such interest is charged are two different things. Consequently, if the assessment order is silent, interest u/s 234A, 234B & 234C cannot be levied.