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Adobe Systems Software Ireland Ltd vs. ADIT (Delhi High Court)
May, 13th 2014

Assessee is bound to furnish a return in response to a s. 148 notice. The reasons for reopening can be given only thereafter. A writ involving disputed factual issues cannot be entertained

(i) The petitioner did not file any returns of income in response to the notices issued u/s 148. Even under the judgment of the Supreme Court in G.K.N. Driveshafts 259 ITR 19, the petitioner would get the reasons recorded for reopening the assessment only upon filing the return of income pursuant to the notice issued u/s 148. The conduct of the petitioner has been one of defiance; it did not file returns in response to the notices issued u/s 148. The mere filing of the return can never amount to submitting to the jurisdiction. The filing of the return in response to the notice u/s 148 defines the stand taken by the assessee. S. 148 says that the return called for by the notice issued under that section shall be treated as if such a return were a return required to be furnished u/s 139 of the Act. Under the scheme of the Act, a return of income conveys the position taken by the assessee to the assessing authority – whether he has taxable income or not. It is not a mere scrap of paper. There is a sanctity attached to the return. If the assessing authority calls upon the assessee to file a return of income, the same shall be complied with by the assessee and it is no answer to the notice to say that since in his (assessee’s) opinion there is no taxable income, he is under no obligation to file the return. The petitioner, not having made the Noida officer aware that no income chargeable to tax had escaped assessment and having merely told him that he has no jurisdiction to issue reassessment notices, was not acting strictly in accordance with law. The writ remedy being a discretionary remedy, the discretion can be exercised in favour of the writ petitioner only if his conduct has been in conformity with law. If it is not, the Court may refuse to exercise the discretion in favour of the writ petitioner;

(ii) The question whether the initiation of reassessment proceedings by the Noida officer was valid or not would depend upon whether the petitioner had a PE within the jurisdiction of the Noida officer. In the absence of any evidence unmistakably and indisputably establishing the existence or otherwise of the PE, we would hesitate to enter this prohibited arena in writ proceedings. It needs no citation of authority to support the proposition that the Court exercising its jurisdiction under Article 226 of cannot enter into disputed questions of fact which is best left to be resolved in the alternative remedies available to the petitioner. In fact the assessment and appellate authorities, including the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, constituted under the Act as fact-finding bodies are best suited to examine whether the petitioner had a PE in Noida or not and the question of jurisdiction would depend upon the findings of those authorities. Moreover, when we are exercising discretionary jurisdiction, it is not impermissible to consider whether any real prejudice has been caused to the petitioner to justify the exercise of the extraordinary jurisdiction which is to be sparingly wielded. We do not see any such prejudice to the petitioner. There can be no vested right that escaped income cannot be taxed, provided all the jurisdictional conditions and the procedural requirements of the Act are satisfied. This fundamental question is purely one of fact which ideally should be determined in proceedings relating to assessment and appeal prescribed under the Act. This Court cannot, on the facts of the present case, enter that domain.

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