Rajmandir Estates Private Limited vs. Pr. CIT (Calcutta High Court)
May, 30th 2016
S. 263: Even if the AO has conducted an inquiry into the taxability of share capital receipts u/s 68, the CIT is entitled to revise u/s 263 if the AO has not applied his mind to important aspects. Law in Lovely Exports 299 ITR 268, Sophia Finance 205 ITR 98 etc does not apply as they are prior to the Money Laundering Act 2002. Qs whether receipt towards share capital is taxable pre s. 56(2)(viib) & whether proviso to s. 68 is retrospective are left open
In Subhlakshmi Vanijya Pvt. Ltd vs. CIT 155 ITD 171, Vaibhavlaxmi Financial Advisory Pvt.Ltd vs. CIT and Rajmandir Estates Pvt. Ltd vs. CIT the Tribunal upheld the exercise of revisionary powers u/s 263 by the CIT on the ground that though the AO had conducted necessary enquiries, he had not applied his mind properly to the evidence on record. The assessee filed an appeal in the High Court. The High Court had to decide the following questions of law.
(a)Whether in the light of the views expressed in the case of Lovely Exports (supra) & Steller Investment (supra) the order under Section 263 directing further investigation is legal?
(b) Is the finding of the Commissioner of Income Tax that unaccounted money was or could have been laundered as clean share capital by creating facade of paper work, routing the money through several bank accounts and getting it the seal of statutory approval by getting the case reopened under Section 147 suo motu perverse?
(c) Whether the order passed by the assessing officer under Section 143(3)/147 of the Income Tax Act is erroneous and also prejudicial to the interest of the revenue?
(d)Whether the impugned judgement of the learned Tribunal is perverse?
HELD by the High Court dismissing the appeal:
(1) The following pieces of evidence are noticeable:-
(a) 39 corporate subscribers purchased 7,92,737 shares of Rs.10 each at a premium of Rs.390/- per share. In the process the assessee company raised a paid up share capital of Rs.79.27 lakhs with a premium of Rs.31.7 crores.
(b) From the information made available by the assessee, it appears that 19 out of 39 applicants secured funds, for the purpose of contributing to the share capital of the assessee, on account of share application money. In other words, those 19 applicants collected funds on account of share application money in their respective companies and that money was contributed to the share capital of the assessee. 15 out of the 39 applicants procured the requisite fund by selling shares. The rest of the applicants of shares, in the share capital of the assessee company, did not disclose the nature of receipt at their end though the source of fund was identified. What has not been specified is, as to on what account was the money received.
(c) The forms of share application purporting to have been signed by the applicant companies have also been disclosed from which it appears that the date of allotment, number of allotment, number of shares allotted, share ledger folio, allotment register folio, application number, have all been kept blank. These particulars, Mr. Poddar, submitted should have been filled up by the assessee, but that has not been done.
(d) Another significant fact admitted by the assessee in reply to the notice to show cause under Section 263 is that the “shares were offered to, and subscribed by the closely held companies owned by the Promoters/Directors of their close relatives and friends”.
(e) From the bank statements disclosed it appears that to have the cheques issued in favour of the asseessee honoured, matching amounts were credited to the accounts of the subscribers shortly before the cheques issued in favour of the assessee were presented for collection.
(f)19 applicants of shares within a period of less than six months had money contributed to their share capital which in their turn they contributed to the share capital of the assessee. So that, the 19 companies which contributed to the share capital of the assessee in the name of assets were left merely with the share-scripts of the assessee. The other lot of 15 subscribers in substance had the share-scripts held by them substituted by the share-scripts of the assessee.
(g) Though, Mr. Poddar made extensive submissions scanning the order under Section 263 in between the lines, he did not criticize the finding of the Commissioner that “the A.O. did not examine a single Director of the assessee company or of the subscribing company” which goes to show that correctness of this assertion is not in dispute.
(2) From the aforesaid evidence the following, prima facie, inferences can safely be drawn:-
(a)The promoter/directors of the assessee and their close relatives and friends had united with the common object of creating at least 20 (19+1) companies apparently having a large capital base, but, in fact these are mere paper companies having no real worth. The transaction of sale and purchase of shares was nominal rather than real.
(b)The allegation, in response to the notice to show-cause u/s. 263 that “it bears importance to state here that the investor companies of shares were interested to subscribe shares of the assessee company as, according to them, the assessee company had prospect in future,” is a plain lie.
(c) The blank share application forms etc. tabulated above go to show that the alleged application for shares and the alleged allotment were not in the usual course of the business.
(d) In the light of the aforesaid pieces of evidence and the prima facie finding, we are emboldened to say that the three requirements: (A) identity of the share-holders; (B) genuineness of the transaction and (C) the creditworthiness of the share-holders repeatedly impressed, by Mr. Poddar, upon us, have not been satisfied. Identity of the alleged share-holders is known but the transaction was not a genuine transaction. The transaction was nominal rather than real. The creditworthiness of the alleged share holders is also not established because they did not have any money of their own. Each one of them received from somebody and that somebody received from a third person. Therefore, prima facie, the share-holders are mere name lenders.
(3) For the reasons discussed in the preceding paragraph, we are satisfied that the judgement in the case of CIT –Vs- Steller Investment (supra) has no manner of application to the facts and circumstances of this case. The question as to whether there has been a device adopted for money laundering also did not crop up for consideration in that case.
(4) The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 was not also there on the statute at that point of time. Before the appeal in Steller Investment Ltd. was dismissed by the Apex Court, the question had cropped up in the case of Sophia Finance Ltd. reported in (1994) 205 ITR 98. In the case of Sumati Dayal –Vs- CIT reported in (1995) 214 ITR 801 (SC) Their Lordships held that a capital receipt can become taxable if the explanation offered by the assessee about the nature and source thereof is not satisfactorily explained.
(5) The judgement in the case of CIT –Vs- Lovely Exports Pvt. Ltd. reported in (2008) 299 ITR 268 lends no assistance to the assessee because in that case the Division Bench reiterated that omission to make an enquiry, where such an exercise is provoked, shall render the order of the assessing officer both erroneous and prejudicial to the revenue. The Division Bench went on to hold that the revenue should not harass the assessee where “the preponderance of evidence indicates absence of culpability”. In the present case there exists reasonable suspicion if not prima facie evidence of culpability.
(6) The reasoning advanced by their Lordships in respect of an alleged revenue receipt is, according to us, equally applicable to an alleged capital receipt which, in fact, was received only in papers. The attempt of the assessee, it was apprehended in the case of Tara Devi (supra) was to assist someone else. An identical attempt is involved in this case. Who is the person sought to be assisted by the assessee? This question can only be answered after a thorough enquiry, directed by the CIT, is held. The assessee is interested in stalling that investigation on the plea that the order of the assessing officer is neither erroneous nor prejudicial to the interest of the revenue.
(7) We have indicated above the pieces of evidence which go to show that the Commissioner had reasons to entertain the belief that this was or could be a case of money laundering which went unnoticed because the assessing officer did not hold requisite investigation except for calling for the records. The evidence which we have tabulated above and the prima facie inference drawn by us is deducible from the documents also submitted before the assessing officer. The fact that the assessing officer did not apply his mind to those pieces of evidence would be evident from the assessment order itself.
(8) The persons behind the assessee company and the persons behind the subscribing companies were not interrogated which was essential to unearth the truth. Reference may also be made to the judgement of this Court in the case of CIT –Vs- Active Traders Pvt. Ltd. (supra). The question for consideration is whether in the presence of materials discussed above the Commissioner was justified in treating the assessment order erroneous and prejudicial to the interest of the revenue. That question in the facts and circumstances has to be answered in the affirmative.
(9) Whether receipt of share capital was a taxable event prior to 1st April, 2013 before introduction of Clause (VII b) to the Sub-section 2 of Section 56 of the Income Tax Act; whether the concept of arms length pricing in a domestic transaction before introduction of Section 92A and 92BA of the Income Tax Act was there at the relevant point of time are not questions which arise for determination in this case. The assessee with an authorised share capital of Rs.1.36 crores raised nearly a sum of Rs.32 crores on account of premium and chose not to go in for increase of authorised share capital merely to avoid payment of statutory fees is an important pointer necessitating investigation. Money allegedly received on account of share application can be roped in under Section 68 of the Income Tax Act if the source of the receipt is not satisfactorily established by the assessee. Reference in this regard may be made to the judgement in the case of Sumati Dayal –Vs- CIT (supra) wherein Their Lordships held that any sum “found credited in the books of the assessee for any previous year, the same may be charged to income tax….”. We are unable to accept the submission that any further investigation is futile because the money was received on capital account. The Special Bench in the case of Sophia Finance Ltd. (supra) opined that “the use of the words “any sum found credited in the books” in Section 68 indicates that the said section is very widely worded and an Income-tax Officer is not precluded from making an enquiry as to the true nature and source thereof even if the same is credited as receipt of share application money. Mere fact that the payment was received by cheque or that the applicants were companies, borne on the file of Registrar of Companies were held to be neutral facts and did not prove that the transaction was genuine as was held in the case of CIT –Vs- Nova Promoters and Finlease (P) Ltd. (supra). Similar views were expressed by this Court in the case of CIT –Vs- Precision Finance Pvt. Ltd. (supra). We need not decide in this case as to whether the proviso to Section 68 of the Income Tax Act is retrospective in nature. To that extent the question is kept open. We may however point out that the Special Bench of Delhi High Court in the case of Sophia Finance Ltd. (supra) held that “the ITO may even be justified in trying to ascertain the source of depositor”. Therefore, the submission that the source of source is not a relevant enquiry does not appear to be correct. We find no substance in the submission that the exercise of power under Section 263 by the Commissioner was an act of reactivating stale issues. In the case of Gabriel India Ltd. (supra) the CIT was unable to point out any error in the explanation furnished by the assessee. Whereas in the present case we have tabulated the evidence which was before the assessing officer which should have provoked him to make further investigation. The assessing officer did not attach any importance to that aspect of the matter as discussed above by us. The judgement in the case of Leisure Wear Exports Pvt. Ltd. (supra) relied upon by Mr. Poddar has no applicability because the evidence furnished by the assessee in this case does suggest a cover up. We also have held prima facie that neither the transaction appears to be genuine nor are the applicants of share are creditworthy. The judgement in the case of Omar Salay Mohamed Sait (supra) cited by Mr. Poddar has no application for reasons already discussed. It is not true that the Commissioner in this case has merely on the basis of suspicion held that this was or could be a case of money laundering. We as a matter of fact have discussed this issue in great detail and need not reiterate the same. The order passed by the Commissioner is by no means an act of substituting his own views to that of the assessing officer. It is true that the assessing officer had requisitioned the necessary details by his notice u/s.142(1) but he thereafter did not apply his mind thereto. The judgement in the case of J. L. Morrison (India) Ltd. has no manner of application because in that case the question essentially was whether the receipt was of a capital or revenue nature. The facts and circumstances were not in dispute. Moreover the view taken by the assessing officer was not shown nor was held by the Court to be an erroneous view. Whereas in this case we have demonstrated in some detail as to why is the order of the assessing officer erroneous and prejudicial to the revenue.
(10) The judgement in the case of Malabar Industrial Co. Ltd. (supra) and Max India Ltd. do not apply to the facts of this case for reasons already discussed by us. From the judgement of the learned Tribunal in the case of Subholaxmi, placed before us in great detail by Mr. Poddar, we find that all important issues placed for consideration by no other than Mr. Poddar himself were duly considered by the learned Tribunal.
(11) For reasons already discussed we answer the issue No. (a) and (c) in the affirmative and the issue No. (b) and (d) in the negative. In the result the appeal fails and is dismissed. It is clarified that the views expressed herein are for the purpose of disposal of this appeal and shall not preclude the statutory authority from arriving at its own conclusion in accordance with law.