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Crescent Construction Co vs. ACIT (ITAT Mumbai)
June, 19th 2017

S. 147/ 148: Entire law on reopening of assessments in the context of "change of opinion" vs. "failure to apply mind", with reference to s. 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and all judgements on the point discussed

(i) The term and facets of the term “change of opinion”. The expression “change of opinion” postulates formation of opinion and then a change thereof. In the context of section 147 of the Act it implies that the Assessing Officer should have formed an opinion at the first instance, i.e., in the proceedings under section 143(3) and now by initiation of the reassessment proceeding, the Assessing Officer proposes or wants to take a different view.

(ii) The word “opinion” is derived from the latin word “opinari” which means “to believe”, “to think”. The word “opinion” as per the Black’s Law Dictionary means a statement by a judge or a court of a decision reached by him incorporating cause tried or argued before them, expounding the law as applied to the case and, detailing the reasons upon which the judgment is based. Advanced Law Lexicon by P. Ramanatha Aiyar (third edition) explains the term “opinion” to mean “something more than mere retaining of gossip or hearsay ; it means judgment or belief, that is, a belief or a conviction resulting from what one thinks on a particular question . . . An opinion is a conviction based on testimony . . . they are as a result of reading, experience and reflection”. In the context of assessment proceedings, it means formation of belief by an Assessing Officer resulting from what he thinks on a particular question. It is a result of understanding, experience and reflection to use the words in Law Lexicon by P. Ramanatha Aiyar. The question of change of opinion arise when an Assessing Officer forms an opinion and decides not to make an addition or holds that the assessee is correct and accepts his position or stand.

(iii) In Hari Iron Trading Co. v. CIT [2003] 263 ITR 437 (P&H), a Division Bench of the Hon’ble Punjab and Haryana High Court observed that an assessee has no control over the way an assessment order is drafted. It was observed that generally, the issues which are accepted by the Assessing Officer do not find mention in the assessment order and only such points are taken note of on which the assessee’s explanations are rejected and additions/disallowances are made.

(iv) Applying the principles laid down by the Full Bench of this court as well as the observations of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, we find that if the entire material had been placed by the assessee before the Assessing Officer at the time when the original assessment was made and the Assessing Officer applies his mind to that material and accepted the view canvassed by the assessee, then merely because he did express this in the assessment order, that by itself would not give him a ground to conclude that income has escaped assessment and, therefore, the assessment needed to be reopened. On the other hand, if the Assessing Officer did not apply his mind and committed a lapse, there is no reason why the assessee should be made to suffer the consequences of that lapse.

(v) Section 114 of the Evidence Act, 1872, is permissive and not a mandatory provision. Nine situations by way of illustrations are stated, which are by way of example or guidelines. As a permissive provision it enables to judge to support his judgment but there is no scope of presumption when facts are known. Presumption of facts under section 114 is rebuttable. The presumption raised under illustration (e) to section 114 of the Act means that when an official act is proved to have been done, it will be presumed to have been regularly done but it does not raise any presumption that an act was done for which there is no evidence or proof.

(vi) Section 114(e) of the Act can be applied to an assessment order framed under section 143(3) of the Act, provided that there has been a full and true disclosure of all material and primary facts at the time of original assessment. In such a case if the assessment is reopened in respect of a matter covered by the disclosure, it would amount to change of opinion.

 

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