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HC can't condone I-T dept's delay in filing appeals
July, 16th 2009

The Bombay high court last week dismissed over 1,000 appeals filed by the Income Tax (I-T) department and ruled that it did not have the power to condone delays in filing appeals. The ruling will translate into loss of revenue to the tune of hundreds of crores to the I-T department.

Under section 260 A of the I-T Act, an order of the the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) should be challenged in the high court within 120 days. Delays in filing appeals within the prescribed time are rife--last Wednesday, around 518 matters were listed before the court for condoning delay, and another 500 matters were heard on Thursday. A division bench of Justices V C Daga and J P Devdhar held that the court did not have the jurisdiction to condone delays committed by the I-T department in filing appeals.

Advocate J D Mistry, counsel for Grasim Industries, one of the assessees, pointed to Supreme Court judgments which had held that the HC had no power to condone delays for appeals filed under the Central Excise Act (CEA). Mistry said the provisions relating to the time limits in the CEA and The I-T Act have the same meaning.

Advocate J S Saluja opposed this and contended that the provisions were different in both the Acts and the HC could condone delays. The HC, however, did not agree.

Last year, the HC, while commenting on the inordinate delay in filing of appeals by the I-T department, had observed that the attitude of the officers was "I will deal with the matter at leisure and my convenience''. One of the most common reasons was that court fees stamps were not readily available, but many times, the reasons for the delay were vague, the court had then said.

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