Aroni Commercials Ltd vs. ACIT (Bombay High Court)
August, 13th 2014
S. 147/ 148: Writ Petition challenging lack of jurisdiction to issue s. 148 notice on the ground that it is based on ‘change of opinion’ & preconditions of s. 147 are not satisfied is maintainable
The assessee filed a Writ Petition to challenge a notice issued u/s 148 to reopen the assessment. The department relied on the judgement of the Madras High Court in JCIT vs. Kalanithi Maran and argued that a Writ Petition to challenge a notice issued u/s 148 was not maintainable. HELD by the High Court rejecting the plea:
The argument, based on JCIT vs. Kalanithi Maran, that this Court should not exercise its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and the petitioner should be left to avail of the statutory remedies available under the Act is not acceptable. The decision of the Madras High Court in Kalanithi Maran proceeded on the basis that the dispute urged before it were with regard to adjudicatory facts and not with regard to jurisdictional facts as raised in this petition.
The Madras High Court itself points out that that when an assessment sought to be reopened by an Officer who is not competent to do so or where on the face of it would appear that the reopening is barred by limitation or lacks inherent jurisdiction, the court would certainly entertain a challenge to the reopening notice in its writ jurisdiction. The Madras High Court itself drew a distinction between the adjudicating facts and jurisdictional facts. It was in the above context that challenges to the reopening notice u/s 147 and 148 of the Act was not interfered with by the Madras High Court as the challenge before it appears to have been with regard to adjudicating facts as contrasted with the jurisdictional facts raised in this case. Jurisdictional facts are those facts which gives jurisdiction to enter upon enquiry,
while adjudicatory facts come up for consideration after validly entering upon enquiry i.e. having jurisdiction. In this case, the challenge is based on lack of jurisdiction in issuing the impugned notice by the AO on the ground that the pre-condition for issuing notice u/s 147 of the Act is not satisfied i.e. notice should not be on account of the change of opinion. It is only when jurisdictional facts are satisfied will the AO acquire the authority to deal with the matter on adjudicatory facts. The decision of the Madras High Court is of no avail in the facts of the present case. It may be pointed out that there could be occasions where jurisdictional facts could itself be a matter of factual enquiry. i.e. leading of evidence and appreciation of facts. In such a case even if the challenge is with regard to jurisdictional facts, yet the Court in its discretion may not entertain the petition as it could be best left for determination before the authorities under the Act.