Sanjay Kumar Garg vs. ACIT (ITAT Delhi)
S. 148 notice, even if unserved, is valid & second s. 148 notice issued to meet assessee's claim of non-service, is invalid & renders assessment void
For AY 2001-02 (and other years), the AO recorded reasons for reopening of assessment on 22.9.05 and issued s. 148 notice on 23.9.05. The notice was sent through speed post and was not returned undelivered. Though the assessee appeared before the AO on several occasions and wrote letters, he claimed vide Affidavit that the s. 148 notice was not received by him. Pursuant to the assessee's claim, the AO issued another notice dated 25.9.06 u/s 148 and an assessment order u/s 143(3)/147 was passed on 24.12.2007. The assessee challenged the reassessment on the ground that (i) with respect to the s. 148 notice dated 23.9.05, the assessment order passed on 24.12.07 was time-barred and (ii) with respect to the s. 148 notice dated 25.9.06 that it could not have been issued during the pendency of the first notice. The department argued that as the assessee had claimed that he had not received the first notice dated 23.9.05, only the second notice could be considered and if so, the assessment was valid. HELD allowing the appeal:
(i) Though the assessee claimed by affidavit that he had not received the first s. 148 notice (and that formed the basis of the second 148 notice), as the first notice was sent by speed post as permitted by s. 282, it is presumed to have been duly served upon the assessee and was valid;
(ii) There is a difference between "issue" and "service". To obtain jurisdiction to assess/reassess the escaped income, the s. 148 notice has to be "issued" but need not be "served". Service is not a condition precedent to conferment of jurisdiction on the AO but a condition precedent only to the making of the order of assessment. The word "issue" means that the notice must leave the custody of the AO and as the Post Office is not the department's agent, sending it by post completes "issue". Accordingly, though the first notice was not (according to the assessee & department) served on the assessee, the AO was vested with power to assess/reassess the escaped income (R. K. Upadhyaya 166 ITR 163 (SC) & Sheo Kumari Debi 157 ITR 13 (Pat) (FB) followed);
(iii) With regard to the second notice, as the first s. 148 notice was valid and reassessment proceedings were pending, the second s. 148 notice is a 'nullity'. Unless the reassessment proceedings initiated u/s 147 are concluded & brought to a logical end, the AO cannot issue fresh notice u/s 148. This is not an "irregularity" but a "nullity" (Ranchhoddas Karsandas 26 ITR 105 (SC) & Jai Dev Jain 227 ITR 301 (Raj) followed);
(iv) The result is that the limitation period has to be reckoned with reference to the first notice dated 23.09.05 as per which the assessment order dated 24.11.07 is beyond time.
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