Bombay High Court: Dismissing an appeal filed by Income Tax department, a bench comprising of BP Colabawalla and SC Dharmadhikari, JJ levied a penalty of Rs 1 lakh on the department and directed it to recover this from the official responsible for filing a frivolous appeal. The case related to an appeal filed by CIT against a company. Earlier the penalty imposed by IT department under Section 271(1)(c) of Income Tax Act. 1961, was dismissed. The CIT appealed against the decision of the tribunal in the High Court. The Bench after hearing Suresh Kumar, the counsel for the appellant, remarked that they were surprised if not shocked that appeals involving no substantial question of law were being brought before them and precious judicial time was being wasted. The least and minimum that was expected from the revenue officers was to accept and abide by the tribunal’s findings in such matters and when they are based on settled principles of law. The Court further noted that they do not understand why higher officials do not have the courage to take bold decisions particularly of not pursuing such matters up to this court or higher. Just because the assessee was a leading public limited company should not act as a deterrent for them to take an informed, rational decision and subserving larger public interest. The Court observed that the biggest litigant, namely, the State ought to be aware of the pendency of cases in High Courts of Bombay, Madras, Calcutta and Allahabad for example. If their policies particularly on litigations were not aimed at reducing frivolous and speculative litigations, then, the least that can be said was that the State had failed to act for public good and in public interest.

The Court found that merely expressing displeasure orally was not serving any purpose and held that it would be open for the superior/ competent authority to recover the costs personally from the officer responsible and equally take disciplinary action against him if the power to decide about filing such appeals was abused or the decision making authority was utilized to harass innocent assessees. Every case must be dealt with on its merit and no routine exercise ought to be undertaken merely because the revenue impact was higher or the status or financial position of the assessee was influential and strong, cannot be the only yardstick or criteria, the bench observed. Commissioner of Income Tax vs. Larsen and Toubro Ltd, Income Tax Appeal No. 424 of 2012, decided on July 10, 2014

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