Punjab and Haryana High Court: While deciding the present case challenging the press release by the Union of India dated 09-09-2015, whereby it was notified that the last date for e-filing of tax returns will not be extended beyond 30-09-2015 for the current assessment year for certain category of assessees like companies, firms and individuals engaged in proprietary business/profession etc. whose accounts are audited as per Section 44AB of the Income Tax (IT) Act, 1961, the Division Bench of A.K. Mittal and Ramendra Jain, JJ.,  directed that the last date for e- filing of returns to be extended till 31-10-2015 and appropriate notifications be issued by the CBDT in this regard as per the provisions of Section 119 of the IT Act, 1961. Further directions were given to the respondents to ensure that the forms which are to be prescribed for the audit report and for e-filing of returns should be made available on 1st April of the assessment year.

The petitioners in the present case failed to file their income tax returns on account of delay by the respondents in notifying the prescribed income tax return forms for the concerned categories of tax payers. The counsel for the petitioners, Hitesh Kaplish contended that Form Nos. 4, 5 and 6 were available to the petitioners during the month of August when it should have been available on 01-04-2015. Therefore in such circumstances the last date for filing of e-returns by 30-09-2015 is unreasonable and should be extended. The counsel for the respondents, Urvashi Dhugga, supporting the Government press release put forth that, in the current assessment year only minor modifications have occurred in Form Nos. 5, 6 and 7, thus there is no greater compliance burden on the tax payers this year as compared to the earlier years. The revenue department conceded before the Court that, since Forms 4, 5 and 6 were mandatorily required to be e-filed; no assessee in these categories could have filed their returns for the assessment year 2015-16 before 1st, 2nd and 7th of August 2015 respectively.  

The Court perused the concerned provisions of the IT Act regarding assessment and observed that the Board, under Section 119 of the IT Act, has specific powers to pass general or special orders in respect of any case or class of cases by way of relaxing any of the provisions (including Section 139) of the IT Act. The Board while exercising such powers has to consider the issue of public interest and also has to ensure the avoidance of genuine hardship in any particular case or class of cases. Further the Court observed that, since the respondent did not dispute that the Forms were not available on the very first day of the assessment year as required, and also could not furnish any satisfactory justification for not prescribing Forms 4, 5 and 6 prior to 1st, 2nd and 7th August, 2015, the plea of the department that there were only minor changes in the Forms cannot be termed as justified. Vishal Garg v.Union of India, decided on 29.09.2015

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