Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of SA Bobde, CJ and AS Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has stayed the Allahabad High Court judgment issuing directions for “lockdown” in the State of Uttar Pradesh but has directed that the State Government to “immediately” report to the High Court about the steps it has taken and proposes to take in the immediate future within a period of one week in view of the current pandemic.

The Court has appointed Senior Advocate P.S. Narasimha as Amicus Curiae and has listed the matter after 2 weeks.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State had argued before the Court that the State Government has issued several directions to contain the spread of Corona Virus and are taking adequate precautions at their own and that the directions issued by the High Court vide the impugned order are as rigorous as a lockdown though the High Court has observed that “they are nowhere close to a complete lockdown”.

Yesterday, the Allahabad High Court had said that it was their constitutional duty to save innocent people from the pandemic and in order to break the chain of COVID-19 pandemic, people are to be restrained from going outside their homes for a week.

It said that,

“Those in the helm of affairs of governance are to be blamed for the present chaotic health problems and more so when there is a democracy which means a government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is a shame that while the Government knew of the magnitude of the second wave it never planned things in advance.”

While the High Court said that the directions issued by it were “nowhere close to a complete lockdown”, it remarked,

In this order if we have not imposed a lockdown it does not mean that we do not believe in it. We are still of the view that if we want to break the chain a lockdown for a duration of at least two weeks is a must.”

[State of Uttar Pradesh v. High Court of Judicature at Allahabad, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 336, order dated 20.04.2021]

For Petitioner(s): SG Tushar Mehta, AAG Garima Prashad, Adv. Rajat Nair and AOR Abhinav Agrawal

For Respondent(s): AOR Talha Abdul Rahman


“Govt. is to blame for chaos; Harsh steps necessary before pandemic spirals to engulf entire population”: All HC orders closing of all establishments (exceptions listed) till 26th April in select districts, asks Govt. to consider complete lockdown for entire State

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Dealing with an important question as to the constitutional validity of the third proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, the 3-judge bench of RF Nariman*, BR Gavai and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ has held that any order of stay shall stand vacated after the expiry of the period or periods mentioned in the Section only if the delay in disposing of the appeal is attributable to the assessee.

Section 254 (2A) of the Income Tax Act states that “In every appeal, the Appellate Tribunal, where it is possible, may hear and decide such appeal within a period of four years from the end of the financial year in which such appeal is filed under sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) of section 253”

However, the third proviso provides that “if such appeal is not so disposed of within the period allowed under the first proviso or the period or periods extended or allowed under the second proviso, which shall not, in any case, exceed three hundred and sixty-five days, the order of stay shall stand vacated after the expiry of such period or periods, even if the delay in disposing of the appeal is not attributable to the assessee.”

By a judgment dated 19.05.2015, the Delhi High Court struck down that part of the third proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act which did not permit the extension of a stay order beyond 365 days even if the assessee was not responsible for delay in hearing the appeal. The Revenue, hence, challenged the said judgment and several other judgments from various High Courts holding the same.

The Delhi High Court, in it’s judgment, held that

“Unequals have been treated equally so far as assessees who are responsible for delaying appellate proceedings and those who are not so responsible, resulting in a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”

Agreeing to the said reasoning, the Supreme Court added,

“This is a little peculiar in that the legislature itself has made the aforesaid differentiation in the second proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act, making it clear that a stay order may be extended upto a period of 365 days upon satisfaction that the delay in disposing of the appeal is not attributable to the assessee.”

It was further explained that ordinarily, the Appellate Tribunal, where possible, is to hear and decide appeals within a period of four years from the end of the financial year in which such appeal is filed. It is only when a stay of the impugned order before the Appellate Tribunal is granted, that the appeal is required to be disposed of within 365 days. So far as the disposal of an appeal by the Appellate Tribunal is concerned, this is a directory provision. However, so far as vacation of stay on expiry of the said period is concerned, this condition becomes mandatory so far as the assessee is concerned.

“The object sought to be achieved by the third proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act is without doubt the speedy disposal of appeals before the Appellate Tribunal in cases in which a stay has been granted in favour of the assessee. But such object cannot itself be discriminatory or arbitrary…”

The Court, hence, concluded:

  • Since the object of the third proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act is the automatic vacation of a stay that has been granted on the completion of 365 days, whether or not the assessee is responsible for the delay caused in hearing the appeal, such object being itself discriminatory, was held liable to be struck down as violating Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
  • Also, the said proviso would result in the automatic vacation of a stay upon the expiry of 365 days even if the Appellate Tribunal could not take up the appeal in time for no fault of the assessee.
  • Further, vacation of stay in favour of the revenue would ensue even if the revenue is itself responsible for the delay in hearing the appeal. In this sense, the said proviso is also manifestly arbitrary being a provision which is capricious, irrational and disproportionate so far as the assessee is concerned.

Hence, partially upholding the validity of the third proviso to Section 254(2A) of the Income Tax Act, the Court held that the same will now be read without the word “even” and the words “is not” after the words “delay in disposing of the appeal”. Therefore, any order of stay shall stand vacated after the expiry of the period or periods mentioned in the Section only if the delay in disposing of the appeal is attributable to the assessee.

[Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax v. Pepsi Foods Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 283, decided on  06.04.2021]

*Judgment by Justice RF Nariman

Know Thy Judge| Justice Rohinton F. Nariman

Appearances before the Court by:

For Revenue: ASG Bikarma Banerjee

For Assessees: Senior Advocate Ajay Vohra and Advocates Himanshu S. Sinha, Deepak Chopra and  Sachit Jolly


ITAT’s power to grant stay: Is the Supreme Court decision in Pepsi Foods the last word?

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Dhiraj Singh Thakur J., dismissed the petition filed under Article 104 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, and upheld the order passed by the 1st Additional District Judge.

The respondents, in this case, were owners and in possession of the land which was situated in Beli Azmat, Jammu. They agreed to alienate the land, and in furtherance of this, an agreement to sell was entered into. The petitioners contended that despite the said agreement being in force, the respondents did not execute the sale deed, as a result of which a suit for specific performance was filed.

After the order for specific performance was passed, it was challenged by one of the respondents by a suit of declaration. The previous order for specific performance was stayed till the time that the suit for declaration was adjudicated.

Rent was being paid to the respondents by the Department of Agriculture, and the petitioners argued that the same should not be paid till the time the suit for specific performance of the sale deed was settled. The 1st Additional District Judge rejected the argument on the ground that the sale deed was obtained by collusion and that there was no valid document for transfer of title to the petitioners.

Aggrieved by the order, the petitioner filed contempt proceedings, claiming that even though rent was only to be paid to respondent 1 to the extent of his share, yet the rental compensation was being distributed with regard to property. The contempt proceedings were also dismissed by the 1st Additional Judge.

In the present petition, the Court held that the order given did not suffer from any illegality, as whatever rights they claimed were as a result of the suit for specific performance, which had been stayed. Consequently, the petitioners had lost all rights to question the dispensation of rental compensation to the respondents. [Bansi Lal v. Vijay Chand Katoch,2018 SCC OnLine J&K 802, Order dated 03-11-2018]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Supreme Court of Singapore: A Single Judge Bench of Choo Han Teck, J., dismissed appeals filed against the order of the Assistant Registrar, whereby the application for stay filed by the appellants on account of an arbitration clause, was dismissed.

The main issue that arose before the Court was whether a stay should be granted in favour of three defendants (appellants) on the ground of effective case management, even though they were not parties to arbitration.

The Court observed that effective case management is not a legal principle, it is rather an administrative term used to denote the administrative functions of the courts such as placing cases in order of priority, fixing the dates for hearing, no. of days for hearing etc. Although there is a possibility of conflicting findings by the arbitrator and the Court that should not be the only ground to stop the plaintiff from proceeding against all the four defendants collectively especially when the plaintiff claims that all the four defendants had conspired to cause him harm. The order of stay was granted in favour of defendant no.1 because it was a party to the arbitration while the rest of the defendants were not.

The Court held that whatever might be the outcome of the arbitration, it will not bind the plaintiff or the three defendants in an action before the Court. Further, there was no good reason to grant a stay in favour of the three defendants, who were not even parties to the arbitration, so that they can take their seats as spectators to the arbitration proceedings. Hence, the assistant registrar had rightly rejected the application of all the other defendants apart from defendant no.1. Resultantly, the appeals filed by the appellants were dismissed by the Court. [Epoch Minerals Pte Ltd. v. Raffles Asset Management (S) Pte Ltd., [2018] SGHC 223, order dated 08-10-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of Abhay Manohar Sapre and Uday U. Lalit, JJ. allowed an appeal filed against the order of Punjab and Haryana High Court wherein the application for stay as filed by the appellants herein was rejected.

The appellants had filed a writ petition against the State in the High Court, and during the pendency of the same, application was filed for grant of ad-interim stay in relation to the subject matter of the land in question. By the order impugned, the High Court declined to grant the ad-interim stay. Against the said order, the appellants filed the instant appeal by way of special leave.

The Supreme Court, on perusing the record of the case, observed that no adequate reason was given in the order impugned for not granting stay. The reason given did not justify the rejection, having regard to the nature of the controversy involved. In short, justifiable reasons to support either grant or rejection need to be stated, keeping in view the facts and the law applicable to the controversy involved. It was not so found in the order impugned. Resultantly, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal; set aside the order impugned, and remanded the case to the High Court to decide the matter afresh. [Birwati Chaudhary v. State of Haryana,2018 SCC OnLine SC 1020, dated 20-08-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr. A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ, upholding the validity of Section 139AA of Income Tax Act, 1961 that makes the linking of Aadhaar Card to the Permanent Account Number (PAN) mandatory, said that the provision is neither discriminatory nor it offends equality clause enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution. The bench also said that Section 139AA is also not violative of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution insofar as it mandates giving of Aadhaar enrollment number for applying PAN cards in the income tax returns or notified Aadhaar enrollment number to the designated authorities.

Rejecting the contention that since enrollment under Aadhaar Act, 2016 is voluntary, it cannot be compulsory under the Income Tax Act, the Court said that in order to curb blackmoney, money laundering and tax evasion etc., if the Parliament chooses to make the provision mandatory under the Income Tax Act, the competence of the Parliament cannot be questioned on the ground that it is impermissible only because under Aadhaar Act, the provision is directory in nature. The Court also noticed that one of the main objectives of Aadhaar-PAN linkage is to de-duplicate PAN cards and to bring a situation where one person is not having more than one PAN card or a person is not able to get PAN cards in assumed/fictitious names and it is the prerogative of the Legislature to make penal provisions for violation of any law made by it.

The Court, however, clarified that the validity of the provision is upheld subject to the decision of the Constitution bench where the issue relating to Right to Privacy and data leakage due to Aadhaar-PAN linkage is under consideration. The Court said that till the said issue is decided there will be a partial stay on the operation of proviso to sub-section (2) of Section 139AA of the Act, that says that the PAN allotted to the person will be deemed to be invalid in case of failure to intimate the Aadhaar number.

Stating that the proviso to Section 139AA(2) cannot be read retrospectively, the Court said that if failure to intimate the Aadhaar number renders PAN void ab initio with the deeming provision that the PAN allotted would be invalid as if the person had not applied for allotment of PAN would have rippling effect of unsettling settled rights of the parties. It has the effect of undoing all the acts done by a person on the basis of such a PAN. It may have even the effect of incurring other penal consequences under the Act for earlier period on the ground that there was no PAN registration by a particular assessee. The Court also said that the Parliament may consider as to whether there is a need to tone down the effect of the said proviso by limiting the consequences.

As per the order of the Court, those who have already enrolled themselves under Aadhaar scheme would comply with the requirement of sub-section (2) of Section 139AA of the Act. Those who still want to enrol are free to do so. However, those assessees who are not Aadhaar card holders and do not comply with the provision of Section 139(2), their PAN cards be not treated as invalid for the time being. [Binoy Viswam v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 647, decided on 09.06.2017]