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AAA Paper Marketing Ltd vs. ACIT (ITAT Lucknow)
June, 22nd 2017

(i) S. 153A/ 153C: When the Addl CIT records that he is granting “mechanical approval” u/s 153D to the draft assessment order for want of time to have meaningful discussion, the assessment order is bad in law and has to be annulled (ii) The Respondent is entitled to raise an objection under Rule 27 even in respect of fresh issues. It is not necessary that the ground should have been decided against the Respondent by the CIT(A)

(i) The Addl. Commissioner has showed his inability to analyze the issues of draft order on merit clearly stating that no much time is left, inasmuch as the draft order was placed before him on 31.12.2010 and the approval was granted on the very same day. Considering the factual matrix of the approval letter, we have no hesitation to hold that the approval granted by the Addl. Commissioner is devoid of any application of mind, is mechanical and without considering the materials on record. In our considered opinion, the power vested in the Joint Commissioner/Addl Commissioner to grant or not to grant approval is coupled with a duty. The Addl Commissioner/Joint Commissioner is required to apply his mind to the proposals put up to him for approval in the light of the material relied upon by the AO. The said power cannot be exercised casually and in a routine manner. We are constrained to observe that in the present case, there has been no application of mind by the Addl. Commissioner before granting the approval. Therefore, we have no hesitation to hold that the assessment order made u/s. 143(3) of the Act r.w. Sec. 153A of the Act is bad in law and deserves to be annulled.

Re Rule 27 of the ITAT Rules

(ii) A cursory look at the language of rule 27 transpires that a respondent has been empowered to support the order appealed against on any of the grounds `decided against him.’ In other words, the challenge can be made by a respondent only in respect of a `ground decided against him’. In such circumstances, a question arises that if there is no decision at all of the CIT(A) on a particular aspect, which is otherwise germane to the overall issue decided in favour of the respondent, can the respondent espouse such aspect under rule 27 in an appeal filed by the plaintiff ? If we go by the literal interpretation of the Rule, then the answer is in negative that unless the ground is not `decided against’ the respondent, he cannot take recourse to this provision. However, it is of paramount importance to keep in mind the fundamental object of enshrining rule 27, being giving an opportunity to the respondent to support the impugned order in an appeal filed by the plaintiff. A pragmatic approach on consideration of the object of such Rule, in our considered opinion, necessitates the adoption of liberal interpretation that when a particular issue is decided in favour of the respondent and the plaintiff has come up in appeal against such decision on the issue, then all the relevant aspects having bearing on the overall issue, even though not specifically decided against the plaintiff, should be open for challenge by the respondent under the rule. If the respondent is debarred from raising that aspect of the issue, which was not taken up before the first appellate authority or taken up but remained undecided, and the appeal of the plaintiff is allowed, the respondent would be rendered without remedy. It has been noticed above that a respondent is not entitled to file cross objection on such aspects of the issue u/s 253(4) of the Act, the scope of which provision is circumscribed to challenging the ultimate unfavourable conclusion drawn by the CIT(A). In common parlance, when an issue is decided in favour of one party whether on one aspect or the other, it is not expected of such a party to challenge the order by asserting that the decision should have been given in his favour on that issue on all the aspects and not on that particular aspect on which it was given. When an appeal is filed against such favourable decision on the issue by the other party, and suppose the impugned order is not sustainable on that aspect of the issue on which it was decided, but on some other aspect which was not decided by the first appellate authority and the respondent is restrained from taking up such aspect on the reasoning that Rule 27 is not applicable on such aspect, the respondent would stand nowhere. In view of the foregoing discussion, it is clear that hyper technicalities of rule 27 cannot come in the way of the deciding such aspects of the issue taken up by the respondent before the tribunal which were germane to the main issue but were not contested or decided provided no fresh investigation of facts is required for rendering decision on such aspects.

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