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2023 (3) TMI 785 - HC - Income Tax
Assessment u/s 153A - Approval for assessment - Approving Authority application of mind for giving approval u/s 153D - whether ITAT was correct in holding that the Approving Authority has not applied his mind for giving approval under Section 153D? - HELD THAT:- The mere repeating of the words of the statute, or mere “rubber stamping” of the letter seeking sanction by using similar words like ‘see’ or ‘approved’ will not satisfy the requirement of the law. This is where the Technical Manual of Office Procedure becomes important. Although, it was in the context of Section 158BG of the Act, it would equally apply to Section 153D - There are three or four requirements that are mandated therein, (i) the AO should submit the draft assessment order “well in time”. Here it was submitted just two days prior to the deadline thereby putting the approving authority under great pressure and not giving him sufficient time to apply his mind; (ii) the final approval must be in writing; (iii) The fact that approval has been obtained, should be mentioned in the body of the assessment order.
In the present case, it is an admitted position that the assessment orders are totally silent about the AO having written to the Additional CIT seeking his approval or of the Additional CIT having granted such approval. Interestingly, the assessment orders were passed on 30th December 2010 without mentioning the above fact. These two orders were therefore not in compliance with the requirement spelt out in para 9 of the Manual of Official Procedure.
The above manual is meant as a guideline to the AOs. Since it was issued by the CBDT, the powers for issuing such guidelines can be traced to Section 119 of the Act. It has been held in a series of judgments that the instructions under Section 119 of the Act are certainly binding on the Department.
The Court finds that the ITAT has correctly set out the legal position while holding that the requirement of prior approval of the superior officer before an order of assessment or reassessment is passed pursuant to a search operation is a mandatory requirement of Section 153D of the Act and that such approval is not meant to be given mechanically. The Court also concurs with the finding of the ITAT that in the present cases such approval was granted mechanically without application of mind by the Additional CIT resulting in vitiating the assessment orders themselves. - Decided in favour of assessee.