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Recovery of tax from successor - SCN was issued before death but could not be adjudicated during his lifetime - whether an assessment proceeding under the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944, can continue against the legal representatives/estate of a sole proprietor/manufacturer after he is dead - Held that:- On a conjoint reading of these paragraphs this Court found that the machinery provisions contained in the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953, were sufficient to reassess a dissolved firm in respect of income that had escaped assessment before its dissolution. A distinction was drawn between an individual who dies and a firm that is dissolved as a device to evade tax. The Court laid great stress on the provision contained in Section 15(1) of the said Act by which the jurisdiction to assess or reassess under Section 15(1) is equated with the original jurisdiction to assess the dealer under Section 14. By this method, the Court found the continuity of the legal personality of the assessee is maintained in order to enable the assessment of turnover which has escaped assessment. The crucial difference, therefore, between Section 15(1) of the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953 and Section 11A of the Central Excises and Salt Act is that Section 11A does not contain any such provision as is contained in Section 15(1) which equates the jurisdiction to assess or reassess with the original jurisdiction to assess the dealer in the very first place. Further, this Court also construed Section 19 of the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959 which would throw light on the earlier Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953, as containing the necessary machinery provisions to assess dissolved firms in respect of escaped turnover pre-dissolution.

A reading of the ratio of the majority decision contained in Murarilal's case (1975 (9) TMI 155 - SUPREME COURT OF INDIA) would lead to the conclusion that the necessary machinery provisions were already contained in the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953 which were good enough to bring into the tax net persons who wished to evade taxes by the expedient of dissolving a partnership firm. The fact situation in the present case is entirely different. In the present case an individual proprietor has died through natural causes and it is nobody's case that he has maneuvered his own death in order to evade excise duty. - Neither of these reasons are reasons which refer to any provision of law. Apart from this, the High Court went into morality and said that the moral principle of unlawful enrichment would also apply and since the law will not permit this, the Act needs to be interpreted accordingly. - appeal must be allowed and the judgment of the High Court of Kerala is, accordingly set aside - Decided in favour of assessee.





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