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Sushila Devi Versus Commissioner of Income Tax-XII

2016 (10) TMI 930 - DELHI HIGH COURT

Release of jewellery seized in the course of search proceedings under Section 132 - Held that:- The obdurate refusal of the respondents to release the jewellery constitutes deprivation of property without lawful authority and is contrary to Article 300-A of the Constitution of India. The petition has to succeed; a direction is issued to the respondents to release the jewellery within two weeks and in that regard intimate to the petitioner the time and place where she (or her representative) can .....

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is aggrieved by the refusal - by the respondents i.e. the income tax authorities -to release the jewellery - approximately 319. 98 g, seized by them in the course of search proceedings under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (hereafter "the Act"). 2. On 10th August, 2000, the income tax authorities conducted search and seizure proceedings in respect of the petitioner's husband's premises and seized several documents and other materials. On 21st March 2001 a consequential .....

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her as it was her stridhan. The petitioner stated that her daughter too owned the jewellery. It was further stated in another letter that the jewellery was needed for religious and family occasions; the petitioner relied upon the contents of guidelines issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes to say that the retention of the jewellery was contrary to the instructions. On 29th August, 2002, the Assessing Officer (AO) completed his proceedings in respect of the petitioner's husband and dem .....

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2008, a request was made to the concerned Income Tax Officer for the release of jewellery. In the meanwhile, the petitioner's husband had approached the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT)- aggrieved by the order of the AO. The ITAT set aside the assessment order and directed the AO to conclude the proceedings de novo. 4. On 31st December, 2009, the AO once again made an order whereby the petitioner's husband was held liable for tax evasion in respect of undisclosed income to the extent .....

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jewellery belonged to her and that she had right to that moveable property. In fact it was not the income tax department which was aggrieved by the order but rather the Petitioner's husband. This led to his approaching the tribunal which set aside the assessment order for the block period. The ITAT directed the AO to conduct proceedings de novo. In these proceedings there is not of a whisper about the jewellery or the contention that it was her property rather than that of her husband. Argu .....

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e findings recorded earlier have not in effect been removed and should be given effect. It is contended that the petitioner has been not subjected to any assessment on the ground that she had concealed the valuation of jewellery or that the amounts were not her property. 6. The respondents counter affidavit - and the argument of their counsel, Shri. Manchanda, is that even though the first assessment order had virtually accepted the petitioner's contention that the property belonged to her, .....

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jewellery could be validly detained. 7. The facts are undisputed, as is evident from the above factual discussion. The search of the petitioner's husband s premises and property led to a follow-up search in Ranchi; his bank locker with the IOB too was searched. This contained the jewellery in question. Concededly, the jewellery is 398 gms and of gold. The assessee relies on circulars of 1985 and 1994 to say that when such small quantities are recovered, no follow-up action is necessary and t .....

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. Unarguably, the first round of assessment proceedings culminated in no addition of the jewellery or its value in the hands of the petitioner's husband. The matter ought to have rested there, because the further proceedings were at the behest of the petitioner's husband who was aggrieved by the additions made (and not aggrieved by the decision on issues in his favour). The ITAT's decision to proceed de novo, nevertheless strengthened the respondents' obduracy and hardened their .....

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ents do not deny this. In the circumstances, the further explanation that the jewellery belonged to her and represented accumulation of gifts received from family members over a period of time, and also acquired during the subsistence of her marriage is reasonable and logical. The nature of ownership of a woman's Stridhan is explained by the Supreme Court in its decision Pratibha Rani vs. Suraj Kumar 1985 (2) SCC 70 in the following terms: a Hindu married woman is the absolute owner of her S .....

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