August 2, 2021 1:06:22 pm
The Delhi High Court has recalled an order directing CBI to probe whether an email that was sent to a private company by the Income tax department was genuine or not, after the authorities submitted that the communication was “triggered due to a systems error” and withdrew its allegation of perjury against the petitioner company.
“The unconditional apology offered by the respondent is accepted by this court and the allegations against the petitioner that he had had prima facie committed penal offences under Section 191, 192 and 196 of the IPC are deleted. Consequently, the order dated 16th July, 2021 directing the Central Bureau of Investigation to enquire as to whether the email dated 31st May, 2021 had been issued to the petitioner by the Tax Department is recalled,” the Division Bench of Justices Manmohan and Navin Chawla said in the judgment.
The controversy revolves around an email received by the company from “firstname.lastname@example.org” on May 31 informing it that it has been granted adjournment and time till June 14 to file reply to the notice issued under Section 142 (1) — inquiry before assessment — of the Income Tax Act. However, despite the communication, the company received an assessment order on June 2. The order was challenged before the High Court by the company on the ground that it had been granted more time and there was no occasion for the authorities to pass the order after the grant of adjournment.
However, the officials of the assistant commissioner of Income Tax Central Circle 6 claimed that the email was not sent by them and all the communications to the company by it had originated from the email id email@example.com. The department had alleged that the company had committed offences under Sections 191, 192 and 196 of the Indian Penal Code since the email produced before the court did not originate from the official email id.
Observing that the allegation pertains to a sensitive server belonging to the Union Ministry of Finance and Department of Income Tax and involves a senior official holding a sensitive post, the court, on July 17, had directed the CBI to probe and file a report within four weeks. However, the Income Tax department on July 26 filed an application seeking modification of the order.
During the hearing last week, additional solicitor general N Venkataraman admitted that the email received by the company is a genuine email from the department. Claiming that the communication was triggered due to a systems error, Venkataraman sought withdrawal of the allegation that the petitioner had committed offences. The Income Tax department officer who made the allegation also expressed his regrets and gave an undertaking to be more careful in the future.
With the department conceding that the assessment order and notice of demand were passed in violation of the principle of natural justice, the Division Bench quashed them and asked the authorities to pass a fresh assessment order in accordance with law after giving an opportunity of hearing to the petitioner company.
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