Madras HC sets aside order questioning effectiveness of E-Proceeding facility
Fact and Issue of the case
This appeal by the Department is directed against the order dated 04.2.2020 in W.P.No.1732 of 2020 filed by the respondent herein.
The respondent herein filed the said writ petition challenging the assessment order dated12.2019 under the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961 (for short, the Act) for the assessment year 2017-18. The said writ petition was heard and orders were reserved on the date of admission itself and the impugned order has been pronounced on 04.2.2020. The ultimate direction issued in paragraph 18 of the impugned order, at the first blush, appears to be an innocuous direction.
Observation of the court
Court has carefully perused the materials placed on record. At the outset, we need to point out that when an effective alternate remedy is available under the statute, the Writ Courts are slow in entertaining a writ petition under Article 226 of The Constitution of India thereby interdicting the procedure provided under the relevant Statute. In several decisions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, it has been pointed out that the Writ Courts seldom entertain petitions when alternate remedies are available especially in taxing statutes. Bearing this cardinal principle in mind, if we examine the case as projected by the learned counsel for the respondent herein, we find that it is a case where the respondent herein ought not to have been permitted to bypass the appeal remedy available to them under the provisions of the Act.
The E-Proceeding does not foreclose the conduct of a physical hearing, but has circumscribed four conditions, on which, such hearing shall be conducted manually. In terms of Clause 5 of the Note, the assessees, who did not have e-filing account, were requested to get themselves registered. Admittedly, the respondent herein registered themselves and returns were filed through e-portal and the response to the notice under Section 142 of the Act was sent through the e-portal. Therefore, it will be too late for the respondent herein now to state that all is not well with the E-Proceeding facility.
There is nothing placed before us to show that the respondent herein – assessee made a specific request in terms of paragraph 4 of the above Note stating that they require a physical hearing for a particular reason. In such circumstances, the sweeping observations and remarks are not called for especially when the system has been implemented and all the assessees through out the country have switched over from manual procedure to e-procedure.
The Court can take judicial notice of the fact that all recruitments conducted by various specialized recruitment agencies as well as this Court have been accepting applications from candidates only as e-copies through e-portal and it has been many years since physical applications have been done away The e-filing of such applications for recruitment to various posts in this Court as well as the District Judiciary have made the process very transparent and user friendly. When such is the present state of affairs and when all persons have equipped themselves to handle such procedure, we feel that the observations made in paragraphs 15 and 17 of the impugned order are not required.
Thus, for all the above reasons, the writ appeal is allowed and the impugned order passed in the said writ petition is set aside. All observations and findings regarding the effectiveness of the E-Governance implemented by the ITD are set aside. Likewise, the observations and findings rendered in the impugned order touching upon the merits of the assessment are also set aside. Consequently, W.P.No.1732 of 2020 is dismissed. No costs. The connected CMP is closed.
The court ruled in favour of the petitioner and disposed off the petition
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