New Delhi Television Ltd vs Deputy Commissioner Of Income Tax on 3 April, 2020


Supreme Court of India

New Delhi Television Ltd vs Deputy Commissioner Of Income Tax on 3 April, 2020

Author: L. Nageswara Rao

Bench: L. Nageswara Rao, Deepak Gupta

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                                                                      REPORTABLE

                                  IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                   CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                                  CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1008 OF 2020


         NEW DELHI TELEVISION LTD.                                 …APPELLANT(S)

                                                VERSUS

         DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF
         INCOME TAX                                              …RESPONDENT(S)

                                           JUDGMENT

Deepak Gupta, J.

1. The appellant New Delhi Television Limited (hereinafter

referred to as ‘the assessee’) is an Indian company engaged in

running television channels of various kinds. It has various

foreign subsidiaries to which we shall refer in detail later on but

we are concerned mainly with the subsidiary based in the United

Kingdom (UK) named NDTV Network Plc., U.K. (hereinafter

referred to as ‘NNPLC’).

Signature Not Verified

2. The assessee submitted a return for the financial year 2007­
Digitally signed by
ASHA SUNDRIYAL
Date: 2020.04.03
15:27:12 IST
Reason:

08 i.e. assessment year 2008­09 on 29.09.2008 declaring a loss.

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This return was processed under Section 143 of the Income Tax

Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’). The case was

selected for scrutiny and notice under Section 143(2) of the Act

was issued and a notice under Section 142(1) of the Act was also

sent to the assessee. Thereafter, the case of the assessee was

taken up for consideration and final assessment order was

passed on 03.08.2012.

3. We are mainly concerned with that part of the assessment

order which relates to the issue of step­up coupon bonds

amounting to US$100 million. These bonds were issued in July,

2007 through the Bank of New York for a period of 5 years. The

case of the assesee is that NNPLC issued step­up coupon bonds

of US$ 100 million which were arranged by Jeffries International

and the funds were received by NNPLC through Bank of New

York. The assessee had agreed to furnish corporate guarantee for

this transaction. These bonds were subscribed to by various

entities to whom we shall refer to in detail at a later stage. These

bonds were to be redeemed at a premium of 7.5% after the expiry

of the period of 5 years. However, these bonds were redeemed in

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advance at a discounted price of US $74.2 million in November,

2009.

4. The assessing officer held that NNPLC had virtually no

financial worth, it had no business of the name and therefore it

could not be believed that it could have issued convertible bonds

of US$ 100 million, unless the repayment along with interest was

secured. This was secured only because of the assessee agreeing

to furnish guarantee in this regard. Though the assessee had

never actually issued such guarantee, the assessing officer was of

the view that the subsidiary of the assessee could not have raised

such a huge amount without having this assurance from the

assessee. The transaction was of such a nature that the assessee

should be required to maintain an arm’s length from its

subsidiary, meaning that it should be treated like a guarantee

issued by any corporate guarantor in favour of some other

corporate entity. The assessing officer did not doubt the validity

of the transaction but imposed guarantee fee @ rate of 4.68% by

treating it as a business transaction and added Rs. 18.72 crores

to the income of the assessee, vide order dated 03.08.2012.

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5. On 31.03.2015, the revenue sent a notice to the assessee

wherein it was stated that the authority has reason to believe

that net income chargeable to tax for the assessment year 2008­

09 had escaped assessment within the meaning of Section 148 of

the Act. This notice did not give any reasons. The assessee then

asked for reasons and thereafter on 04.08.2015 reasons were

supplied. The main reason given was that in the following

assessment year i.e. assessment year 2009­10, the assessing

officer had proposed a substantial addition of Rs.642 crores to

the account of the assessee on account of monies raised by the

assessee through its subsidiaries NDTV BV, The Netherlands,

NDTV Networks BV, The Netherlands (NNBV), NDTV Networks

International Holdings BV, The Netherlands (NNIH) and NNPLC.

The assessee had raised its objection before the Dispute

Resolution Panel (DRP) which came to the conclusion that all

these transactions with the subsidiary companies in Netherlands

were sham and bogus transactions and that these transactions

were done with a view to get the undisclosed income, for which

tax had not been paid, back to India by this circuitous round

tripping.

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6. The assessing officer relies upon the order of the DRP

holding that there is reason to believe that funds received by

NNPLC were actually the funds of the assessee. It was specified

that NNPLC had a capital of only Rs.40 lakhs. It did not have

any business activities in the United Kingdom except a postal

address. Therefore, it appeared to the assessing officer that it

was unnatural for anyone to make such a huge investment of

$100 million in a virtually non­functioning company and

thereafter get back only 72% of their original investment.

According to the assessing officer “The natural inference could be

that it was NDTV’s own funds introduced in NNPLC in the grab of

the impugned bonds.” The details of the investors are given in

this communication giving reasons. Mention has also been made

of complaints received from a minority shareholder in which it is

alleged that the money introduced in NNPLC was shifted to

another subsidiary of the assessee in Mauritius from where it

was taken to a subsidiary of the assessee in Mumbai and finally

to the assessee. NNPLC itself was placed under liquidation on

28.03.2011. Therefore, the assessing officer was of the opinion

that there were reasons to believe that the funds received by

NNPLC were the funds of the assessee under a sham transaction

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and that the amount of Rs.405.09 crores introduced into the

books of NNPLC during the financial year 2007­08 corresponding

to the assessment year 2008­09 through the transaction

involving the step­up coupon convertible bonds pertains to the

assessee. The last portion of the communication dt. 04.08.2015

giving reasons to the assessee reads as follows:­

“7. In view of the above facts and circumstances of the case
and considering the findings of the DRP holding the funds
received by NNPLC as the funds of the assessee New Delhi
Television Limited under sham transactions, there is a reason
to believe that the funds amounting to Rs.405.09 crores
introduced into the books of NNPLC during the FY 2007­08 in
the form of Step Up Coupon Bonds pertain to the assessee
New Delhi Television Limited only. I have therefore reason to
believe that the income of the assessee New Delhi Television
Limited for AY 2008­09 amounting to at least Rs.405.09 crores
has escaped assessment. It is also recorded that the
escapement is due to failure on the part of the assessee to
disclose fully and truly all facts material for assessment.”

7. The assessee filed reply to the notice and reasons given, and

claimed that there had been no failure on the part of the assessee

to disclose fully and truly all material facts necessary to make an

assessment. Assessee also claimed that the proceedings had

been initiated on a mere change of opinion and there was no

reason to believe. The assessee also claimed that the transaction

of step­up bonds was a legal and valid transaction. In addition,

it was claimed that the assessing officer had no valid reasons to

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believe that the income of the assessee had escaped assessment.

According to the assessee the assessment officer had accepted

the genuineness of the transaction wherein NNPLC, the

subsidiary, had issued convertible bonds which had been

subscribed by many entities. It was urged that the assessing

officer had treated the transaction to be genuine by levying

guarantee fees and adding it back to the income of the assessee.

In the alternative, it was submitted that the notice had been

issued beyond the period of limitation of 4 years. According to

the assessee it had not withheld any material facts and,

therefore, limitation of 6 years as applicable to the first proviso to

Section 147 would not apply.

8. The assessing officer did not accept these objections. The

claim of the assessee was disposed of by the assessing officer vide

order dated 23.11.2015 wherein the assessing officer held that

there was non­disclosure of material facts by the assessee and

the notice would be within limitation since NNPLC was a foreign

entity and admittedly a subsidiary of the assessee and the

income was being derived through this foreign entity. Hence, the

case of the assessee would fall within the 2 nd proviso of Section

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147 of the Act and the extended period of 16 years would be

applicable. The objections were accordingly rejected.

9. Aggrieved, the petitioner filed a writ petition in the High

Court challenging the notice. The writ petition was dismissed on

10.08.2017. Against this the assessee has filed the present

Appeal.

10. We have heard Shri Arvind P. Datar, learned senior counsel

for the assessee, Shri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General

and Shri Zoheb Hossain, learned counsel appearing for the

revenue.

11. In our opinion, the following issues arise for consideration

in this case:­

(i) Whether in the facts and circumstances of the case, it

can be said that the revenue had a valid reason to

believe that undisclosed income had escaped

assessment?

(ii) Whether the assessee did not disclose fully and truly

all material facts during the course of original

assessment which led to the finalisation of the

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assessment order and undisclosed income escaping

detection?

(iii) Whether the notice dated 31.03.2015 along with

reasons communicated on 04.08.2015 could be termed

to be a notice invoking the provisions of the second

proviso to Section 147 of the Act?

12. At the outset we may note that it has been strenuously

urged on behalf of the assessee that its assessment was done

under scrutiny procedure and a very detailed procedure was

followed during the original assessment proceedings and all

aspects of the case were noted by the assessing officer. That may

be true, but merely the fact that the original assessment is a

detailed one, cannot take away the powers of the assessing officer

to issue notice under Section 147 of the Act.

Question No.1

13. We would like to make it clear that we are not going into the

merits of the allegations made against the assessee. At this stage

we are only required to decide whether the revenue has sufficient

reasons to believe that undisclosed income of the asseessee has

escaped assessment and therefore there are grounds to issue

notice. Obviously, during the assessment proceedings the

assessee will have the right to place material on record to show

that the transaction in question was a genuine transaction.

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14. It is trite law that an assessing officer can only re­open an

assessment if he has ‘reason to believe’ that undisclosed income

has escaped assessment. Mere change of opinion of the

assessing officer is not a sufficient to meet the standard of

‘reason to believe’. Relevant portion of Section 147 reads as

follows:­

147. Income escaping assessment.­If the Assessing
Officer, has reason to believe that any income chargeable to
tax has escaped assessment for any assessment year, he may,
subject to the provisions of sections 148 to 153, assess or
reassess such income and also any other income chargeable to
tax which has escaped assessment and which comes to his
notice subsequently in the course of the proceedings under
this section, or recompute the loss or the depreciation
allowance or any other allowance, as the case may be, for the
assessment year concerned (hereafter in this section and in
sections 148 to 153 referred to as the relevant assessment
year):

Provided that where an assessment under sub­section (3) of
section 143 or this section has been made for the relevant
assessment year, no action shall be taken under this section
after the expiry of four years from the end of the relevant
assessment year, unless any income chargeable to tax has
escaped assessment for such assessment year by reason of the
failure on the part of the assessee to make a return under
section 139 or in response to a notice issued under sub­
section (1) of section 142 or section 148 or to disclose fully and
truly all material facts necessary for his assessment for that
assessment year:

Provided further that nothing contained in the first proviso
shall apply in a case where any income in relation to any asset
(including financial interest in any entity) located outside
India, chargeable to tax, has escaped assessment for any
assessment year:

Provided also that the Assessing Officer may assess or
reassess such income, other than the income involving matters
which are the subject­matter of any appeal, reference or
revision, which is chargeable to tax and has escaped
assessment.

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Explanation 1.—Production before the Assessing Officer of
account books or other evidence from which material evidence
could, with due diligence, have been discovered by the
Assessing Officer will not necessarily amount to disclosure
within the meaning of the foregoing proviso.
Explanation 2.—For the purposes of this section, the following
shall also be deemed to be cases where income chargeable to
tax has escaped assessment, namely :—

(a) where no return of income has been furnished by the
assessee although his total income or the total income
of any other person in respect of which he is
assessable under this Act during the previous year
exceeded the maximum amount which is not
chargeable to income­tax;

(b) where a return of income has been furnished by the
assessee but no assessment has been made and it is
noticed by the Assessing Officer that the assessee has
understated the income or has claimed excessive loss,
deduction, allowance or relief in the return;
(ba) where the assessee has failed to furnish a report in
respect of any international transaction which he was
so required under section 92E;

(c) where an assessment has been made, but—

(i) income chargeable to tax has been underassessed;
or

(ii) such income has been assessed at too low a rate;
or

(iii) such income has been made the subject of
excessive relief under this Act; or

(iv) excessive loss or depreciation allowance or any
other allowance under this Act has been computed.
(ca) where a return of income has not been furnished by
the assessee or a return of income has been furnished
by him and on the basis of information or document
received from the prescribed income­tax authority,
under sub­section (2) of section 133C, it is noticed by
the Assessing Officer that the income of the assessee
exceeds the maximum amount not chargeable to tax,
or as the case may be, the assessee has understated
the income or has claimed excessive loss, deduction,
allowance or relief in the return;

(d) where a person is found to have any asset (including
financial interest in any entity) located outside India.

xxx xxx xxx

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15. The case of the assessee is that the transaction of step­up

coupon bonds was scrutinised in great detail by the assessing

officer before he passed the order of assessment dated

03.08.2012. According to the assessee there is an attempt on

behalf of the revenue to deliberately mix­up the transactions

relating to the Netherlands subsidiary with the U.K. subsidiary.

According to the assessee the order of the DRP for the

assessment year 2009­10 is in two distinct compartments. While

the DRP held the Netherlands’ transactions of Rs.642 crores to be

a sham, the transaction of issuance of US$ 100 million

convertible bonds was not questioned. Therefore, according to

the assessee there was no fresh material before the assessing

officer to have reason to believe that the undisclosed income of

the assessee had escaped assessment.

16. On behalf of the assessee it has been urged that once the

transaction of step­up coupon bonds has been accepted to be

correct, then the revenue cannot re­open the same and doubt the

genuiness of the transaction. We are not in agreement with the

first part of the submission but we make it clear that we are not

commenting on the genuineness of the transaction, which will be

considered by the concerned assessing officer.

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17. On the other hand, on behalf of the revenue it is submitted

that at the stage of issue of show cause notice the revenue only

has to establish a tentative and prima facie view. At this stage,

this Court is not expected to go into the merits of the case but

can only ascertain whether the revenue has prima facie ground to

show that it had reasons to believe that income has escaped

assessment. It is further submitted that the scope of judicial

review in such matters is very limited. It is also submitted that

since the revenue discovered fresh tangible material subsequent

to the assessment order of 03.08.2012, it cannot be said that the

assessing officer did not have reasons to believe that income had

escaped assessment.

18. The main issue is whether there was sufficient material

before the assessing officer to take a prima facie view that income

of the assessee had escaped assessment. The original order of

assessment was passed on 03.08.2012. It was thereafter on

31.12.2013 that the DRP in the case of AY 2009­10 raised doubts

with regard to the corporate structure of the assessee and its

subsidiaries. It was noted in the order of the DRP that certain

shares of NNPLC had been acquired by Universal Studios

International B.V., Netherlands, indirectly by subscribing to the

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shares of NNIH. As already noted above it was recorded in the

reasons communicated on 04.08.2015 that NNPLC was not

having any business activity in London. It had no fixed assets

and was not even paying rent. Other than the fact that NNPLC

was incorporated in the U.K., it had no other commercial

business there. NNPLC had declared a loss of Rs.8.34 crores for

the relevant year. It was also noticed from the order of the

assessing officer that the assessee is the parent company of

NNPLC and it is the dictates of the assessee which are important

for running NNPLC.

19. Pursuant to the directions of the DRP, the assessing officer

passed the final assessment order for AY 2009­10 on 21.02.2014

which also disclosed similar facts.

20. According to the revenue Tax Evasion Petitions were filed by

the minority shareholders of the assessee company on various

dates, i.e., 11.03.2014, 25.07.2014, 13.10.2014 and 11.03.2015,

which complaints describe in detail the communication between

the assessee and the subsidiaries and also allegedly showed

evidence of round tripping of the assessee’s undisclosed income

through a layer of subsidiaries which led to the issuance of the

notice in question.

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21. Whether the facts which came to the knowledge of the

assessment officer after the assessment proceedings for the

relevant year were completed, could be taken into consideration

for coming to the conclusion that there were reasons to believe

that income had escaped assessment is the question that

requires to be answered. Though a number of judgments have

been cited in this behalf, we shall make reference to only a few.

In Claggett Brachi Co. Ltd., London vs. Commissioner of

Income Tax, Andhra Pradesh1, this Court held as follows:­

“7. Two points have been urged before us by learned
counsel for the assessee. It is contended that the Income Tax
Officer has no jurisdiction to take proceedings under Sections
147
and 148 of the Income Tax Act because the conditions
prerequisite for making the reassessments were not satisfied.
The re­assessments were made with reference to clause (b) of
Section 147 of the Act, and apparently the Income Tax Officer
proceeded on the basis that in consequence of information in
his possession he had reason to believe that income
chargeable to tax had escaped assessment for the two
assessment years. From the material before us it appears that
the Income Tax Officer came to realise that income had
escaped assessment for the two assessment years when he
was in the process of making assessment for a subsequent
assessment year. While making that assessment he came to
know from the documents pertaining to that assessment that
the overhead expenses related to the entire business including
the business as commission agents and were not confined to
the business of purchase and sale. It is true, as the High Court
has observed, that this information could have been acquired
by the Income Tax Officer if he had exercised due diligence at
the time of the original assessment itself. It does not appear,
however, that the attention of the Income Tax Officer was
directed by anything before him to the fact that the overhead
expenses related to the entire business. The information
derived by the Income Tax Officer evidently came into his
possession when taking assessment proceedings for the
1 1989 Supp(2) SCC 182

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subsequent year. In the circumstances, it cannot be doubted
that the case falls within the terms of clause (b) of Section 147
of the Act, and that, therefore, the High Court is right in
holding against the assessee.”

In M/s Phool Chand Bajrang Lal and Another vs. Income

Tax Officer and Another2, this Court held as follows:­

“19…Acquiring fresh information, specific in nature and
reliable in character, relating to the concluded assessment
which goes to expose the falsity of the statement made by the
assessee at the time of original assessment is different from
drawing a fresh inference from the same facts and material
which was available with the ITO at the time of original
assessment proceedings. The two situations are distinct and
different. Thus, where the transaction itself on the basis of
subsequent information, is found to be a bogus transaction,
the mere disclosure of that transaction at the time of original
assessment proceedings, cannot be said to be disclosure of the
“true” and “full” facts in the case and the ITO would have the
jurisdiction to reopen the concluded assessment in such a
case. It is correct that the assessing authority could have
deferred the completion of the original assessment proceedings
for further enquiry and investigation into the genuineness to
the loan transaction but in our opinion his failure to do so and
complete the original assessment proceedings would not take
away his jurisdiction to act under Section 147 of the Act, on
receipt of the information subsequently. The subsequent
information on the basis of which the ITO acquired reasons to
believe that income chargeable to tax had escaped assessment
on account of the omission of the assessee to make a full and
true disclosure of the primary facts was relevant, reliable and
specific. It was not at all vague or non­specific.”

In Ess Kay Engineering Co.(P) Ltd. vs. Commissioner of

Income Tax, Amritsar3, this Court held as follows:­

“This is a case of reopening. We have perused the
documents. We find there was material on the basis of which
the Income Tax Officer could proceed to reopen the case. It is
not a case of mere change of opinion. We are not inclined to
interfere with the decision of the High Court merely because
the case of the assessee was accepted as correct in the original

2 (1993) 4 SCC 77
3 (2001) 10 SCC 189

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assessment for this assessment year. It does not preclude the
Income Tax Officer from reopening the assessment of an
earlier year on the basis of his findings of fact made on the
basis of fresh materials in course of assessment of the next
assessment year. The appeal is dismissed. No order as to
costs.”

22. A perusal of the aforesaid judgments clearly shows that

subsequent facts which come to the knowledge of the assessing

officer can be taken into account to decide whether the

assessment proceedings should be re­opened or not. Information

which comes to the notice of the assessing officer during

proceedings for subsequent assessment years can definitely form

tangible material to invoke powers vested with the assessing

officer under Section 147 of the Act.

23. The material disclosed in the assessment proceedings for

the subsequent years as well as the material placed on record by

the minority shareholders form the basis for taking action under

Section 147 of the Act. At the stage of issuance of notice, the

assessing officer is to only form a prima facie view. In our opinion

the material disclosed in assessment proceedings for subsequent

years was sufficient to form such a view. We accordingly hold

that there were reasons to believe that income had escaped

assessment in this case. Question No.1 is answered accordingly.
Question No.2

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24. Coming to the second question as to whether there was

failure on the part of the assessee to make a full and true

disclosure of all the relevant facts. The case of the assessee is

that it had disclosed all facts which were required to be disclosed.

25. The revenue has placed reliance on certain complaints made

by the minority shareholders and it is alleged that those

complaints reveal that the assessee was indulging in round­

tripping of its funds. According to the revenue the material

disclosed in these complaints clearly shows that the assessee is

guilty of creating a network of shell companies with a view to

transfer its un­taxed income in India to entities abroad and then

bring it back to India thereby avoiding taxation. We make it clear

that we are not going into this aspect of the matter because those

complaints have not seen light of the day either before the High

Court or this Court and, therefore, it would be unfair to the

assessee if we rely upon such material which the assessee has

not been confronted with.

26. Even before the assessment order was passed on

03.08.2012, the assessing officer was aware of the entities which

had subscribed to the convertible bonds. This is apparent from

the communication dated 08.04.2011. The case of the revenue is

that the assessee did not disclose the amount subscribed by each

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of the entities and furthermore the management structure of

these companies. We are not in agreement with this submission

of the revenue. It is apparent from the records of the case that

the revenue was aware of the entities which subscribed to the

convertible bonds. It has been urged that these are bogus

companies, but we are not concerned with that at this stage. The

issue before us is whether the revenue can take the benefit of the

extended period of limitation of 6 years for initiating proceedings

under the first proviso Section 147 of the Act. This can only be

done if the revenue can show that the assessee had failed to

disclose fully and truly all material facts necessary for its

assessment. The assessee, in our view had disclosed all the facts

it was bound to disclose. If the revenue wanted to investigate the

matter further at that stage it could have easily directed the

assessee to furnish more facts.

27. The High Court held that there was no “true and fair

disclosure” in view of the law laid down by this Court in Phool

Chand’s case (supra), and the judgment of the Delhi High Court

in Honda Siel Power Products Limited vs. Deputy

Commissioner Income­Tax and Another4. We have already
4 (2012) 340 ITR 53 (Delhi)

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referred to the judgment in Phool Chand’s case (supra), wherein

it was held that where the transaction of a particular assessment

year is found to be a bogus transaction, the disclosures made

could not be said to be all “true” and “full”. Relying upon the

said judgment the High Court held that merely because the

transaction of convertible bonds was disclosed at the time of

original assessment does not mean that there is true and full

disclosure of facts.

28. We are unable to agree with this reasoning given by the

High Court. The assessee as mentioned above made a disclosure

about having agreed to stand guarantee for the transaction by

NNPLC and it had also disclosed the factum of the issuance of

convertible bonds and their redemption. The income, if any,

arose because of the redemption at a discounted price. This was

an event which took place subsequent to the assessment year in

question though it may be income for the assessment year. As

we have observed above, all relevant facts were duly within the

knowledge of the assessing officer. The assessing officer knew

who were the entities who had subscribed to other convertible

bonds and in other proceedings relating to the subsidiaries the

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same assessing officer had knowledge of addresses and the

consideration paid by each of the bondholders as is apparent

from assessment orders dated 03.08.2012 passed in the cases of

M/s. NDTV Labs Ltd. and M/s. NDTV Lifestyle Ltd. Therefore, in

our opinion there was full and true disclosure of all material facts

necessary for its assessment by the assessee.

29. The fact that step­up coupon bonds for US$ 100 million

were issued by NNPLC was disclosed; who were the entities which

subscribed to the bonds was disclosed; and the fact that the

bonds were discounted at a lower rate was also disclosed before

the assessment was finalised. This transaction was accepted by

the assessing officer and it was clearly held that the assessee was

only liable to receive a guarantee fees on the same which was

added to its income. Without saying anything further on merits

of the transaction we are of the view that it cannot be said that

the assessee had withheld any material information from the

revenue.

30. According to the revenue the assessee to avoid detection of

the actual source of funds of its subsidiaries did not disclose the

details of the subsidiaries in its final accounts, balance sheets,

and profit and loss account for the relevant period as was

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mandatory under the provisions of the Indian Companies Act,

1956. It is not disputed that the assessee had obtained an

exemption from the competent authority under the Companies

Act, 1956 from providing such details in its final accounts,

balance sheets, etc. As such it cannot be said that the assessee

was bound to disclose this to the Assessing Officer. The

Assessing Officer before finalising the assessment of 03.08.2012

had never asked the assessee to furnish the details.

31. The revenue now has come up with the plea that certain

documents were not supplied but according to us all these

documents cannot be said to be documents which the assessee

was bound to disclose at the time of assessment. The main

ground raised by the revenue is that the assessee did not disclose

as to who had subscribed what amount and what was its

relationship with the assessee. As far as the first part is

concerned it does not appear to be correct. There is material on

record to show that on 08.04.2011 NNPLC had sent a

communication to the Deputy Director of Income Tax

(Investigation), wherein it had not only disclosed the names of all

the bond holders but also their addresses; number of bonds

along with the total consideration received. This chart forms part

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of the assessment orders dated 03.08.2012 in the case of M/s.

NDTV Labs Ltd. and M/s. NDTV Lifestyle Ltd. The said two

assessment orders were passed by the same officer who had

passed the assessment order in the case of the assessee on the

same date itself. Therefore, the entire material was available with

the revenue.

32. A number of decisions have been cited as to what is meant

by true and full disclosure. It is not necessary to multiply

decisions, as law in this regard has been succinctly laid down by

a Constitution Bench of this Court in Calcutta Discount Co.

Ltd. vs. Income­tax Officer, Companies District I, Calcutta

and Another5 , wherein it was held as follows :­

“(8)…The words used are “omission or failure to disclose fully
and truly all material facts necessary for his assessment for
that year”. It postulates a duty on every assessee to disclose
fully and truly all material facts necessary for his assessment.
What facts are material, and necessary for assessment will
differ from case to case. In every assessment proceeding, the
assessing authority will, for the purpose of computing or
determining the proper tax due from an assessee, require to
know all the facts which help him in coming to the correct
conclusion. From the primary facts in his possession, whether
on disclosure by the assessee, or discovered by him on the
basis of the facts disclosed, or otherwise — the assessing
authority has to draw inferences as regards certain other facts;
and ultimately, from the primary facts and the further facts
inferred from them, the authority has to draw the proper legal
inferences, and ascertain on a correct interpretation of the
taxing enactment, the proper tax leviable. Thus, when a
question arises whether certain income received by an

5 AIR 1961 SC 372

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assessee is capital receipt, or revenue receipt, the assessing
authority has to find out what primary facts have been proved,
what other facts can be inferred from them, and taking all
these together, to decide what the legal inference should be.
(9) There can be no doubt that the duty of disclosing all the
primary facts relevant to the decision of the question before
the assessing authority lies on the assessee. To meet a
possible contention that when some account books or other
evidence has been produced, there is no duty on the assessee
to disclose further facts, which on due diligence, the Income­
tax Officer might have discovered, the Legislature has put in
the Explanation, which has been set out above. In view of the
Explanation, it will not be open to the assessee to say, for
example — “I have produced the account books and the
documents: You, the assessing officer examine them, and find
out the facts necessary for your purpose: My duty is done with
disclosing these account­books and the documents.” His
omission to bring to the assessing authority’s attention these
particular items in the account books, or the particular
portions of the documents, which are relevant, will amount to
“omission to disclose fully and truly all material facts
necessary for his assessment.” Nor will he be able to contend
successfully that by disclosing certain evidence, he should be
deemed to have disclosed other evidence, which might have
been discovered by the assessing authority if he had pursued
investigation on the basis of what has been disclosed. The
Explanation to the section, gives a quietus to all such
contentions; and the position remains that so far as primary
facts are concerned, it is the assessee’s duty to disclose all of
them — including particular entries in account books,
particular portions of documents and documents, and other
evidence, which could have been discovered by the assessing
authority, from the documents and other evidence disclosed.
(10) Does the duty however extend beyond the full and
truthful disclosure of all primary facts? In our opinion, the
answer to this question must be in the negative. Once all the
primary facts are before the assessing authority, he requires
no further assistance by way of disclosure. It is for him to
decide what inferences of facts can be reasonably drawn and
what legal inferences have ultimately to be drawn. It is not for
somebody else — far less the assessee — to tell the assessing
authority what inferences — whether of facts or law should be
drawn. Indeed, when it is remembered that people often differ
as regards what inferences should be drawn from given facts,
it will be meaningless to demand that the assessee must
disclose what inferences — whether of facts or law — he
would draw from the primary facts.

(11) If from primary facts more inferences than one could
be drawn, it would not be possible to say that the assessee
should have drawn any particular inference and
communicated it to the assessing authority. How could an

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assessee be charged with failure to communicate an inference,
which he might or might not have drawn?”

A careful analysis of this judgment indicates that the Constitution

Bench held that it is the duty of the assessee to disclose full and

truly all material facts which it termed as primary facts. Non­

disclosure of other facts which may be termed as secondary facts is

not necessary. In light of the above law, we shall deal with the facts

of the present case.

33. In our view the assessee disclosed all the primary facts

necessary for assessment of its case to the assessing officer.

What the revenue urges is that the assessee did not make a full

and true disclosure of certain other facts. We are of the view that

the assessee had disclosed all primary facts before the assessing

officer and it was not required to give any further assistance to

the assessing officer by disclosure of other facts. It was for the

assessing officer at this stage to decide what inference should be

drawn from the facts of the case. In the present case the

assessing officer on the basis of the facts disclosed to him did not

doubt the genuiness of the transaction set up by the assessee.

This the assessing officer could have done even at that stage on

the basis of the facts which he already knew. The other facts

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relied upon by the revenue are the proceedings before the DRP

and facts subsequent to the assessment order, and we have

already dealt with the same while deciding Issue No.1. However,

that cannot lead to the conclusion that there is non­disclosure of

true and material facts by the assessee.

34. It is interesting to note that whereas before this Court the

revenue is strenuously urging that the assessee is guilty of non­

disclosure of material facts, before the High Court the case of the

revenue was just opposite. We may quote a portion of the

counter­affidavit filed by the revenue in response to the writ

petition filed by the assessee before the High Court which reads

as follows:­
“…It is evident from these facts that second proviso to
Section 147 is clearly attracted in this case and first proviso to
Section 147 is not applicable to facts of this case, i.e. in this
case, the only requirement to reopen assessment U/s 147 was
that the AO has reason to believe that any income chargeable
to tax has escaped assessment. The second condition that the
income should have escaped assessment due to failure on the
part of the assessee to disclose fully and truly all material facts
necessary for making assessment is not relevant to decide
issue before the Hon’ble Court”

This submission has been repeated a number of times in the

counter­affidavit. Therefore, in our opinion the revenue cannot

now turn around and urge that the assessee is guilty of non­

disclosure of facts. We are also of the view that the revenue could

not be permitted to blow hot and cold at the same time.

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35. We are clearly of the view that the revenue in view of its

counter­affidavit before the High Court that it was not relying

upon the non­disclosure of facts by the assessee could not have

been permitted to orally urge the same. Even otherwise we find

that the assessee had fully and truly disclosed all material facts

necessary for its assessment and, therefore, the revenue cannot

take benefit of the extended period of limitation of 6 years. We

answer Question No.2 accordingly.

Question No.3

36. It is urged before this Court by the revenue that in terms of

second proviso to Section 147 of the Act read with Section 149(1)

(c) of the Act, the limitation period would be 16 years since the

assessee has derived income from a foreign entity. We may make

specific reference to the second proviso and explanation 2(d)

which reads as follows:­
Provided further that nothing contained in the first
proviso shall apply in a case where any income in relation to
any asset (including financial interest in any entity) located
outside India, chargeable to tax, has escaped assessment for
any assessment year:

xxx xxx xxx

Explanation 2.—For the purposes of this section, the
following shall also be deemed to be cases where income
chargeable to tax has escaped assessment, namely :—
xxx xxx xxx

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(d) where a person is found to have any asset
(including financial interest in any entity) located outside
India.

xxx xxx xxx

37. On behalf of the assessee it has been urged that no income

was derived from the foreign entity and a loan cannot be termed

to be an asset or an income and it is submitted that the notice

cannot be said to have been issued under the second proviso.

38. In this regard we may make reference to the notice dated

31.03.2015. The notice is conspicuously silent with regard to the

second proviso. It does not rely upon the second proviso and

basically relies on the provision of Section 148 of the Act. The

reasons communicated to the assessee on 04.08.2015 mention

‘reason to believe’ and non­disclosure of material facts by the

assessee. There is no case set up in relation to the second

proviso either in the notice or even in the reasons supplied on

04.08.2015 with regard to the notice. It is only while rejecting

the objections of the assessee that reference has been made to

the second proviso in the order of disposal of objections dated

23.11.2015.

39. The High Court relied upon the judgment in Mohinder

Singh Gill & Anr. vs. The Chief Election Commissioner,

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New Delhi & Ors.6 and came to the conclusion that the

revenue cannot rely upon the second proviso because the notice

was silent in this regard. However, the High Court held that the

assessee was guilty of non­disclosure of material facts. We have

already held that in our view the assessee was not guilty of non­

disclosure of material facts. The revenue has not challenged the

judgment of the High Court in so far as this finding against it is

concerned but the revenue is entitled to defend the petition even

on a ground which may have been decided against it by the High

Court.

40. On behalf of the revenue it is urged that mere non­naming

of the second proviso in the notice does not help the assessee. It

has been urged that even if the source of power to issue notice

has been wrongly mentioned, but all relevant facts were

mentioned, then the notice can be said to be a notice under the

provision which empowers the revenue to issue such notice.

There can be no quarrel with this proposition of law. However,

the noticee or the assesee should not be prejudiced or be taken

by surprise. The uncontroverted fact is that in the notice dated

31.03.2015 there is no mention of any foreign entity. There is

only mention of the Section 148. Even after the assessee
6 (1978) 2 SCR 272

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specifically asked for reasons, the revenue only relied upon facts

to show that there was reason to believe that income has escaped

assessment and this escapement was due to the non­disclosure

of material facts. There is nothing in the reasons to indicate that

the revenue was intending to apply the extended period of 16

years. It is only after the assessee filed its reply to the reasons

given, that in the order of rejection for the first time reference was

made to the second proviso by the revenue.

41. In our view this is not a fair or proper procedure. If not in

the first notice, at least at the time of furnishing the reasons the

assessee should have been informed that the revenue relied upon

the second proviso. The assessee must be put to notice of all the

provisions on which the revenue relies upon. At the risk of

repetition, we reiterate that we are not going into the merits of

the case but in case the revenue had issued a notice to the

assessee stating that it relies upon the second proviso, the

assessee would have had a chance to show that it was not

deriving any income from any foreign asset or financial interest in

any foreign entity, or that the asset did not belong to it or any

other ground which may be available. The assessee cannot be

deprived of this chance while replying to the notice.

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42. Therefore, even if we do not fall back on the reason given by

the High Court that the revenue cannot take a fresh ground, we

are clearly of the view that the notice and reasons given

thereafter do not conform to the principles of natural justice and

the assessee did not get a proper and adequate opportunity to

reply to the allegations which are now being relied upon by the

revenue.

43. If the revenue is to rely upon the second proviso and wanted

to urge that the limitation of 16 years would apply, then in our

opinion in the notice or at least in the reasons in support of the

notice, the assessee should have been put to notice that the

revenue relies upon the second proviso. The assessee could not

be taken by surprise at the stage of rejection of its objections or

at the stage of proceedings before the High Court that the notice

is to be treated as a notice invoking provisions of the second

proviso of Section 147 of the Act. Accordingly, we answer the

third question by holding that the notice issued to the assessee

and the supporting reasons did not invoke provisions of the

second proviso of Section 147 of the Act and therefore at this

stage the revenue cannot be permitted to take benefit of the

second proviso.

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Conclusion

44. We accordingly allow the appeal by holding that the notice

issued to the assessee shows sufficient reasons to believe on the

part of the assessing officer to reopen the assessment but since

the revenue has failed to show non­disclosure of facts the notice

having been issued after a period of 4 years is required to be

quashed. Having held so, we make it clear that we have not

expressed any opinion on whether on facts of this case the

revenue could take benefit of the second proviso or not.

Therefore, the revenue may issue fresh notice taking benefit of

the second proviso if otherwise permissible under law. We make

it clear that both the parties shall be at liberty to raise all

contentions with regard to the validity of such notice. All

pending application(s) shall stand(s) disposed of.

…………………………….J.

(L. Nageswara Rao)

…………………………….J.

(Deepak Gupta)

New Delhi
April 3, 2020

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