Assessment order passed in the name of non-existent entity invalid
IN THE INCOME TAX APPELLATE TRIBUNAL
“B” BENCH, PUNE
11. The Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Spice Entertainment Ltd. Vs. Commissioner of Service Tax (supra.) while dealing with the case of company that had ceased to exist after merger and the assessment order was passed in the name of non-existent entity held as under:
“8. A company incorporated under the Indian Companies Act is a juristic person. It takes its birth and gets life with the incorporation. It dies with the dissolution as per the provisions of the Companies Act. It is trite law that on amalgamation, the amalgamating company ceases to exist in the eyes of law. This position is even accepted by the Tribunal in para-14 of its order extracted above. Having regard this consequence provided in law, in number of cases, the Supreme Court held that assessment upon a dissolved company is impermissible as there is no provision in Income-Tax to make an assessment thereupon. In the case of Saraswati Industrial Syndicate Ltd. Vs. CIT, 186 ITR 278 the legal position is explained in the following terms:
“The question is whether on the amalgamation of the Indian Sugar Company with the appellant Company, the Indian Sugar Company continued to have its entity and was alive for the purposes of Section 41(1) of the Act. The amalgamation of the two companies was effected under the order of the High Court in proceedings under Section 391 read with Section 394 of the Companies Act. The Saraswati Industrial Syndicate, the trans free Company was a subsidiary of the Indian Sugar Company, namely, the transferor Company. Under the scheme of amalgamation the Indian Sugar Company stood dissolved on 29th October, 1962 and it ceased to be in existence thereafter. Though the scheme provided that the transferee Company the Saraswati Industrial Syndicate Ltd. undertook to meet any liability of the Indian Sugar Company which that Company incurred or it could incur, any liaiblity, before the dissolution or not thereafter.
Generally, where only one Company is involved in change and the rights of the share holders and creditors are varied, it amounts to reconstruction or reorganisation or scheme of arrangement. In amalgamation two or more companies are fused into one by merger or by taking over by another. Reconstruction or amalgamation has no precise legal meaning. The amalgamation is a blending of two or more existing undertakings into one undertaking, the share holders of each blending Company become substantially the share holders in the Company which is to carry on the blended undertakings. There may be amalgamation either by the transfer of two or more undertakings to a new Company, or by the transfer of one or more undertakings to an existing Company. Strictly amalgamation does not cover the mere acquisition by a Company of the share capital of other Company which remains in existence and continues its undertaking but the context in which the term is used may show that it is intended to include such an acquisition. See Halsburys Laws of England 4th Edition Vol. 7 Para 1539. Two companies may join to form a new Company, but there may be absorption or blending of one by the other, both amount to amalgamation. When two companies are merged and are so joined, as to form a third Company or one is absorbed into one or blended with another, the amalgamating Company loses its entity.”
9. The Court referred to its earlier judgment in General Radio and Appliances Co. Ltd. Vs. M.A. Khader (1986) 60 Comp Case 1013. In view of the aforesaid clinching position in law, it is difficult to digest the circuitous route adopted by the Tribunal holding that the assessment was in fact in the name of amalgamated company and there was only a procedural defect.
10. Section 481 of the Companies Act provides for dissolution of the company. The Company Judge in the High Court can order dissolution of a company on the grounds stated therein. The effect of the dissolution is that the company no more survives. The dissolution puts an end to the existence of the company. It is held in M.H. Smith (Plant Hire) Ltd. Vs. D.L. Main waring (T/A Inshore), 1986 BCLC 342 (CA) that “once a company is dissolved it becomes a non-existent party and therefore no action can be brought in its name. Thus an insurance company which was subrogated to the rights of another insured company was held not to be entitled to maintain an action in the name of the company after the latter had been dissolved”.
11. After the sanction of the scheme on 11th April, 2004, the Spice ceases to exit w.e.f. 1st July, 2003. Even if Spice had filed the returns, it became incumbent upon the Income tax authorities to substitute the successor in place of the said “dead person“. When notice under Section 143 (2) was sent, the appellant/amalgamated company appeared and brought this fact to the knowledge of the AO. He, however, did not substitute the name of the appellant on record. Instead, the Assessing Officer made the assessment in the name of M/s Spice which was non existing entity on that day. In such proceedings and assessment order passed in the name of M/s Spice would clearly be void. Such a defect cannot be treated as procedural defect. Mere participation by the appellant would be of no effect as there is no estoppel against law.
12. Once it is found that assessment is framed in the name of non- existing entity, it does not remain a procedural irregularity of the nature which could be cured by invoking the provisions of Section 292Bof the Act. Section 292B of the Act reads as under:-
“292B. No return of income assessment, notice, summons or other proceedings furnished or made or issue or taken or purported to have been furnished or made or issued or taken in pursuance of any of the provisions of this Act shall be invalid or shall be deemed to be invalid merely by reasons of any mistake, defect or omission in such return of income, assessment, notice, summons or other proceeding if such return of income, assessment, notice, summons or other proceedings is in substance and effect in conformity with or according to the intent and purpose of this Act.”
“A reading of the above reproduced provision makes it clear that a mistake, defect or omission in the return of income, assessment, notice, summons or other proceeding is not sufficient to invalidate an action taken by the competent authority, provided that such return of income, assessment, notice, summons or other proceeding is in substance and effect in conformity with or according to the provisions of the Act. To put it differently, Section 292B can be relied upon for resisting a challenge to the notice, etc., only if there is a technical defect or omission in it. However, there is nothing in the plain language of that section from which it can be inferred that the same can be relied upon for curing a jurisdictional defect in the assessment notice, summons or other proceeding. In other words, if the notice, summons or other proceeding taken by an authority suffers from an inherent lacuna affecting his/its jurisdiction, the same cannot be cured by having resort to Section 292B.
14. The issue again cropped up before the Court in CIT Vs. Harjinder Kaur (2009) 222 CTR 254 (P&H). That was a case where return in question filed by the assessee was neither signed by the assessee nor verified in terms of the mandate of Section 140 of the Act. The Court was of the opinion that such a return cannot be treated as return even a return filed by the assessee and this inherent defect could not be cured inspite of the deeming effect of Section 292B of the Act. Therefore, the return was absolutely invalid and assessment could not be made on a invalid return. In the process, the Court observed as under:-
“Having given our thoughtful consideration to the submission advanced by the learned Counsel for the appellant, we are of the view that the provisions of Section 292B of the 1961 Act do not authorize the AO to ignore a defect of a substantive nature and it is, therefore, that the aforesaid provision categorically records that a return would not be treated as invalid, if the same “in substance and effect is in conformity with or according to the intent and purpose of this Act”. Insofar as the return under reference is concerned, in terms of Section 140 of the 1961 Act, the same cannot be treated to be even a return filed by the respondent assessee, as the same does not even bear her signatures and had not even been verified by her. In the aforesaid view of the matter, it is not possible for us to accept that the return allegedly filed by the assessee was in substance and effect in conformity with or according to the intent and purpose of this Act. Thus viewed, it is not possible for us to accept the contention advanced by the learned Counsel for the appellant on the basis of Section 292B of the 1961 Act. The return under reference, which had been taken into consideration by the Revenue, was an absolutely invalid return as it had a glaring inherent defect which could not be cured in spite of the deeming effect of Section 292B of the 1961 Act.”
15. Likewise, in the case of Sri Nath Suresh Chand Ram Naresh Vs. CIT (2006) 280 ITR 396, the Allahabad High Court held that the issue of notice under Section 148 of the Income Tax Act is a condition precedent to the validity of any assessment order to be passed under section 147 of the Act and when such a notice is not issued and assessment made, such a defect cannot be treated as cured under Section 292B of the Act. The Court observed that this provisions condones the invalidity which arises merely by mistake, defect or omission in a notice, if in substance and effect it is in conformity with or according to the intent and purpose of this Act. Since no valid notice was served on the assessee to reassess the income, all the consequent proceedings were null and void and it was not a case of irregularity. Therefore, Section 292B of the Act had no application.
16. When we apply the ratio of aforesaid cases to the facts of this case, the irresistible conclusion would be provisions of Section 292B of the Act are not applicable in such a case. The framing of assessment against a non-existing entity/person goes to the root of the matter which is not a procedural irregularity but a jurisdictional defect as there cannot be any assessment against a ‘dead person’.
17. The order of the Tribunal is, therefore, clearly unsustainable. We, thus, decide the questions of law in favour of the assessee and against the Revenue and allow these appeals.”
12. Thus, in view of the facts of the case and case laws discussed above, we find merit in ground No.1 raised by assessee challenging validity of assessment in the name of non-existent entity. Thus, assessments order dated 27.03.2015 in the name of erstwhile “Amdocs Business Services Private Limited” is invalid and without jurisdiction as the said company had ceased to exist on the date of assessment order. The assessment order passed in the name of non-existent entity i.e. “Amdocs Business Services Private Limited” is invalid and subsequent proceedings arising there from are vitiated. Hence, ground No.1 raised in appeal by the assessee is allowed.
13. Since ground No.1 raised in appeal by assessee is allowed, the remaining grounds raised by assessee in appeal have become academic and hence, are not deliberated upon.
14. The appeal of Revenue does not survive as the assessment order from which it emanates, has been held to be invalid. Therefore, the same has to be dismissed. We hold and direct accordingly.
15. In the result, appeal of the assessee is allowed and appeal of the Revenue is dismissed.
Order pronounced on Monday, the 03rd day of June, 2019.
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