CIT(A) should not pass ex-parte order when assessee could not attend the proceedings due to lockdown
IN THE INCOME TAX APPELLATE TRIBUNAL
Relevant Text of the Order as follows :
4. We have heard the rival parties and have gone through the material placed on record. We find that the CIT(A) had fixed the date of hearing for 03/03/2020, 12/03/2020 and 23/03/2020 and on 27/03/2020 he passed the order. We also observe that the assessee had requested for adjournment vide letter dated 12/03/2020 which was given by the office staff of CIT(A). Learned CIT(A) has mentioned in his order that staff of his office were not authorized to adjourn the hearing and therefore telephonically it was informed to the A.R. of the assessee and further notice was issued on 13/03/2020 for compliance on 23/03/2020, on which date, all Government Offices in Lucknow were closed due to lockdown imposed by the U.P. State Government and the assessee could not attend the proceedings before the CIT(A) which proceedings themselves could not have been conducted as such.
Complete lockdown was imposed in the country due to COVID-19 by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, vide letter dated 24/03/2020 who had issued instructions wherein it is stated that offices of the State/Union Territory Governments, Autonomous Bodies, Corporations etc. shall remain closed for a period of 21 days with effect from 25/03/2020. Therefore, under such circumstances, the CIT(A) should not have passed the order on 27/03/2020 and that too ex-parte qua assessee. Under such circumstances, we deem it appropriate to remit the issue back to the file of learned CIT(A) for readjudication. He should pass the order after giving reasonable opportunity of being heard to the assessee. The request of learned A.R. that CIT(A) be given a time frame to pass the order cannot be accepted under the present circumstances of COVID-19. However, CIT(A) will pass the order as soon as the circumstances permit.
5. Since we have remitted the appeal to the file of CIT(A), the Stay Application filed by the assessee becomes infructous and is therefore dismissed.
6. In the result, the appeal is allowed for statistical purposes and the Stay Application is dismissed as infructuous.
(Order pronounced in the open court on 01/07/2020)