With a heavy heart I pen this editorial as one of the Past Presidents AIFTP Mr. Bharatji Aggarwal, Senior Advocate left for his heavenly abode on 4th April, 2021. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family. Shri Bharatji Aggarwal, Senior Advocate was National President of AIFTP during calender years 2008 and 2009. He led the organization from the front and provided guidance to the young generation of professionals. Sir, you will always be remembered your warmth and unassuming nature.
Wishing you all a Very Happy Ugadi, Gudi Padwa, Sajibu Chircoba, Chetichand and Vishu. At the same time I wish all professional colleagues a very happening Financial Year (FY) 2021-22. The COVID-19 pandemic ruined the FY 2020-21. The visible green shoots in the fourth quarter of the last FY are in the red zone due to the rising numbers of active COVID-19 patients in last few days. At national level, we are consistently adding more than 2 lakhs cases per day in last several days. With another round of the fresh ‘çurbs’ or lockdown ( by whatever name one might call), the brighter side of life is, we are able to devote some time every day to passions which we could not indulge in life pre-covid; as I chose to pick up books, I cannot help but wonder which is more profound- the greatness of those authors who could foresee things which might happen centuries after their lifetime or the rigidity of human mind and human societies that do not see life in the light of reason and logic.
I am extremely saddened to see ourselves once again hiding behind the four walls of our homes, fearing for life; the crowding we find all around- social, political, religious etc., the COVID-19 inappropriate behavior all around coupled with Vaccine hesitancy makes me concur with Issac Asimov when he said “The saddest aspect of life right now is that Science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom” because all exhortations from the scientific community world over seem to have fallen on deaf ears when we find not just ordinary people but even people in responsible positions in public life resort to gross violation of COVID-19 norms of behavior.
The Hon’ble Finance Minister moved more than 100 amendments to the Finance Bill, 2021 before it became Finance Act, 2021. It is a disappointment to note that the Hon’ble Finance Minister not even bothered to acknowledge that several leading professional bodies, including All India Federation of Tax Practitioners have expressed serious concerns with respect to the insertion of Sub-sections (7) to (9) to section 255 of the Income tax Act, 1961 regarding the Scheme of Faceless operation of Income Tax Appellate tribunal. It is quite unfortunate to note that the North Block treats the professionals and professional bodies like ours as lobbies with vested interests. Here it may not be out of place to mention that the actions of the tax gatherers run contrary to the objects and intentions of the policy makers. The Direct Tax Vivad Se Vishwas Scheme, 2020 (DTVSV,2020) was introduced with an avowed object to mitigate undesirable and vexatious litigation, pending before CIT(A) to Supreme Court. With respect to treatment of assessments under regular scrutiny assessment proceedings under section 143(3) and 144 wherein additions are made, relying on a search and seizure operation made in case of a third party, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), in its Circular no. 21 dated 4th December, 2020 in reply to answer to question no. 70 clarified that the same are to be treated as search cases for the purpose section 3(b) of the DTVSV 2020. However, on 23rd March, 2021 a further clarification was issued. Para 4 of the Clarification which is as under is self-explanatory:
Several representations have been received seeking further clarity with regard to the classification of a case as a ‘search case’ for the purpose of Vivad se Vishwas. The matter has been examined. In order to remove any uncertainty in this regard, and in exercise of powers under section 10 and 11 of Vivad se Vishwas, it is hereby clarified that a ‘search case’ means an assessment or reassessment made under section 143(3)/144/147/153A/153C/158BC or section 158BD of the Income-tax Act on the basis of search initiated under section 132, or requisition made under section 132A of the Income-tax Act. The FAQ no. 70 of circular 21/2020 stands modified to this extent.
Despite the above clarification, the Department is not prepared to accept this position before the Hon’ble High Court where the stand of the department taken, relying on the circular 21/2020, is under challenge. We request the Hon’ble Finance Minister to interact with professionals without the interpreters from the officialdom. Our suggestions are not in favour or against the revenue or the assesses. The recent example is the success of the DTVSV, 2020.
The present issue is Tax Companion for professionals. All important decisions since the last issue of Tax Companion i.e. March, 2020 issue of the AIFTP Journal have been covered in this issue. I thank my research team and the esteemed members of the Editorial board for taking out their valuable time for the AIFTP Journal. Before I conclude I would like to correct my mistake of not including the name of Ms. Deepa Khare, Advocate from Pune in the research team for 80 Landmark Decisions of the Special Benches. My sincere apologies for the oversight on my part. I once again thank all the contributors of this issue of the AIFTP- Journal. Strictly adhere to COVID-19 appropriate behavior and remain safe.