Delay in filing appeal condoned as auditor sought opinion from tax advocate who misplaced records

Delay in filing appeal condoned as auditor sought opinion from tax advocate who misplaced the records

ABCAUS Case Law Citation
ABCAUS 3415 (2020) (10) ITAT

Important case law relied upon by the parties:
Ramlal vs. Rewa Coalfields Ltd. AIR 1962 SC 361 
Chief Post Master General and Others vs. Living Media India Pvt. Ltd. (2012) 348 ITR 7
Collector Land Acquisition, Anantnag and another v. Mst. Katiji and others (167 ITR  471(SC)

In the instant case, the assessee had challenged the order passed by the CIT(A) in dismissing the appeal without condoning the delay by observing that there exists no sufficient or good reason for condoning inordinate delay of 451 days in filing appeal before him.

Before the Tribunal, the assessee submitted that the relevant documents were submitted by the assessee to his auditor and in turn the auditor sought for an opinion from tax advocate. 

It was submitted that the papers were misplaced in the advocate’s office and hence the appeal could not be filed in time.  Therefore, there was no wilful default and the delay had occurred due to reasons beyond the control of the assessee.

The Tribunal noted that the assessee had furnished explanation for the delay in filing appeal before CIT(A).

The Tribunal further observed that the Hon’ble Supreme Court had observed as under:

the legislature has conferred power to condone delay by enacting Section 5 of the Indian Limitation Act of 1963 in order to enable the courts to do substantial justice to parties by disposing of matters on merits. The  expression “sufficient cause” employed by the legislature is adequately elastic to enable the courts to apply the law in a meaningful manner which subserves the ends of justice, for that is the life-purpose for the existence of the institution of courts.  The learned Judges emphasized on adoption of a liberal approach while dealing with the applications for condonation of delay as ordinarily a litigant does not stand to benefit by lodging an appeal late and refusal to condone delay can result in a meritorious matter being thrown out at the very threshold and the cause of justice being defeated.  It   was stressed that there should not be a pedantic approach but the doctrine that is to be kept in mind is that the matter has to be dealt with in a rational common sense pragmatic manner and cause of substantial justice deserves to be preferred over the technical considerations. It was also ruled that there is no presumption that delay is occasioned deliberately or on account of culpable negligence and that the courts are not supposed to legalise injustice on technical grounds as it is the duty of the court to remove injustice.  In the said case the Division Bench observed that the State which represents the collective cause of the community does not deserve a litigant-non grata status and the courts are required to be informed with the spirit and philosophy of the provision in the course of interpretation of the expression “sufficient cause”.

The Tribunal stated that the principles that emanate from the various decisions are that, in the matter of condonation of delay in filing appeals beyond the limitation period, the courts are empowered to condone the delay, provided the litigant is able to demonstrate that there was “sufficient cause” in preferring appeal beyond the limitation period.  The Courts have also held that the expression “sufficient cause” should receive liberal construction so as to advance substantial justice.  Hence the question of condonation of delay is a factual matter and the result would depend upon the facts of the case and the cause shown by the assessee for the delay.  It has also been opined that generally delays in preferring appeals are required to be condoned in the interest of justice, where no gross negligence or deliberate inaction or lack of bona fides is imputable to the party seeking condonation of the delay.

Accordingly, the Tribunal restore the appeal to the file of CIT(A) for adjudicating all the grounds.

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