R.K. Jain v. Chairman, Income Tax Settlement Commission & Ors
[Citation -2014-LL-1205-15]

Citation 2014-LL-1205-15
Appellant Name R.K. Jain
Respondent Name Chairman, Income Tax Settlement Commission & Ors.
Court HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI
Relevant Act Income-tax
Date of Order 05/12/2014
Judgment View Judgment
Keyword Tags income tax authorities • settlement commission • statutory time limit • administrative order • prescribed period • ultra vires
Bot Summary: The impugned order indicates that the order dated 26.09.2013 passed by respondent no. The principal controversy to be addressed is whether, respondent no.1 could declare by an administrative order, the orders passed by respondent nos. The impugned order referred to an administrative order passed by the respondent no. 1; the extract of which as quoted in the impugned order reads as under: W.P.(C) No. 2939/2014 Page 2 of 8 As there has been total no-compliance by the JDIT-II and DIT(Inv) of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 and notification by the Chairman, ITSC, New Delhi order No. C- 26016/1/05/SC-RTI/1178 dated 29/31-07-2013, the orders of even numbers dated 26.09.2013 and 21.10.2013 passed by the JDIT and DIT(Inv) are ab initio void and are annulled. The learned counsel appearing for the petitioner contends that the orders passed by the CPIO and the First Appellate Authority could not be denied or declared as void by an administrative order. The said orders could not be nullified by an administrative order. According to the petitioner, the administrative order of respondent no.1 referred to in the impugned order was conjured up only to overreach the order dated 21.10.2013 passed by the First Appellate Authority as the same was found to be inconvenient.


HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI % Judgment delivered on: 05.12.2014 + W.P.(C) 2939/2014 R.K. JAIN ..... Petitioner versus CHAIRMAN, INCOME TAX SETTLEMENT COMMISSION & ORS. ..... Respondents Advocates who appeared in this case: For Petitioner : Mr Rajveer Singh. For Respondents : Mr P. Roychaudhuri. CORAM:- HON BLE MR JUSTICE VIBHU BAKHRU JUDGMENT VIBHU BAKHRU, J 1. petitioner, inter alia, impugns order dated 14.02.2014 passed by respondent no. 3 Central Public Information Officer & Administrative Officer, Income Tax Settlement Commission, denying information, which was earlier directed to be supplied to petitioner under provisions of Right to Information Act, 2005 (hereafter RTI Act ). 2. impugned order indicates that order dated 26.09.2013 passed by respondent no. 2 pursuant to application filed by petitioner under RTI Act; and order dated 21.10.2013 passed by respondent no. 4 in appeal preferred by petitioner against order dated 26.09.2013, were set aside as being void ab-initio by respondent no. 1 as W.P.(C) No. 2939/2014 Page 1 of 8 administrative head of Income Tax Settlement Commission. 3. principal controversy to be addressed is whether, respondent no.1 could declare by administrative order, orders passed by respondent nos. 2 & 4 as being void ab-initio. 4. Briefly stated, relevant facts necessary for considering controversy in present petition are as under:- 4.1 petitioner had filed RTI application seeking information, inter alia, with respect to disposal and pendency of matters before Income Tax Settlement Commission. In response to this application, respondent no.2 (CPIO and Joint Commissioner of Income Tax, Income Tax Settlement Commission) passed order dated 26.09.2013 furnishing certain information to petitioner. However, by said order certain other information as sought for was denied. petitioner preferred appeal before respondent no 4, who was specified as First Appellate Authority. said appeal was partly allowed by order dated 21.10.2013. 4.2 petitioner sent letter dated 23.10.2013 to respondent no.2 seeking compliance of order dated 21.10.2013, however, received no response thereto. Thereafter, petitioner sent another reminder dated 09.03.2014 and subsequent thereto received impugned order on 15.03.2014, which was issued by respondent no. 3 (and not by respondent no. 2 who had passed earlier order as CPIO). impugned order referred to administrative order passed by respondent no. 1; extract of which as quoted in impugned order reads as under: W.P.(C) No. 2939/2014 Page 2 of 8 As there has been total no-compliance by JDIT-II and DIT(Inv) of provisions of RTI Act, 2005 and notification by Chairman, ITSC, New Delhi order No. C- 26016/1/05/SC-RTI/1178 dated 29/31-07-2013, orders of even numbers dated 26.09.2013 and 21.10.2013 passed by JDIT and DIT(Inv) are ab initio void and are annulled. RTI application will be disposed of in accordance with provisions of RTI Act, 2005 and notification by Chairman, ITSC, New Delhi order No.C-26016/1/05/SC- RTI/1178 dated 29/31-07-2013 by Administrative Officer, (CPIO) ITSC, Principal Bench, New Delhi at earliest. 5. learned counsel appearing for petitioner contends that orders passed by CPIO (i.e. respondent no 2) and First Appellate Authority (i.e. respondent no. 4) could not be denied or declared as void by administrative order. This is disputed by learned counsel appearing for respondents who submits that Chairman, Income Tax Settlement Commission, being overall administrative head of department, would have inherent power to pass administrative order in respect of any order passed by other sub-ordinate officers. He contends that respondent nos.2 and 4 were not designated authorities under RTI Act with respect to information sought by petitioner since information pertained to another wing of department. 6. It is not disputed that orders dated 26.09.2013 and 21.10.2013 were orders passed under RTI Act and in that sense were in exercise of statutory powers. I am unable to accept that such orders passed in exercise of statutory powers could be declared as nullity or void by administrative order without recourse to hierarchy of authorities as W.P.(C) No. 2939/2014 Page 3 of 8 specified in statute RTI Act. In event, respondent no.1 was of view that orders passed by respondent nos.2 & 4 were without authority of law, proper and only course would be to file appeal before Central Information Commission (hereafter CIC ) or any other competent judicial forum. However, said orders could not be nullified by administrative order. 7. In CIT v. Greenworld Corpn.: (2009) 7 SCC 69, Supreme Court while considering role of superior officers over income tax authorities exercising power under Income Tax Act, 1961 held as under:- 55. When statute provides for different hierarchies providing for forums in relation to passing of order as also appellate or original order, by no stretch of imagination higher authority can interfere with independence which is basic feature of any statutory scheme involving adjudicatory process. 8. It is well settled that even if order is nullity, it would continue to be effective unless set aside by competent body or Court. In this case respondent no. 1 is not authorised under RTI Act to interfere with orders passed under RTI Act. Supreme Court in State of Punjab and Ors v. Gurdev Singh: (1991) 4 SCC 1 held as under: 7. ... If Act is void or ultra vires it is enough for court to declare it so and it collapses automatically. It need not be set aside. aggrieved party can simply seek declaration that it is void and not binding upon him. declaration merely declares existing state of affairs and does not quash so as to produce new state of affairs. W.P.(C) No. 2939/2014 Page 4 of 8 8. But nonetheless impugned dismissal order has at least de facto operation unless and until it is declared to be void or nullity by competent body or court. In Smith v. East Elloe Rural District Council [1956 AC 736, 769 : (1956) 1 All ER 855, 871] Lord Radcliffe observed: (All ER p. 871) order, even if not made in good faith, is still act capable of legal consequences. It bears no brand of invalidity on its forehead. Unless necessary proceedings are taken at law to establish cause of invalidity and to get it quashed or otherwise upset, it will remain as effective for its ostensible purpose as most impeccable of orders. 9. Apropos to this principle, Prof. Wade states [ See Wade: Administrative Law, 6th edn., p. 352] : principle must be equally true even where brand of invalidity is plainly visible; for there also order can effectively be resisted in law only by obtaining decision of court. Prof. Wade sums up these principles: [ Ibid.] truth of matter is that court will invalidate order only if right remedy is sought by right person in right proceedings and circumstances. order may be hypothetically nullity, but court may refuse to quash it because of plaintiff's lack of standing, because he does not deserve discretionary remedy, because he has waived his rights, or for some other legal reason. In any such case void order remains effective and is, in reality, valid. It follows that order may be void for one purpose and valid for another; and that it may be void against one person but valid against another. 10. It will be clear from these principles, party aggrieved by invalidity of order has to approach court for W.P.(C) No. 2939/2014 Page 5 of 8 relief of declaration that order against him is inoperative and not binding upon him. He must approach court within prescribed period of limitation. If statutory time limit expires court cannot give declaration sought for. 9. learned counsel appearing for respondents further submits that present writ petition ought not to be entertained as petitioner would have alternative remedy to approach CIC by way of complaint under Section 18(1) of RTI Act. learned counsel has specifically referred to Section 18(1)(f) of RTI Act which reads as under:- 18. Powers and functions of Information Commissions. (1) Subject to provisions of this Act, it shall be duty of Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as case may be, to receive and inquire into complaint from any person, xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx (f) in respect of any other matter relating to requesting or obtaining access to records under this Act. 10. Undoubtedly, CIC would have power to enquire into any complaint in respect of matters relating to access of information under RTI Act. However, it is apparent, in present, case that respondent no.1 has acted without authority of law in nullifying orders passed under RTI Act; thus, interference with impugned order is warranted in these proceedings. 11. petitioner has specifically pleaded that website of Income Tax Settlement Commission had disclosed respondent no.2 as CPIO. same has not been disputed by respondents. It is noted that by W.P.(C) No. 2939/2014 Page 6 of 8 virtue of Section 4(1)(b)(xvi) of RTI Act, public authority is required to publish name, designation and particulars of public information officers. Admittedly, name and designation of respondent no.2 and no other, was published as CPIO in relation to Principal Bench of Income Tax Settlement Commission. In circumstances, petitioner has alleged that, in fact, respondent no.2 and respondent no.4 were respective CPIO and First Appellate Authority of concerned public authority. According to petitioner, administrative order of respondent no.1 referred to in impugned order was conjured up only to overreach order dated 21.10.2013 passed by First Appellate Authority as same was found to be inconvenient. learned counsel for petitioner has further pointed that copy of administrative order has also not been produced by respondents. In addition, petitioner has alleged that impugned order is antedated as although it is dated 14.02.2014, same was received by petitioner on 15.03.2014. 12. Although allegations made by petitioner may warrant enquiry, I am not inclined to examine same in these proceedings and it would be open for petitioner to approach CIC under Section 18 of RTI Act in respect of these allegations. CIC has necessary power to initiate enquiry in respect of such complaints by virtue of Section 18(2) of RTI Act. 13. In view of above, impugned order is set aside. However, it will also be open for respondents to approach CIC to assail orders dated 26.09.2013 and 21.10.2013 passed by respondent no.2 and respondent no.4 respectively. Needless to mention that if appeal is filed W.P.(C) No. 2939/2014 Page 7 of 8 before CIC by public authority (the Income Tax Settlement Commission), same would be considered in accordance with law. VIBHU BAKHRU, J DECEMBER 05, 2014 RK W.P.(C) No. 2939/2014 Page 8 of 8 R.K. Jain v. Chairman, Income Tax Settlement Commission & Or
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