DINKAR LAL MEHTA, J. -
(1.)THIS Court passed an order on 21st Sep-tember, 1977 that S. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 1724 of 1975 should also be heard along with this writ petition. The file of S. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 1724 of 1975, Smt. Kanchan Kanwar vs. Union of India was tagged with this file. However, only S. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 1723 of 1975, Smt. Kiran Kanwar vs. Union of India & Others was listed for hearing today in the Court. Therefore, supplementary cause-list was prepared and S. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 1724 of 1975, Kanchan Kanwar vs. Union of India was also listed today.
(2.)NONE appeared on behalf of respondents in both the cases. The peon of this Court was deputed to call the counsel for the respondents, but none appeared even upto 10. 30 AM. So, both the writ petitions were heard ex parte in the absence of the counsel for the respondents.
The facts of S. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 1723 of 1975, Kiran Kanwar vs. Union of India are that the petitioner owned property taxable under the Wealth Tax Act, 1957 (hereinafter to be referred to as the Act), but on account of certain disputes as to the property in the family and certain other personal matters, which were hanging heavy on the petitioner, the petitioner could not file returns for the wealth required under section 14 (1) of the Act, for the assessment years 1962-63 to 1970-71, within the" time allowed under the provisions of the Act. No notice under Sec. 14 (2) of the Act was issued to the petitioner. The petitioner voluntarily and suo motu filed returns for the wealth with the Wealth-tax Officer at Ajmer in the month of February 1970. The Wealth-tax Officer assessed the wealth a little to high and hence appeals were preferred before the Appellate Asstt. Commissioner. So far as the assessments for the years 1962-63 to 1963-64 are concerned, the authorities held that the petitioner's wealth is not taxable. The petitioner after the assessment deposited the whole amount of tax on 15th January, 1972.
The petitioner submitted an application (Annx. A) before the commissioner of Wealth-tax, Rajasthan, Jaipur under Sec. 18 (2a) of the Act. The Commissioner, Wealth-tax Rajasthan, Jaipur intimated, vide letter dated 20th March, 1973, (Marked Annx. B) that necessary instructions have been issued to the Wealth-tax Officer, Ajmer, Wealth tax officer vide his orders Annexures E to K dated 20th March, 1973 imposed penalty. It will not be out of place to refer a portion of order, Annexure E, which reads as under:- "the assessee filed a petition under Section 18 (2a) before the Commissioner of Wealth-tax, Rajasthan, Jaipur who has directed that penalty of Rs. 2000/- only may be imposed. I, therefore, impose a penalty of Rs. 2000/ -. " Similar orders were also issued in other relevant Annexures. Being aggrieved of the order imposing the penalty appeals were preferred by the present petitioner. The appeals were disposed of by the Appellate Assistant Commissioner of Income-tax vide his judgment dated 16th August, 1973. The Appellate Assistant Commissioner held that the provisions of Sec. 18 (2b) of the Wealth-tax Act apply. He also considered the appeals on merits and held that there does not exist any reasonable cause for not furnishing the returns within the period specified under Section 14 (1) of the Act. Being aggrieved of the order passed by the Appellate Assistant Commissioner, appeals were preferred before the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Jaipur Bench, Jaipur. The Tribunal held that the order passed by the Commissioner in exercise of his power conferred under Sec. 18 (2a) of the Act are not appealable and there is a specific bar under Sec. 18 (2b ). The petitioner has preferred this writ petition before this Court and has challenged these orders of the Wealth-tax Officer, Appellate Assistant Commissioner, Tribunal and the order passed by the Commissioner of Income tax (Wealth-tax), Jaipur.
So far as the facts of S. B. Civil Writ Petition No. 1724 of 1974 Smt. Kanchan Kanwar vs. Union of India & others are concerned, I will not go into the detailed facts of the case. The facts of this case are practically the same. In this writ petition, the petitioner has challenged the orders of the commissioner of Wealth-tax, Appellate Assistant Commissioner of Income-tax, Ajmer Range, Ajmer, and the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Jaipur Bench, Jaipur.
On behalf of the Revenue no reply has been filed.
(3.)THE questions involved in both these writ petitions are the same and, therefore, I would like to dispose of these writ petitions by this common order.
The learned counsel for the petitioners has invited my attention to the provisions of Sec. 18 of the Wealth-tax Act, which reads as under:- "18. Penalty for failure to furnish returns, to comply with notices and concealment of assets, etc. (1) If the Wealth-tax Officer, Appellate-Assistant Commissioner, Commissioner or Appellate Tribunal in the course of any proceedings under this Act is satisfied that any person - (a) has without reasonable cause failed to furnish the return which he is required to furnish under sub-section (1) of Section 14 or by notice given under sub-sec. (2) of sec. 14 or sec. 17, has without reasonable cause failed to furnish within the time allowed and in the manner required by sub-section (1) of Section 14 or by such notice, as the case may be; or (b) has without reasonable cause failed to comply with a notice under sub-section (2) or sub-section (4) of section 16; or (c) has concealed the particulars of any assets or furnished inaccurate particulars of any assets or furnished inaccurate particulars of any assets or debts; he or it may, by order in writing, direct that such person shall pay by way of penalty- (i) in the cases referred to in clause (a), in addition to the amount of Wealth-tax, if any payable by him, a sum equal to two per cent, of the assessed tax for every month during which the default continued. XXX XXX XXX (ii) in the cases referred to in clause (b), in addition to the amount of Wealth-tax payable by him, a sum which shall not be less than ten per cent, but which shall not exceed fifty per cent, of the amount of the Wealth-tax, if any, which would have been avoided if the net wealth returned by such person had been accepted as the correct net wealth; (iii) in the cases referred to in clause (c), in addition to any Wealth-tax payable by him, a sum which shall not be less than, but which shall not exceed five times, the amount of tax sought to be evaded by reason of the concealment of particulars of any assets or the furnishing of inaccurate particulars in respect of any assets or debts.
In clause (a) of Sec. 18, it has been provided that if the assessee fails, without reasonable cause, to furnish return which he is required to furnish under sub-section (1) of Section 14 or by such notice given under sub-section (2) of Section 14 or 17, the Wealth tax Officer may or in writing direct that such person shall pay by way of penalty the amount specified in clause (1 ). It has been provided that in the case referred to in clause (a) in addition to the amount of Wealth-tax, if any payable by him, a sum, for every month during which the default continued equal to one half per cent of the net wealth assessed under section 16. Thus, under section 18, the Wealth-tax Officer has to determine whether the assessee is guilty without any reasonable cause in filing the returns as provided under the law. The minimum amount of penalty has also been fixed under Clause (1) of Section (a) (1) of Sec. 18. Any order passed by the Wealth-tax Officer in exercise of the powers conferred under Sec. 18 is appealable under Section 23 of the Act, Under Clause (2) of Sec. 18, there is a further provision that no order shall be made under sub-section (1) unless the person concerned has been given a reasonable opportunity of being heard. Sec. 18 (a) (1) is independent in its nature and character and the Wealth-tax Officer is not bound to obey any administrative directions given by the Commissioner of Wealth-tax.