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[Income Tax Act] Faceless Assessment Scheme does not take away right to personal hearing: Delhi High Court

The Court said that it was unable to comprehend as to how despite ‘nil’ variation proposed in the show cause notice, additions had been made to the assessed income.

It further opined that an assessee has a vested right to personal hearing and the same has to be given, if an assessee asks for it.

“The argument of the respondent/Revenue that personal hearing would be allowed only in such cases which involve disputed questions of fact is untenable as cases involving issues of law would also require a personal hearing. This Court is of the view that the classification made by the respondents/Revenue by way of the Circular dated 23 November, 2020 is not legally sustainable as the classification between fact and law is not founded on intelligible differentia and the said differentia has no rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by Section 144B of the Act,” the Court made it clear.

If the argument of the respondent/ revenue is accepted, then the High Court while hearing an appeal under Section 260A (which only involves a substantial question of law) would not be obliged in law to grant a personal hearing to the counsel for the Revenue, the Court added.

”This Court is further of the view that a quasi-judicial body must normally grant a personal hearing as no assessee or litigant should get a feeling that he never got an opportunity or was deprived of an opportunity to clarify the doubts of the assessing officer/decision maker. After all confidence and faith of the public in the justness of the decision-making process which has serious civil consequences is very important and that too in an authority/forum that is the first point of contact between the assessee and the Income Tax Department. The identity of the assessing officer can be hidden/protected while granting personal hearing by either creating a blank screen or by decreasing the pixel/density/resolution,” the Bench said

Source: Barandbench

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