Under the Income-tax Act, 1961, a specific period of limitation is provided for filing an appeal before an appellate authority. Under section 260-A of the Act, a period of 120 days is provided for filing an appeal to the High Court from the order of the Income-tax Appellant Tribunal.
However, time and again the tax department has been delaying the filing of appeals much beyond this period of limitation. Thereafter, application for condonation of delay has been made before the High Court. While the court has taking a lenient view and has condoned the delay in several cases, undue delays which cannot be justified have not been condoned and the appeals which are filed late have been dismissed.
The provisions of section 5 of the Limitation Act are applicable to appeals filed under section 260-A of the Act. Once the provisions of section 5 of the Limitation Act are applicable, the entire controversy would revolve on the showing of sufficient cause while praying for condonation of delay. In other words, where there is sufficient cause shown and the application for condonation of delay has been moved for bona fide reasons, the court would normally condone the delay but where the delay has not been explained at all and, in fact, there is inordinate delay coupled with negligence or sheer carelessness, the discretion of the court in such cases would normally go against the applicant.
It really would not make much difference whether the applicant before the court is a government department or is a private individual. As per well settled principles, Courts are inclined to show greater indulgence to the departments of the government because of inter and intra departmental steps to be taken before initiation of legal proceedings by the department, but this indulgence has its own limitations and cannot be extended without any reasonable cause and that too beyond the permissible time.
Section 5 of the Limitation Act has been liberally constructed but not so liberally that without any justification or cause an accrued right in favour of the non-applicant would be taken away in a casual manner. Another aspect of the case is that the Revenue and/or even the assessees are expected to act with care and expeditiousness and not to let things lie unprocessed for months together.
The limitation for the purpose of filing of appeal under section 260-A of the Act commences from the date the copy of