The Importance of Being Efficient

One of the most common challenges in legal research is not just to find case laws that support your case, but to find ones that lay down the legal principles clearly and succinctly. To be able to do so efficiently is an added bonus. However, considering the general verbosity of judgments, achieving this efficiency using traditional tools of research can be a bit of a task. Allow me to demonstrate with an example.

The ITAT’s Indore bench recently passed an order in the case of VivekChugh vs ACIT wherein it set aside the penalty imposed on the assessee on the ground that the penalty notice that had been issued to the assessee was faulty since it did not specify the charge under which the penalty was sought to be imposed.

To give a brief factual overview, the assessee was subjected to search and seizure u/s 132 of the Income Tax Act and pursuant to that he admitted to the existence of undisclosed income. The AO imposed a penalty u/s 271AAB(1)(b), which the assessee contested by stating that the notice issued for the same was faulty as it did not specify the charge against the assessee.

In its decision the Tribunal gave similar reasoning and held that Section 271AAB recognized 2 distinct offences for which penalty was to be levied at differing rates. If the notice did not specify the charge against the assessee, it could not be said that the assessee had been given an opportunity to be heard as envisioned in Section 274 of the Income Tax Act.

The question of specification of charge in a penalty notice has been litigated almost ad nauseum at both the ITAT and HC level, with differing opinions from different jurisdictions, most notably Karnataka HC and Bombay HC. While the Karnataka HC has held that a notice not specifying the charge is fatal to the penalty proceedings, the Bombay HC has held such notices to be adequate for affording an opportunity to be heard.

Trawling through the entire catena of case laws related to this topic to arrive at the correct position of law is an exercise in futility, considering the volume of cases involved. This is where smart and efficient research comes in. Imagine if you had the ability to search for a particular term or keyword in only the key points or black letter law of a case. The Riverus tool lets you do exactly that.

The SuperSearch feature of the tool lets you do a focused search on legal principles distilled out from cases in the form of key points and black letter laws. These are the highlights of a case and signify the reasoning used by the court to arrive at its conclusions.

For instance, if for a case like this you had to quickly research on the established position of the law, you can simply use the search for the term penalty notice in key points of case.

The first case that comes up is CIT vs. Manjunatha Cotton and Ginning Factory, which in its key points mentions the principle that

“Notice u-s. 274 of the Act should specifically state as to whether penalty is being proposed to be imposed for concealment of particulars of income or for furnishing inaccurate particulars of income.”

Interestingly enough, the judgment in Manjunatha Cotton was a reference point for the bench in VivekChugh, as the assessee had submitted that his stand was supported by the said pronouncement of the Karnataka HC.

You can also read about other key points and legal principles related to penalty proceedings using the SuperSearch without having to go through the entire judgment. Moreover, the exhaustive filters available on the Riverus Research Tool give you the ability to narrow down your search as much as you want. Couple this with the ability to sort the cases by their popularity, or the number of times they’ve been cited (Manjunatha has been cited over a 1000 times), and you have a quick and easy way to minimize your research time and exponentially boost your work efficiency.

Get ability to Search Keypoints and reduce your research time. For free trial reach out to Riverus at

About Riverus:

We are a legal tech firm that works at the intersection of law and technology. The Riverus Strategic Income Tax Research Tool offers you access to the largest income tax law database along with unprecedented insights from data analytics that help you accomplish your research more quickly and efficiently. We also offer data driven bespoke services for those problems that vex you to no end. Reach out to us at hello@riverus to know more!


on 13 June 2019
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