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Test new I-T returns filing program before opening to public use: Delhi High Court

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on August 29, 2021

‘Don’t use technology to harass assesses’

The Delhi High Court wants the new income-tax software and programs to be opened to public after they are well-tested on a sufficiently large sample set of assessees.

Technology cannot be used as a basis for harassing assessees even as digitisation is being implemented at a rapid pace and human interface is sought to be reduced by the Income-Tax Department in the area of direct taxes, the Delhi High Court noted in its order passed on a batch of four writ petitions.

This latest Delhi High Court observation is significant as it comes at a time when millions of assesses are grappling with the glitches in the new I-T programs. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had recently summoned the developer, Infosys’ CEO Salil Parekh, and directed the software major to sort out the glitches by September 15.

The Delhi High Court said that technology is intended to ease and facilitate transactions and cannot be used to harass an assessee by asking him to repeatedly file unnecessary and irrelevant forms. “This court is also of the view that the software should applied by lawful directions and it cannot be that the computer lays down an agenda contrary to law according to which the court and assessees have to function. If the only impediment to granting the relief sought by the petitioners is the software, then the same should be suitably modified,” the Court had aid in one of the four cases (including Travelport Global Distribution System and Qualcomm India).

At its August 26 hearing, the court had given instances of glitches and shortcomings in the computer program and software. The DGIT (systems) Pragya Saksena, who joined the proceedings on Friday, assured the court that the Directorate will be able to resolve the glitches and revert with solutions, if possible, within a fortnight.

The Delhi High Court has now directed the Income-Tax Department to file a status report within two weeks.

Taxpayers, officers in a bind

Commenting on the Court order, Ved Jain, former President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, said the I-T portal is not a social media portal where one can afford to have a hit or a miss. “It is a statutory matter. One should be careful about it and see to it... (that) it is workable before going live with it. Now, almost three months have lapsed and the new portal is not functioning. Both the taxpayer and tax officers are in difficulties. There is a need to go back to the old portal... till the glitches in the new one are resolved. The new portal has been put to use without proper testing.”

Aseem Chawla, Managing Partner, ASC Legal, a law firm, said that the order of the court order underpins and emphasises the role of technology, which is to aid and assist taxpayers and, therefore, has opined that only after sufficient testing the e-portal ought to have been put into live usage. The Department has been given two weeks to file status report which is well within the September 15 timeline announced by the Finance Minister expecting that by such time all glitches are orderly resolved.”

Published on August 28, 2021

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