Delhi HC orders CBI probe over mail from ‘DONOTREPLY@incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in’
The Delhi High Court ordered a CBI enquiry in a case where an e-mail was sent to a taxpayer from the official email id of the Income Tax Department. The department has disowned the mail.
“As the allegation pertains to a sensitive server belonging to the Ministry of Finance/Department of Income Tax and involves a senior official of the Income Tax Department holding a sensitive post, this Court directs the Central agency, namely Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to enquire as to whether the email dated May 31, 2021 had been issued to the petitioner or not, and if so, by whom,” a division bench of Justices Manmohan and Naveen Chawla said in a ruling dated July 16.
The petitioner, Three C Homes, on May 31 at around 2 pm, sought adjournment and extension of time from the Income Tax Department to submit his reply.
He cited the reason that the Resolution Professional of the Petitioner was unable to access various records due to lockdown imposed by the Uttar Pradesh Government.
On the same day at around 4 pm, he got an e mail from the email id ‘DONOTREPLY@incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in’ granting an adjournment till June 14. However, he received Assessment Order dated June 1 on June 2.
The petition challenged June 1 order stating that adjournment was already been granted.
During the hearing, counsel for the department raised serious objection on the May 31 mail granting adjournment. He said that the mail “which was the basis for filing the writ petition had not originated from the office of the respondent.”
Therefore, he prayed that the writ petition be dismissed. The bench asked the petitioner to file an additional affidavit clearly stating the source of this communication, along with an appropriate affidavit under Section 65-B of the Evidence Act. It was submitted.
However, in the counter affidavit, the department reiterated all communications to the petitioner by the respondent had originated from the email id ‘email@example.com’. The deponent of the counter affidavit even went to the extent of stating that the petitioner had prima facie committed penal offences under Sections 191 (giving false evidence), 192 (fabricating false evidence) and 196 (using evidence known to be false) of the IPC.
Though the department offered to ascertain source of the email from the Directorate of Systems, who is having control over all income tax systems, the bench called this as too late in the day.
“Any reasonable official would have conducted the said enquiry before filing his counter affidavit and before making a serious allegation of perjury and forgery, even if prima facie, against the deponent of the writ petition,” the bench said and ordered enquiry by CBI.
It also asked CBI to submit its report within four weeks. It clarified that if mail dated May 31 is found forged and fabricated by the petitioner, then action will be taken against him.
But if it is found that mail was issued by the department’s portal, then action will be taken against who filed counter affidavit on behalf of the department.