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In dismissing the ground that sanction u/s151 for issue of notice u/s 148 has been given in mechanical manner the writ Court in [2022] 440 ITR 578 (MP) held that Section 148 of the Act does not envisage the sanctioning authority to separately give reason while approving the reasons recorded by the Assessing Officer. He has only to be satisfied with the reasons recorded by the AO which has been forwarded to him for necessary sanction and approval.

Once upon a time the Apex Court in [1971] 79 ITR 603 (SC) held that section 151 provide safeguard against mechanical sanction so much so that the Commissioner has to record a conclusion that this is a fit case for issuing a notice under section 148 and that can be possible if he has read the AO report carefully anything else such as just by saying yes may jeopardise the reopening. The report submitted under section 151(2) in that case did not mention any reason for coming to the conclusion that it is a fit case for the issue of a notice under section 148. On that note the SC held that the important safeguards provided in section 147 and 151 were lightly treated by the ITO as well as by the Commissioner. Both of them appear to have taken the duty imposed on them under these provisions as of little importance. They have substituted the form for substance.

Section 148A also provide a like safeguard as the AO is expected to decide, on the basis of material available on record including reply of the assessee, whether or not it is a fit case to issue a notice under section 148, by passing an order, with the prior approval of specified authority.

The specified authority therefore in granting approval has to pursue the reasons and reply of the taxpayer and thereupon have to bring on record its own reasons to come to the conclusion that it is a fit case or not for issue of notice u/s 148.

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