Delhi HC orders CBI inquiry into verification of email from tax dept | #phishing | #scams


The Delhi High Court has ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry to verify the authenticity of an email purportedly sent by revenue department in response to an assessee’s request for adjournment following a show cause notice.

Revenue has submitted that the email sent to the taxpayer from an email ID – DONOTREPLY@incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in – allowing the adjournment was forged by the assessee.

“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 CBI, to enquire as to whether the email dated 31st May, 2021 had been issued to the petitioner or not, and if so, by whom,” Justices Manmohan and Navin Chawla said in their order dated July 16, issued Monday.

The bench directed CBI to file its enquiry report within four weeks, holding that the matter was a serious one as one of the parties has either forged the document in question and or is not telling a complete truth. The case will be heard again on September 6.

“This court clarifies that in the event it is found that the email dated 31 May, 2021 had been forged and fabricated by the petitioner it would initiate action under Sections 191/192/196 of the IPC,” the bench added. The sections refer to giving false evidence, fabricating false evidence and using evidence known to be false.

It further said that if the inquiry finds that the email has been issued by the Income Tax of India’s e-filing portal, then it would not hesitate to take action against the deponent – assistant commissioner of income tax circle 6 – who had submitted a counter affidavit earlier this month alleging that email was forged, for stating ‘half-truths.’

The affidavit had stated that all communications to the assessee by the tax office had originated from another email ID – delhi.dcit.cen6@incometax.gov.in – instead of the one mentioned by the assessee.

Experts said that the order, albeit interim, was significant since it would delve into the issues of law of evidence, cyber security and vigilance from taxpayers.

“This ruling is a good reminder to taxpayers on importance of saving all emails, where we seek to place reliance in proceedings before income tax department, and if email is different from the regular email ID of AO, extra precautions should be taken in that case,” said Shailesh Kumar, partner at Nangia & Co LLP.

A final judgement in this case may be a landmark, both in the law of evidence, as well as in cyber security, if email server of the Income tax department is found to be compromised after the CBI enquiry, he added.



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