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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Who is empowered to order search and seizure operations?

Under the Income Tax Act of 1961, the authority to order search and seizure operations is vested in specific officers of the Income Tax Department. Section 132 of the Act provides the legal framework for conducting search and seizure operations, and it empowers authorized officers to enter and search premises, seize documents and valuables, and make an inventory of them.

The officers who are authorized to issue warrants for search and seizure operations include the Director-General, Chief Commissioner, Commissioner, or any other officer who is not below the rank of Joint Director. These officers are authorized to issue warrants, which allow them to enter and search premises, seize documents, and take other necessary actions. However, before issuing such warrants, the authorized officer must have a reasonable belief that the person being searched has undisclosed income or assets, or is in possession of any documents or valuable articles that could be useful for the assessment or reassessment of any previous year’s income.

The authorized officers who issue warrants for search and seizure operations are expected to exercise their powers judiciously and in accordance with the provisions of the Income Tax Act. They must have credible information to justify the issuance of the warrant, and they must record the reasons for issuing the warrant in writing. The reasons must be specific and should indicate the nature and source of information, the basis for arriving at the reasonable belief, and any other relevant information.

The authorized officer must also take into account the value of the likely undisclosed income or assets, the possibility of tampering with evidence, and any other relevant factors before issuing the warrant. The search and seizure operations are conducted by a team of officers, led by the authorized officer who issued the warrant.

In conclusion, the Income Tax Act empowers specific officers of the Income Tax Department to order search and seizure operations. The officers who are authorized to issue warrants include the Director-General, Chief Commissioner, Commissioner, or any other officer who is not below the rank of Joint Director. The officers are expected to exercise their powers judiciously, and they must have credible information to justify the issuance of the warrant. The search and seizure operations must be conducted in a fair and transparent manner, and the person being searched has certain rights, which must be respected by the officers conducting the operation.

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