1. The short question, which arises on this reference under Section 66(1) of the Indian Income-tax Act, is whether the assessee is entitled to any depreciation under Clause (vi) of Sub-section (2) of Section 10 read with Rule 9 and the Schedule thereto the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 on the water storage tank constructed by him in connection with his business of supplying water for irrigation purposes to farmers.
2. The assessee is an individual and derives income from various sources, one of which is the supply of water for irrigation purposes to farmers. In the assessment for the assessment years 1951-52, 1952-53, 1952-53 and 1953-54, the relevant accounting years for which were those ending on the 31st March, 1951, 31st of March 1952 and 31st of March 1953 respectively, the assessee claimed depreciation on the storage water tanks constructed by him. Before the Income-tax Officer the claim for depreciation was on the basis of the asset being a 'Building and Embankment' and depreciation was claimed at 2 1/2 per cent. The claim was disallowed by the Income-tax Officer, because according to him the asset was not one for which depreciation was provided for under Rule 8 and also because the cost of the asset was not proved and the asset was also not used wholly and exclusively for the purpose of the business of the assessee. In the appeal before the appellate Assistant Commissioner, it was contended that the asset would be covered by the term 'plant'. This contention was accepted by the Appellate Assistant Commissioner. He held that the assessee's water storage tank could be regarded as a 'Plant' on the analogy that in connection with salt works under the Rule 8 reservoirs, water channels and similar constructions were covered by the term 'plant'. He held that the cost of the water storage tank was Rs. 4,00,000/- and since it appeared that this storage tank also supplied water to some persons from whom no charges were recovered, he was of the opinion that it could not be said to be wholly and exclusively used for the purpose of the assessee's business but only partially so used. He, therefore, held that only half depreciation allowance should be adjusted against the income obtained by the assessee from his business. With regard to the rate of depreciation, the Appellate Assistant Commissioner took the view that since the asset in the case ranked with first-class building but the life of the asset was more than that of the buildings, which were characterised as first class, if would be fair to adopt the rate of 2 per cent in the present case.
3. Against the decision of the Appellate Assistant Commissioner, the Department went in appeal to the Tribunal. The Tribunal took the view that there was no provision in the Schedule to Rule 8 which permitted allowance of depreciation in respect of water storage tanks. It its opinion, no analogy was permissible in respect of any other water storage tank with the storage tanks used as an asset of Salt Works under Clause III (3)/B of the Schedule to Rule 8 for the purpose of allowing depreciation thereon. It, therefore, allowed the appeal of the Department in so far as the depreciation allowed by the Appellate Assistant Commissioner was concerned. At the instance of the Assessee the Tribunal drew up a statement and referred to question of law arising from its, order of this Court; which has been already stated.
4. Mr. Pandit, learned counsel for the assessee, has argued that the water storage tank in the present case is covered by the term 'plant' as used in Section 10 (2)(vi) of the Indian Income-tax Act. He has urged that the word 'plant' has not been defined in the Income-tax Act although in Section 10(5) it is provided that it includes certain items, viz., vehicles, books, scientific apparatus and surgical equipment purchased for the purpose of the business, profession or vocation. He, therefor,e says that it will be permissible to look to the dictionary meaning of the word 'plant' and referring to Webster's Dictionary he has pointed out that the meaning of the word 'plant' as given therein is as follows:
'The machinery, apparatus, fixtures, etc., employed in carrying on a trade or a mechanical or other industrial business; as an electric-light plant, a fishing plant, etc. In the commercial sense a plant may include real estate and all else that represent capital invested in the means of carrying on a business, exclusive of the raw material of the manufactured product.
Mr. Pandit has argued that the water storage tank constructed by the assessee is an asset representing capital invested by him in the means of carrying on his business and is, therefore, 'plant' within the meaning of that word. His further argument is that the Schedule to Rule 8 also indicates that the legislature has intended to give a wider meaning to the word 'plant' and has, therefore, included within that term a large number of items including reservoirs. Thus, he says, in connection with the Salt Works, reservoirs have been definitely specified as plant entitled to have a certain specific rate in the matter of depreciation allowance. The item of reservoirs in the Salt Works is contained in the class of items where special rates have been provided for under the Schedule. The specification of the reservoir in the item of Salt Works has been contained in the Schedule for the reason that a special rate has been provided in respect of that reservoir but the very fact that the item of reservoir has been specified as an item of plant for special rates sufficiently indicates that the reservoir is regarded as plant by the legislature. Mr. Pandit's argument, therefore, is that both because the dictionary meaning of the word 'plant' is sufficiently wide to cover the water storage tank of the assessee as also because a reservoir has been included in the term 'plant' under the Schedule itself, there cannot be any doubt whatsoever that the storage tank of the assessee was an asset on which he was entitled to claim depreciation.
5. Now, we do not think that it is possible is accept the contention, which has been raised by Mr. Pandit. The word 'plant' has not been defined in the India Income-tax Act, though, as we have already pointed out, it is provided in Section 10(5) that it includes certain items. Since the word is not defined, it would certainly e permissible to look to the meaning of the word as given in the dictionary, Now, the primary meaning of the word is machinery, apparatus, fixtures, etc. employed in carrying on a business or trade or a mechanical or other industrial business. The primary meaning of the word 'plant', therefore, has connection with mechanical or industrial business or manufacture of finished goods from raw products. Even in the extended meaning of he word to which Mr. Pandit has invited our attention, it seems to us that it would only cover an asset representing capital investment in manufacturing trade or business because, according to the said extended meaning, it must be something, which represents capital invested in the means of carrying on business exclusive of its raw materials or the manufactured product. In other words, this extended meaning has reference to capital invested in the manufacturing trade or business excepting that spent on the raw material or the manufactured product. Now, there is no manufacturing or industrial business involved in the present case. The water storage tank of the assessee is nothing but a container for the water, which is the stock-in-trade of the assessee. In our opinion neither the primary meaning nor the extended meaning of the word 'plant' given in the Dictionary will enable us to hold that the container of the stock-in-trade of a business is a plant within the meaning of Section 20(2)(vi) of the Indian Income-tax Act.
6. As to the other argument of Mr. Pandit based on the entries in the Schedule to Rule 8 of the rules framed under the Indian Income-tax Act, we do not think that the said argument is also substantial. The fact that reservoirs have been mentioned is connection with Salt Works will not be sufficient to indicate that the legislature intended to include any reservoir of water used by the assessee in connection with any trade or business within the term 'plant'. The Salt Works is an industrial business and the production of Salt is a manufacturing process and the reservoirs employed in the Salt Works are a part of the manufacturing apparatus used for the purpose of the production of salt. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the reservoirs employed in the Salt Works are items of the salt-producing plant or apparatus. We are, therefor,e unable to accept the argument of Mr. Pandit that because reservoirs are mentioned in connection with Salt Works reservoirs are regarded as falling within the definition of the term 'plant'.
7. Mr. Pandit has also drawn our attention to a decision of the House of Lords in the case of Hinton v. Maden and Ireland Limited, 1959 38 Tax Cas 391. A question arose in that case whether the knives and lasts which were used by the assessee company, which carried on the business of shoe and slipper manufacturers, could be regarded as plant or machinery as well as implements or utensils. It was contended for the Crown that the expenditure for the knives and lasts was on revenue account and the knives an lasts were not plant or machinery. It was held that the knives and lasts were machinery or plant and the expenditure on them was capital expenditure. it was observed by Lord Reid in that case as follows:
'It is not disputed that 'plant' is also sued in the Act as an ordinary English word. It is not altogether an easy word to construe; it may have a more or less extensive meaning according to its context. As a general statement of its meaning I would adopt the words of Lindley, L.J., in Yarmought v. France, (1887) 19 QBD 647: 'In its ordinary sense, it includes whatever apparatus is used by a business man for carrying on his business -- not his stock-in-trade which he buys or makes for sale; but all goods and chattels, fixed or moveable live or dead, which he keeps for permanent employment in his business'.
Proceeding further Lord Reid observed:
'I would also refer to the judgment of Uthwatt, J., in J. Lyons and Company, Limited v. Attorney-General, (1944) Ch 281: 'I do not think that the use throughout Section 24 of the Act of the word 'plant' as part of the phrases plant or machinery' and 'machinery and plant' has the effect of confining the meaning of he word to such plant as is used for mechanical operations or processes. Next I find it unnecessary for the purposes of a decision in this case, to enter on the question whether any particular limitation should be placed on the general sense borne by the word 'plant' by reason that the Act in which it appears is a rating Act. I propose to assume that no such limitation should be placed.....Confining my attention to trade plant, I am content to accept the general description in (1887) 19 QBD 647, that 'plant' includes whatever apparatus or instruments are used by a business man in carrying on his business. The term does not include stock-in-trade, or does it include the place in which the business is carried on. Whether any particular article more properly falls within 'plant' as thus understood or in some other category depends on all the circumstances of the case.'
8. Mr. Pandit argues relying on these observations that the word 'plant' is capable of being given an extensive meaning and if such extensive meaning is given, the water storage tank used for the purpose of the business of the assessee would come within the definition of the word 'plant'.
9. In our view even the extended meaning, which has been given to the word 'plant' in these observations does not take it beyond the apparatus or instruments as are used by a business man in carrying on his business. In order that the assessee may succeed it must be held that not only the instruments or the apparatus used in connection with the business but even the container of the stock-in-trade would come within the meaning of the word 'plant'. Neither on the dictionary meaning nor on the meaning given in the judicial decision to which Mr. Pandit has referred, can we given such an extended meaning to the word 'plant' as to cover the container or the storage place of the stock-in-trade of the assessee.
10. In our opinion, therefore, the view which was taken by the Tribunal is correct and the question, which has been referred to us must be answered in the negative. We answer accordingly. The assessee will pay the costs of the Department.
KF/J/D.V.C. Reference answered in negative.