1. Since we are of the view that the question raised and sought to be referred to this court by the income-tax department are questions of fact depending purely on appreciation of the evidence, we feel that the rule ought to be discharged.
2. The assessee, who is an acknowledged play-back singer, submitted her returns of income for the assessment years 1962-63, 1963-64 and 1964-65, disclosing professional receipts of Rs. 1,43,650, Rs. 1,38,251, and Rs. 1,19,850, respectively. The returns were principally based upon the diaries which were maintained by the assessee in which proper entries were made in respect of receipts received by her for the professional work done by her as a play-back singer. From the diaries, M/s. Ghanekar & Co., a firm of chartered accountants, used to write regular accounts. The assessee had produced confirmatory letters from all the producers regarding the correctness of payments shown to have been made by them. The Income-tax Officer came across a sort of a ledger maintained by the firm known as Vasu Films of Madras containing certain entries, which had been seized by the income-tax authorities from the premises of that firm at Madras, and relying on those entries he took the view that the assessee must have concealed her real income by not showing certain payments for which no receipts were passed by her and he made the additions of Rs. 60,550, Rs. 75,000 and Rs. 75,000 to the income returned in each of the three assessment years respectively. For drawing the inference that she must have received income without passing receipts the Income-tax Officer relied upon the two entries which appeared on one page of that ledger of Vasu Films, which read as follows :
'20-9-1962 16/8 To Lata Mangeshkar 800 W plus L.F. Rs.700 B 102 1,50011-6-1963 16/5 To Lata 123 2,000----B 123 2,000'.
3. In the statements recorded of one N. Vasudev Menon, the managing partner of Vasu Films, and one C. S. Kumar, the firm's Bombay manager, the entries were explained by them by stating that the letter 'W' put against the figures mentioned in the entries represented payment in 'white' while the letter 'B' put against some items indicated payment in 'back'. The assessee was given an opportunity to cross-examine these persons. The Income-tax Officer accepted the entries as showing that payment had been received by the assessee for which receipts had not been passed by her and these payments were outside the books of account and he also relied upon the statements made by these two persons. The Appellate Assistant Commissioner confirmed the additions made by the Income-tax Officer. Before the Tribunal it was contended on behalf of the assessee that the entire evidence on which the lower authorities had relied merely created suspicion that the assessee might have accepted the payments in 'black' but it did not take the place of proof. The Tribunal after appreciating all the pieces of evidence that were relied upon by the department in support of its case came to the conclusion that the evidence was not sufficient to prove even a single instance where the assessee could be said to have received money in 'black' for which she did not pass a receipt. The other evidence was of a general character suggesting that the practice of receiving part remuneration in black was prevalent among cine stars which was of no avail to prove any specific instance against the assessee. The only specific evidence which required scrutiny was that furnished by the two entries and the statements of N. Vasudev Menon and C. S. Kumar. On a scrutiny of the two entries as well as the evidence of the two witnesses the Tribunal took the view that even that evidence did not carry the department's case any further and in that view of the matter the Tribunal deleted the additions made by the Income-tax Officer. The department has sought the reference to this court on three questions of law which are said to arise out of the Tribunal's order and out of the three questions which appear at page 6 of the application and in respect whereof rule has been issued, questions Nos. 2 and 3 are really dependent upon the answer to the first question as to whether on the facts and circumstances of the case the Tribunal was justified in ignoring the entries in the ledger of Vasu Films relating to the payment made by the said firm to the assessee.
4. In our view, the question has been framed by the department so as to give it a colour of a question of law, for, in our view, having regard to the manner in which the Tribunal has dealt with the said entries, it cannot be said that the Tribunal has ignored the entries in the ledger of Vasu Films relating to the so-called payments made by the firm to the assessee. In fact, the Tribunal has discussed these entries appearing in the ledger of Vasu Films and has given substantial reasons as to why it was not inclined to accept the entries as reliable entries for accepting the case of the department. Inter alia, it pointed out that the ledger containing the said entries had not been produced before it, that no corresponding entries were there in the day-book of the relevant period and that Vasu Films did not rely on this ledger in the course of its own assessment proceedings but for its own assessment proceedings different set of books had been relied upon as genuine set of books. As regards the evidence of the two witnesses on which reliance was placed by the department, the Tribunal has pointed out that so far as N. Vasudev Menon was concerned, he had no personal knowledge of the actual payments made to the assessee and, therefore, his evidence could not carry the case of the department any further and so far as the Bombay manager, C. S. Kumar, was concerned it came to the conclusion that though he purported to say that he had made the payments in 'black' to the assesses-payments corresponding to the entries to be found in the ledger-his evidence suffered from serious infirmities, which have been pointed out by the Tribunal in its reasons. It pointed out that as the Bombay manager he used to receive amounts from Madras from out of which he used to made disbursements in Bombay but he maintained no account in respect of the same which made it difficult to rely on his evidence. The other serious infirmities in his evidence are to be found in paragraph 7 of the Tribunal's order. Mr. Joshi for the department had also mainly relied upon this evidence and did not press the other evidence which was of a general character. However, having regard to the reasons which have been given by the Tribunal for disbelieving the two witnesses and for rejecting the entries that were found in the ledger of Vasu Films, we feel that the conclusion reached by the Tribunal purely rests on the appreciation of evidence and no questions of law arise.
5. Mr. Joshi tried to urge before us that in paragraph 5 of its order the Tribunal has found fault with the entries appearing in the ledger on the ground that there were no corresponding entries in the day-book of the firm covering there same period and the Tribunal further observed that no attempt was made to explain the absence of relevant entries in the day-book and for that reason the Tribunal rejected the entries in the ledger on which reliance was placed. Mr. Joshi tried to urge that, after all, the entries in the ledger were the entries in a book which was not meant for being disclosed to the income-tax authorities because it contained the entries pertaining to the payment in 'black' and the day-book for the relevant period that was available was a day-book meant for being produced before the taxing authorities as it contained entries pertaining to all legal and white payments and naturally in such day-book no corresponding entries would be found. So no importance should have been attached by the Tribunal to the absence of a day-book containing the corresponding entries. In the first place it must be pointed out that this is not the only reason for rejecting the entries but the Tribunal has given other sufficient reasons for rejecting the same. But even with regard to this reason which has been given by the Tribunal, though it may be contended that since the entries in the ledger pertained to the payments in 'black' no corresponding entries could be found in the day-book which was meant to be produced before the income-tax authorities, still the fact remained that the day-book from out of the other set of books (not intended to be produced) which must have contained the corresponding entries was not available and, in the absence of that, mere production of ledger entries would be of no avail, as there would be no guarantee about the truthfulness or genuineness of the entries in the ledger. Moreover, entries in books of account-whether in day-book or in the ledger - are merely corroborative evidence and in the absence of proper corroborative evidence the primary direct evidence would alone be required to be scrutinized and that evidence in this case consisted of the testimony of C. S. Kumar and the evidence of that witness was found to be thoroughly unreliable by the Tribunal. After all, the entries in the day-book or the ledger would be a corroborative piece of evidence land once the direct evidence of the person who is said to have made payments in 'black' to the assessee is disbelieved, we do not think that any value could be attached to the entries in the ledger or to the entries in the day-book even if one had been produced. In the circumstances, we feel that the questions which are sought to be referred arise out of a finding of fact recorded by the Tribunal on pure appreciation of evidence.
6. The other three questions which are sought to be referred for the assessment years 1963-64 and 1964-65 pertain to the imposition of penalty levied by the Income-tax Officer on the assessee which depended upon the additions made by him and, in our view, the Tribunal was justified in refusing to refer those questions to this court because in its view the additions were wrongly made. Since we are upholding the Tribunal's view on the additions, no question of levying penalty can arise.
7. In the result, the rule is discharged with costs.