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Commissioner of Income-tax Vs. Union Bank of India Ltd. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberIncome-tax Reference No. 25 of 1971
Judge
Reported in[1976]102ITR270(Bom)
ActsIncome Tax Act, 1961 - Sections 35 and 43(3)
AppellantCommissioner of Income-tax
RespondentUnion Bank of India Ltd.
Appellant AdvocateR.J. Joshi and ;V.J. Pandit, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateS.E. Dastur, Adv.
Excerpt:
direct taxation - plant - section 33 (1) of income tax act, 1961 - whether safe deposit vaults constituted 'plant' within meaning of section 33(1) and so as to be eligible for grant of development rebate - safe deposit vault is used by assessee to carry on business - safe deposit vault cannot be regarded as stock in trade - it is clearly an apparatus of fixture used by business man for carrying on his business - safe deposit vault will clearly be plant within ordinary meaning of word - held, safe deposit vault is clearly 'plant' and entitle to rebate as provided in section 33. - section 3: [s.b. mhase, d.s. bhosale & a.s. oka, jj] offences of atrocities - complaint under held, merely because the caste of the accused is not mentioned in the fir stating whether he belongs to scheduled..........1962-63 to 1965-66 and is as under:'whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, safe deposit vaults constituted 'plant' within the meaning of section 33(1) of the income-tax act, 1961, so as to be eligible for the grant of development rebate ?.'4. so far as questions nos. 1 and 2 above referred to are concerned, mr. joshi has fairly conceded that in view of a decision of a division bench of this court in commissioner of income-tax v. new great insurance co. ltd., indian guarantee and general insurance co. ltd. and jupiter general insurance co. ltd., : [1973]90itr348(bom) both these questions should be answered in favour of the assessee. accordingly, questions nos. 1 and 2 are answered in the affirmative and in favour of the assessee.5. this brings us to the question.....
Judgment:

Kantawala, C.J.

1. At the instance of the revenue the following three questions, which pertain to several years, are referred for determination by the High Court. Question No. 1 referred pertaining to all the years, viz., 1962-63 to 1966-67, is as under:

'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the asses-see was entitled to reliefs and rebates on the gross dividend income without deducting any amount by way of proportionate management expenses ?'

2. Question No. 2 relates to the assessment years 1963-64 to 1965-66 and is as under:

'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the assessee was entitled to relief in respect of interest on tax-free securities without deducting any amount by way of proportionate management expenses ?.'

3. Question No. 3 relates to the assessment years 1962-63 to 1965-66 and is as under:

'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, safe deposit vaults constituted 'plant' within the meaning of Section 33(1) of the Income-tax Act, 1961, so as to be eligible for the grant of development rebate ?.'

4. So far as questions Nos. 1 and 2 above referred to are concerned, Mr. Joshi has fairly conceded that in view of a decision of a Division Bench of this court in Commissioner of Income-tax v. New Great Insurance Co. Ltd., Indian Guarantee and General Insurance Co. Ltd. and Jupiter General Insurance Co. Ltd., : [1973]90ITR348(Bom) both these questions should be answered in favour of the assessee. Accordingly, questions Nos. 1 and 2 are answered in the affirmative and in favour of the assessee.

5. This brings us to the question whether the safe deposits vaults can be regarded as 'plant' within the meaning of Section 33(1) of the Act so as to be eligible for grant of development rebate. At the relevant time development rebate was claimable in respect of a new ship acquired or new machinery or plant (other than office appliances and road transport vehicles) installed after the 31st day of March, 1954, which is owned by the assessee and is wholly used for the purposes of the business carried on by him. The question to be considered is whether safe deposit vault is 'plant' within the meaning of this section. It should be noted that the words 'other than office appliances or road transport vehicles' indicate that even office appliances can be 'plant' within the meaning of the Act. The word 'plant' is defined in Section 43(3) of the Act, but it is merely an inclusive definition. Under that section 'plant' includes ships, vehicles, books, scientific apparatus and surgical equipment used for the purposes of the business or profession. As it is an inclusive definition the enumeration therein cannot be regarded as exhaustive and any items therein included will enlighten us to find out the correct meaning of the word 'plant'. Books, surgical equipment, etc., are included in the definition of the word 'plant'. The question to be considered is whether a safe deposit vault is to be regarded as 'plant' within the meaning of the Act,

6. In Webster's Dictionary the meaning of the word 'plant' is given as under :

'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 represents capital invested in the means of carrying on a business, exclusive of the raw material or the manufactured product,'

7. Judged from the dictionary meaning point of view it cannot be disputed that a safe deposit vault in a bank is in any event a fixture within the meaning of the word 'plant' given above. Thus, looked at from that point of view, it will be covered by the dictionary meaning and there is no reason why in the absence of a proper definition in the Act the word 'plant' should not be interpreted in its ordinary sense. Strong reliance, however, was placed by Mr. Joshi upon a decision of a Division Bench of this court in Jayasingrao Piraji Rao Ghatge v. Commissioner of Income-tax, : [1962]46ITR1160(Bom) . The question that arose for consideration was whether a water storage tank used for supplying water to farmers was a plant within the meaning of Section 10(2Xvi) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922.

8. This High Court took the view that a water storage tank constructed by a person in connection with his business of supplying water to farmers is not 'plant' within the meaning of Section 10(2)(vi) of the said Act and depreciation allowance cannot, therefore, be granted in respect of such a tank. The actual passage on which reliance is placed by Mr, Joshi is contained at pages 1165-66 which is as under :

'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 the word to which Mr. Pandit has invited our attention, it seems to us that it would only cover an asset representing capital investment in a 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.'

9. Applying this test the Division Bench took the view that the water storage tank of the assessee is nothing but a container for the water, which is the stock-in-trade of the assessee. Relying upon the decision laid down in this case the contention of Mr. Joshi is that in order that an asset may be regarded as a plant it must be an asset representing capital investment in a manufacturing trade or business and his submission is that even though a safe deposit vault is an asset representing capital investment, as it is not used in a manufacturing trade or business, it cannot be regarded as a plant. Now, with respect to the High Court, there was no warrant for introducing the element of connection with mechanical or industrial business or manufacture of finished goods from raw products. What they were really concerned was with the question of a storage tank. The storage tank itself was never given for use to the persons to whom the water was supplied. So far as safe deposit vault is concerned, it is undoubtedly a fixture which is used for the purposes of carrying on business or trade. The correctness of the test laid down in this case is doubted in a later decision of the Gujarat High Court in the case of Commissioner of Income-tax v. Elecon Engineering Co. Ltd., : [1974]96ITR672(Guj) the decision of the Bombay High Court in Jayasingrao's case : [1962]46ITR1160(Bom) is referred to and it is observed that' this decision is not in accord with the trend of later decisions. In the first place, the primary meaning it assigned to the word 'plant' is too narrow and constricted, that it must be an article having connection with mechanical or industrial business or manufacture of finished goods from raw products. Secondly, even the extended meaning of the word 'plant' was there confined merely to capital invested in the manufacturing trade or business'. According to the Gujarat High Court, this interpretation was not justified having regard to the various decisions therein referred to.

10. We may, however, refer to a decision of the House of Lords in Hinton (Inspector of Taxes) v. Maden and Ireland Ltd., [1960] 39 ITR 357 wherein the question whether knives and lasts used in the business of shoe and slipper manufacture were 'plant' so as to qualify for investment allowance under Section 16(3) of the Finance Act, 1954. Lord Reid has quoted with approval the meaning assigned to the word 'plant' by Lindley L.J. in Yarmouth v. France, [1887] 19 QBD 647 as under :

'In its ordinary sense it includes whatever apparatus is used by abusinessman for carrying on his business--not his stock-in-trade which he buys or makes for sale ; but all goods and chattels, fixed or movable, liveor dead, which he keeps for permanent employment in his business.'

11. The House of Lords also referred to a passage from the judgment of Uthwatt J. in J. Lyons & Co. Ltd. v. Attorney-General, [1944] Ch 201 as under :

'I do not think that the use throughout Section 24 of the Act (Rating and Valuation Act, 1925) of the word 'plant' as part of the phrases 'plant or machinery' and 'machinery and plant' has the effect of confining the meaning of the 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......Confiningmy attention to trade plant I am content to accept the general description in Yarmouth v. France that plant includes whatever apparatus or instruments are used by a businessman in carrying on his business. The term does not include stock-in-trade nor 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.'

12. We are in complete agreement with the meaning given by Lindley L.J. and we have to consider whether safe deposit vault is an apparatus used by the assesses for carrying on its business, and, secondly, whether it is a part of its stock-in-trade which it buys or makes for sale. It is nobody's contention that safe deposit vault can be regarded as a stock-in-trade. Then it is clearly an apparatus or fixture used by a business man for carrying on his business. It is from that point of view that safe deposit vault will clearly be 'plant' within the ordinary meaning of that word. The House of Lords further considered the question of durability of the article since they were dealing with items like knives and lasts, but we are not concerned with that question, because it cannot be disputed that a safe deposit vault is more or less a permanent fixture. Thus, in view of the meaning given by Lindley L. J. in , Yarmouth v. France and taking into account the dictionary meaning of the word 'plant', in our opinion, safe deposit vault is clearly 'plant' and will bo entitled to the development rebate as provided in Section 33 of the Act. Thus, our answer to question No. 3 above referred to is in the affirmative. The revenue will pay the costs of the assessee.


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