Venkatachalaiah, J .
1. This petition under art. 226 of the Constitution of India- which was originally instituted by the former ruler of the then princely State of Mysore, and, which,after his death, is now being prosecuted by his legal representative-is directed against the Notification No. 266/F.No 22/21/63 ITA-II dated 8th september, 1971 issued by the Central Govt., first respondent herein, purporting to delete the petitioner's palace at Mysore from the schedule to an earlier Notification NO. 31-IT, dated 14th May, 1954, issued pursuant to clause (iii) of para.15 of the part B States (Taxation Concession) Order, 1950, by which the Palaces at Mysore along with two other palaces of the petitioner at Bangalore and Ootacamund, respectively, had come to be declared as official residences of the petitioner. By virtue of the said declaration of May 14, 1954, the incomes from the said three palaces were exempted from income-tax and super-tax and were not includible in the total income or the total world income of the then Ruler of Mysore. By the deletion purported in the notification of september 8, 1971, the palace of Mysore ceased to be recognised as official residence of the former Ruler and consequently income therefrom became exigible to income-tax and super-tax. This deletion is challenged in this writ petition.
2. Prior to the commencement of the Constitution of India, the petitioner was the Ruler of the then State of Mysore and after the commencement of the Constitution, Mysore became a part B State in the Union of India. The Indian I.T.Act,1922 (hereinafter referred to as the' 1922 Act'), was extended to the then part B state of Mysore with effect from 1st April, 1950. Thereafter, s. 60A empowering the Central Govt., to grant exemptions, if it considered it necessary or expedient so to do for avoiding any hardship or anomaly or removing any difficulty arising as a result of the extension of the 1922 Act, inter alia, to Part B States, was introduced in the 1922 Act. Pursuant to and in exercise of the power vested by the said s. 60A, the Central Govt. promulgated the part B States (Taxation Concessions) Order, 1950. Paragraph 15 of that order read :
'15 Exemptions . - (1) Any income falling within the following classes shall be exempt from income-tax and super-tax and shall not be included in the total world income of the person receiving the :
(i) (Omitted as unnecessary),
(ii) (Omitted as unnecessary),
(iii) the bona fide annual value of the palaces of Rulers of Indian States which are declared by the Central Government as the official residences of such Rulers;.....'
3. For the purpose of clause (iii) of para. 15, the Central Govt. issued a notification dated 14th May, 1954, which is at annex. A to the petition. In relation to the Ruler of the quondum princely State of Mysore, three palaces, viz., the palaces at Mysore, Bangalore and at fernhill, Nilgiris, respectively, were all declared as the official residences of the former Ruler of Mysore. This is at Sl. No.61 of annex, A. Consequently, the incomes from the palaces stood exempt from income-tax and super-tax and were not includible in the total income or the total world income of the person receiving them.
4. It would however, appear that by a letter No. 22/21/63-ITA-II dated 8th July,1971, from respondent 2 to the petitioner,the declaration touching the palace at Mysore as the official residence of the original petitioner was, for certain reasons set out therein, proposed to be withdrawn and the petitioner was given an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Member in charge of Income-tax, CBDT, before a final decision was taken in the matter. In response to this communication, the petitioner caused a reply dated 24th July, 1971, as per annex. C, to be sent, in which certain grounds the legality of the action proposed were taken.
5. Thereafter, the Central Govt. issued the impugned notification dated 8th September, 1971, at annex.D deleting the palace at Mysore from the entry at serial No. 61 in the table annexed to the notification dated 14th May, 1954 at annex.A. The notification at annex. A purports to invoke the provisions of para. 15 (iii) of the part B States (Taxation Concessions) Order, 1950, read with Clause (1) of s. 297(2) of the I.T.Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as the '1961 Act'). The reason for the action is stated to be that a part of the palace at Mysore had been let out by the former Ruler to earn rents, and that therefore, the Central Govt. considered it expedient to withdraw the recognition as the official residence respecting the palace at Mysore.
6. We have heard Sri M.R.Lakshmikantharaje Urs, learned counsel for the petitioner, and Sri S.R. Rajasekharamurthy for the revenue.
7. Learned cousel for the petitioner, in support of his contention that annex. D is bad in and without the authority of law, has urged the following ground :
(a) that ther is no power vested in the Central Govt. to issue the impugned notification at annex. D, inasmuch as, while -after the repeal of the 1922 Act, by s. 297 of the 1961 Act- the operation of the part B States (Taxation Concessions) Order, 1950, was expressly continued by virtue of clause (1) of s. 297(2) of the 1961 Act, the power to rescind or amend such notification under the 1961 Act was, however, not preserved and that it was only on September 9, 1972, long subsequent to the date of the impugned notification, a proviso expressly enabling such rescission was introduced in the 1961 Act;
(b) that the Central Govt. having itself induced the petitioner to grant a lease of a part of the Mysore palace were estopped from issuing the impugned notification ; and
(c) that the notification at annex. D was violative of the constitutional pledge of equality before the law guaranteed under art. 14 of the constitution.
Re : point (a)
8. So far as ground (a) is concerned, the main contention is that as on the date of the impugned notification there was no power in the Central Govt. to withdraw or amend the earlier notification at annex. A. Such a power, the argument proceeds, was acquired only on and after september 9, 1972, when proviso to clause (1) of sub-s. (2) of s. 297 of the 1961 Act was inserted pursuant to the Rulers of Indian States (Abolition of Privileges) Act,1972. In other words, the contention is that while the said clause (1) of s. 297(2) of the 1961 Act provided for the continuance of any notification issued under s. 60A of the 1922 Act, it did not, till September 9, 1972, envisage or confer any power of rescission. In our opinion, the argument is unsound and proceeds on propositions of statutory construction which are clearly untenable. The notification contemplated by the said clause (1) of s. 297(2) is an obvious reference to the statutory orders enabled to be made under ss. 60(1) and 60A of the 1922 Act. Part B States (Taxation Concessions) Order, 1950, was promulgated pursuant to and in exercise of power under s. 60A of the 1922 Act. The notification at annex. A was issued pursuant to clause (iii) of para. 15 of the statutory order.
9. We may now notice the language of s.60A of the 1922 Act and s. 297(2)(1) of the 1961 Act. The former read :
'60A Power to make exemption, etc, in relation to merged territories or to the territories which immediately before the 1st November, 1956, were comprised in any part B State or to Chandemagore - If the Central Government considers it necessary or expedient so to do for avoiding any hardship or anomaly, or removing any difficulty, that may arise as a result of the extension of this Act to the merged territories or to the territories which immediately before the 1st November, 1956 were comprised in any part B State or to Chandemagore, the Central Government may, by general or special order, make an exemption , reduction in rate or other modification in respect of income-tax in favour of any class of income, or in regard to the whole or any part of the income of any person or class of person :
Provided that the power conferred by this section shall not be exercisable in the case of merged territories and the territories which immediately before the 1st November, 1956, were comprised in part B States other than the State of Jammu and Kashmir, after the 31st day of March, 1955, and , in the case of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and Chandemagore, after the 31st day of march, 1959, except for the purpose of rescinding an exemption , reduction or modification already made.'
10. Clause (1) of s. 297(2) of the Act read :
'(1) any notification issued under sub-section (1) of section 60 or section 60A of the repealed Act and in force immediately before the commencement of this Act shall, to the extent to which provision has not been made under this Act, continue in force until rescinded by the Central Govenment.' (Underlining supplied)
11. With effect from September 9, 1972 pursuant to the Rulers of Indian States (Abolition of Privileges) Act, 1972, the expression 'until rescinded by the Central Government' was omitted and the following proviso introduce :
'Provided that the Central Government may rescind any such notification or amend it so as to rescind any exemption, reduction in rate or other modification made thereunder;'
12. If what is provided by s. 297(2)(1) is the continuance of that statutory order, then on a parity of reasoning the power to recognise or declare any palace as the official residence of a former Ruler and the power to rescind or amend any such notification which is implicit and included in that power is also preserved. That would be the clear effect of s. 21 of the General Clauses Act.
13. The argument for the petitioner is that it is only after September 9, 1972, that the Central Govt. acquired for the first time the power to rescind any notification. According to the argument, the proviso to s. 60A of the 1922 Act, which enabled a recission of the exemption was not kept alive under s. 297(2)(1) of the 1961 Act. The fallacy Of this argument consists in the understanding that the source of the power to rescind flowed from the proviso to s.60A of the1922 Act and that since that power to rescind under s.60A of the 1922 Act was not,according to the argument, preserved in the 1961 Act but introduced for the first time on September 9,1972,by means of the proviso, the Central Govt. had on September 8, 1971, no power to issue the impugned notification.
14. A proper reading of the proviso to s. 60A would show that the power to rescind was not created by or flowed from the proviso to the said s. 60A and that while it merely recognised the power inherent in the Central Govt. to rescind any notification, it stipulated and imposed restrictions on the exercise ability of the power under the main provision of s. 60A itself on and after certain dates. The power to rescind a notification was inherent in the power to issue the notification and indeed that that power was recognised in s. 297(2)(1) itself is clear from the expression 'until rescinded' obtaining in that clause. We may refer to s. 21 of the General Clauses Act for the rule of construction in that behalf. The power to rescind existed even prior to September 9,1972, and it was not necessary for the Central Govt. to appeal to, or draw upon, the proviso introduced on September 9,1972, to exercise any such power of recission Sri Urs, learned counsel for the petitioner, sought to make another point in this connection. He said that the notification at annex. A having been issued pursuant to the statutory order made under s. 60A of the 1922 ACt, the Central Govt. having considered it necessary and expedient so to do for the purpose of avoiding hardship to the Rulers of the former Indian States, any notification withdrawing any such concession should be preceded by the formation of opinion on the part of the part of the Central Govt. that on the same considerations of avoidance of hardship it was no longer necessary to continue the concession . Formation of such an opinion, it is urged, is not shown to have preceded the issue of the impugned notification. Support for this argument was sought to be drawn from the language of s. 21 of the General Clauses Act, where it provides that the power to rescind or amend is exercisable 'in like manner' and subjects that power 'to like conditions'.The conditions referred to in s. 21 subject to which the power to rescind could be exercised are the conditions to which the order issued under the main Act must be made subject; and do not contemplate those conditions upon the fulfilment of which the right to issue an order arises under the main Act. Section 21 of the General Clauses Act is in pari materia with s. 32(3) of the Interpretation Act, 1889,in England and provides a rule of construction. The language of s. 21 is not hedged in by any expression such as ' unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context' as in s. 10 of the General Clauses Act or 'unless a different intention appears' as in s. 12 of that Act, and, therefore, the power to rescind must be held to be without any limitations or conditions (see Ranchhod Zina v. Patankar, : AIR1966Guj248 [FB])
15. We,accordingly,hold and answer point (a) against the petitioner.
R :Point (b)
16. Point (b) relates to the ground of estoppel and is based on the averments contained in paras. 6 and 12(ii) of the memorandum of the writ petition to the effect that the lease of a part of the palace at Mysore having been granted at the insistent request of the Central Govt. itself and that the Central Govt having itself induced the petitioner to grant the lease, it could not take advantage of its own acts and stands estopped from withdrawing the exemption. The allegation that the Central Govt. Part pressure on the petitioner to lease out a part of the palace has been denied in the course of the statement of objection filed by the respondents. In this context, it requires also to be noticed that this contention does not find a place in the representation dated July 24, 1971, at annex.C, filed by the petitioner in response to the proposal to withdraw the exemption contained in annexure B.
17. It is not alleged by the petitioner that a representation was implicit in the transaction of the lease that the exemption from tax pursuant to the said statutory order would remain immutable notwithstanding the proposed lease. That apart, in exercising the power of recission, the Central Govt. was exercising a statutory power, and the petitioner's plea in this behalf is in effect a plea of estoppel against the exercise of a statutory power. 'Generally, the State is not subject to estoppel to the same extent as is an individual or a private corporation. Otherwise, it may be rendered helpless to assert its powers in Government. Therefore as a general rule, the doctrine of estoppel will not be applied against the State in its governmental public or sovereign capacity. An exception , however, arises in the application of estoppel to the State where it is necessary to prevent fraud or manifest injustice.' [see American Jurisprudence, Page 783, para. 123, quoted with approval : (1973)IILLJ409SC [M. Ramanatha Pillai v. State of Kerala].
18. The circumstances pleaded by the petitioner in support of the plea of estoppel, in our opinion, are not sufficient either on facts or in law to sustain it. Accordingly, point (b) is also held against the petitioner.
R : Point (c :
19. The last contention urged by Sri Urs is that in issuing the impugned notification at annex. D, the petitioner has been singled out for a hostile discrimination in view of the alleged circumstance that in the cases of Rulers of other former Indian States no withdrawals of exemptions have been made under similar circumstances. The averments in the petition in support of this plea are as follow :
'.....In fact, to the best of my information, most of the Rulers have let out certain portions which constitute annexes to their palaces to local authorities, to the Central Government and others.
In fact, on the day when the Taxation Concessions Order came into being, and also subsequently, most Rulers have let out portions of their palaces to others. With reference to them, there has been no withdrawal of exemption and it is only in my case that the said exemption is sought to be withdrawn. Since all these palaces are placed on equal footing , there is no difference at all between the other palaces and mine, and the Central Government in picking and choosing the Mysore palace for purposes of withdrawal of exemption while leaving the other palaces similarly situated untouched,has violated article 14 of the Constitution of India.I state that the impugned notification is discriminatory and is, therefore, unconstitutional and void.'
20. In the statement of objections, the respondents, countering these allegations, have stated thu :
'(xiii) it has also been alleged that the petitioner has been singled out for withdrawal of exemption and on this ground it has been alleged that it violates articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution of India.
(xiv) The allegation of isolating the petitioner for withdrawal of exemption is emphatically denied. Exemptions have been withdrawn in the case of other palaces also, which were found on review, to have been let out. For instance, Notification No. 117 (F.No. 22/21/63-I.T.A.II)dated April 19, 1971, in respect of Rangamahal, Darbargarth. A copy of the siad notification is placed at exhibit`III'.'
21. It is to be noticed that the allegations contained in the petition in support of this plea are in general terms and have been promptly denied by the respondents. The petition does not contain any specific averments to show what those similarly circumstanced cases are and how the petitioner and the other Rulers concerned have been dissimilarly treated.A challenge to executive action on the ground that it violates art. 14 must be pleaded and proved if it is to succeed. Factual averments in this behalf must be made with sufficient specificity, so that the respondents have notice of the petitioner's allegations and have an opportunity to meet the same.In the present case, we are constrained to hold the allegations on which the plea of hostile discrimination is founded, lack specificity and do not measure up to the required standards of pleadings and in view of the respondents ' denials cannot be considered sufficient to sustain the plea. Thus, on point (c) also the petitioner fails.
No other contentions were urged.
22. In result, for the reasons stated above, this writ petition fails and is dismissed. Rule is discharged. However, having regard to the circumstances of the case, parties are directed to bear their own costs.