SUBBA RAO, C.J. - This is an application under section 66(2) of the Indian Income-tax Act to direct the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Madras, to state case and refer the questions of law to this court. The Tribunal dismissed the application filed by the applicant under section 66(2) of the Indian Income-tax Act on the ground that, under the rules the application must be signed by the applicant and that the agent is not empowered to sign on behalf of the principal. The Tribunal was also inclined to hold that the agent, who signed the application, was not duly authorised by the assessee to take proceedings before the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal.
Rule 22-A of the Rules framed under the Indian Income-tax Act governs the situation. It reads :
'An application under sub-section (1) of section 66(2) requiring the Tribunal to refer to the High Court any question of law shall be in the following form : -'
The said form, after giving the particulars necessary to be filled up by the applicant, indicates that it should be signed in the following manner :
(Authorised representative, if any.)
A Division Bench of the Madras High Court in Subramanian Chettiar v. Commissioner of Income-tax considered the question, whether both the applicant and the authorised representative should have signed, or, it would meet the requirements of law if one of them had singed it. Dealing with that question, Satyanarayana Rao, J., who delivered the judgment, observed at page 92 thus :
'We do not see any necessity for two signatures, and in the context the form must be read as only laying down that either it should be signed by the assessee or at least by his authorised representative if he had one. If the authorised representative sings on the application, there is no point in insisting upon the signature of the assessee also. All that the law requires is that there must be the signature of either the principal or his authorised representative, and the application must be presented under rule 7 of the Appellate Tribunal Rules...'
The decision being that of a Division Bench of the Madras High Court delivered before 5th July, 1954, is binding on us. That apart, we respectfully agree with the observations quoted above.
The next question is whether the authorised representative of the assessee signed the application filed before the Tribunal. One J. Gunnavadhanulu claiming to be the agent of the assessee signed the application filed before the Tribunal Rule 2(ii)(a) of the Appellate Tribunal Rules, 1946, defines 'authorised representative' as meaning 'in relation to an assessee, a person duly authorised by the assessee under section 61 to attend before the Tribunal.' The material portion of Section 61(1) referred to in the rule says :
'Any assessee,........ may attend by a person authorised by him in writing in this behalf, being a relative of or a person regularly employed by the assessee, or a lawyer or accountant or Income-tax practitioner, and not being disqualified by or under sub-section (3).'
It is said that Gunnavadhanulu is the clerk of the assessee and, therefore, he satisfies, the second qualification laid down in the section. The only question, therefore, is whether he is a person authorised by the assessee in writing in this behalf. The assessee relies upon the general power of attorney given by him to Gunnavadhanulu in support of his contention that he is the person authorised by him in writing to attend to his business before the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal. As the argument turns upon the recital in the said power of attorney, it will be convenient to read the same.
'Know all men by these presents.....to appear for and represent me in all courts, civil, criminal, revenue, Regional Transport Authority, Rajahmundry, Central Road Traffic Board, Madras, District Superintendent of Police, Offices, the District Forest Officer, Vizagapatam, and to appoint lawyers to represent me in all the above courts and to sign such vakalats on my behalf in respect of the operation of all my stage carriages and other motor vehicles and other forest business. His statements and explanations in respect of the above shall be ratified and confirmed by me.'
It is a well-settled principle that a power of attorney should be strictly construed. The short question is, whether the assessee intended to include the Income-tax Tribunal within the meaning of the words 'court, civil, criminal, revenue'. A Division Bench of the Madras High Court in R. M. Seshadri v. Second Additional Income-tax Officer held that the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal constituted under the Indian Income-tax Act is not a court. Notwithstanding that judgment, we would have held, if the context permitted, that the assessee used the word in a more comprehensive sense than that word legally conveys. But the assessee in the power of attorney makes a distinction between courts separately the attorney makes a distribution between courts and other authorities and, in the operative portion, he authorises separately the attorney to represent him in courts and to sign the necessary sary vakalats before the authorities. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that the assessee, when he used the word 'courts' used it in its ordinary sense rather than in a loose way. That apart, he also qualified the word 'courts' by confining them only to civil, criminal and revenue courts. In either ordinary parlance or legal sense, the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal cannot be held to be a civil, criminal or revenue courts. It also appears that this is the first occasion for the applicant to take any proceeding before the Income-tax authorities, or, at any rate, before the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal. It is more likely, therefore, that, at the time, he gave the power of attorney, it was not in his contemplation that the attorney would have to attend the Income-tax Tribunals. In the context, it is apparent and indeed manifest that the applicant did not intend to authorise the attorney to act for him before the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal. Nor could we hold that the words used by him were of sufficient amplitude to take in Tribunals which are not courts.
In this view, though the result is unfortunate, we dismiss the application, but, in the circumstances, without costs. Writ petition No. 193 of 1957 is also dismissed.