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Commissioner of Income-tax Vs. Gauri Shankar Agrawal - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberIncome-tax Reference No. 1130 of 1977
Judge
Reported in[1981]131ITR27(All)
ActsIncome Tax Act, 1961 - Sections 2(1)
AppellantCommissioner of Income-tax
RespondentGauri Shankar Agrawal
Appellant AdvocateR.K. Gulati and ;A. Gupta, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateV.S. Saxena, ;S.N. Misra and ;J.N. Verma, Advs.
Cases ReferredIn Province of Bihar v. Maharani Janki Kuer
Excerpt:
.....be tantamount to the performance of agricultural operations on the land so as to constitute the income derived by the assessee therefrom agricultural income within the definition of that term ? we are of opinion that the mere performance of these subsequent operations on the products of the land, where such products have not been raised on the land by the performance of the basic operations which we have described above would not be enough to characterise them as agricultural operations. the cultivation of the land does not comprise merely of raising the products of the land in the narrower sense of the term like tilling of the land, sowing of the seeds, planting, and similar work done on the land but also includes the subsequent operations set out above all of which operations, basic..........derived from land which is situated in india and is used for agricultural purposes : (b) any income derived from such land by- (i) agriculture ; or (ii) the performance by a cultivator or receiver of rent-in-kind of any process ordinarily employed by a cultivator or receiver of rent-in-kind to render the produce raised or received by him fit to be taken to market; or (iii) the sale by a cultivator or receiver of rent-in-kind of the produce raised or received by him, in respect of which no process has been performed other than a process of the nature described in paragraph (ii) of this sub-clause.' 7. now before the amount in question can be treated as agricultural income it must fall either under sub-clause (a) or sub-clause (b) of section 2(1). the income received by the.....
Judgment:

C.S.P. Singh, J.

1. The Tribunal has referred the following question of law for our opinion ;

'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the amount of Rs. 67,337 received by the assessee as agricultural income is exempt in his hands under Section 2(1) of the Income-tax Act, 1961 ?'

2. The reference relates to the assessment year 1971-72, the relevant year being the financial year 1970-71. In this year, the assessee received an amount of Rs. 67,337 which was entered in the account books as agricultural income. The circumstances leading to this receipt are these. The assessee is a lawyer by profession, and also owns agricultural land. In 1950, he and his wife, Bhagirathi, took agricultural land in villages, Sandkhera and Berkhera Rajput in Kashipur Tahsil and Nainital District. The leases had been taken out from the zamindars, who owned the land, and were granted for agricultural purposes. The income which is claimed to be agricultural income had accrued from the land situate in village, Berkhera Rajput, the area of which was 385.89 acres. The assessee had obtained a permanent lease of this land from its zamindar, Raja Hari Chand Raj Singh, by a registered deed dated September 6, 1950, which was in favour of a firm, Gauri Shankar Agrawal & Co., of which the assessee and his wife were partners. The land which the assessee had taken was at that point of time being claimed by Bachan Singh and four others. These persons alleged that they were lessees of the land, and they had obtained lease from the Punjab Farmers' Association, which in turn obtained a lease in 1946 from the court of wards of the zamindar. The court of wards, however, had not formalised the lease by a written deed in favour of the Punjab Farmers' Association, as the estate of Raja Hari Chand Raj Singh was released from its custody. Thereafter one Kashi Nath, the agent of the Raja executed a lease. As a result of these conflicting claims to the land, protracted litigation between the assessee and Bachan Singh and others took place. It began by proceedings under Section 145 of the Cr.P.C. but the assessee did not succeed in that. He, thereafter instituted a suit under Section 180 of the U.P. Tenancy Act on 17th October, 1951, on Bachan Singh and four others, for possession of the land. The suit was dismissed on May 29, 1962, by the Assistant Collector. An appeal filed before the Assistant Commissioner succeeded and the suit for ejectment was decreed on 26th June, 1964, but that for damages was rejected. Bachan Singh and others then preferred a second appeal to the Board of Revenue, but that was dismissed on February 24, 1965. Thereafter Bachan Singh and others filed Writ Petition No. 928 of 1965 in this court and asked for a stay of the order of ejectment. Ex parte stay order was granted by this court on May 11, 1965, which was in the following terms:

'We further order that during the pendency of this application execution of the decree for delivery of possession shall be stayed, but on condition that the applicant deposit Rs. 10,000 annually, beginning with April 1, 1965, in two instalments, each payable by the end of April, and October. If there is any default in payment of any instalment this order staying the execution of the decree shall stand cancelled. The deposited amount may be invested in Defence Savings Certificates. The amount together with the accruing income shall be paid to opposite parties Nos. 4 and 5 if the petition is dismissed and shall be refunded to the applicant if the petition is allowed and the decree is cancelled.Dt. 11-3-65. Sd. M.C.D.

Sd. S.C.M.'

3. This ex parte order was modified after hearing both the parties. The final order being:

'I have heard learned counsel for the parties. During the pendency of the writ petition the petitioners shall be entitled to continue in possession of the property in dispute provided they deposit an amount of Rs. 30,000 annually with the judicial officer, Kashipur the payment to be made in two equal instalments, one instalment to be deposited on or before the seventh day of October and other on or before the seventh-day of April. The first deposits, however, may be made on or before November, 1965. The deposits may be made in the form of Defence Savings Certificates. In case of default in payment of any instalment, the respondents Nos. 4 and 5 shall be entitled to execute their decree and this order shall stand automatically vacated. In case the writ petition is allowed the amount deposited by the petitioners shall be returned to them, but if the petition is dismissed the amount so deposited shall be made over to the respondents Nos, 4 and 5.Dt. 19-7-65. Sd. R.S.P.'

4. The writ petition filed by Bachan Singh and others was allowed on 13th July, 1967, by a single judge of this court, but a letters patent appeal filed against it, succeeded, as the Division Bench by its order dated 28th August, 1969, upheld the decision of the Board of Revenue. Special appeal preferred against this order was dismissed by the Supreme Court on 26th March, 1971. To return to the ;monies deposited under the stay order, Bachan Singh and others had deposited an amount of Rs. 1,25,000 in compliance with the orders of this court, which had been invested in Defence Savings Certificates, and an amount of Rs. 9,675 had accrued as interest thereon. Thus, a total sum of Rs. 1,34,675 had accumulated, which was to be distributed to the assessee and his brothers. He received an amount of Rs. 67,337 as his share, and the dispute in the present reference is as to whether this amount represents the agricultural income of the assessee, and as such was exempt from tax. The ITO held that the amount received did not represent the agricultural income of the assessee, and included it in the total assessable income. The AAC dismissed the appeal of the assessee. The assessee then appealed to the Tribunal. It was contended before it that the amount received was exempt either as agricultural income or as a casual or non-recurring receipt not liable to tax. The Tribunal accepted the assessee's contention that the income was agricultural income, but did not agree with the other contention that it was a receipt of a casual and non-recurring nature. We are, in this reference, as such, concerned only with the question as to whether the income was agricultural income, and not with the other contention as to whether the income was of a casual and non-recurring nature so as to be exempt from tax.

5. As will appear from the facts recited earlier, the question as referred does not bring out the real controversy between the parties, inasmuch as it seems to suggest that the amount of Rs. 67,337 was agricultural income of the assessee, but the fact whether it was agricultural income, and as such exempt under Section 2(1) of the I.T. Act, 1961, is the very issue in the reference. Thus, the question has to be refrained inasmuch as if it is not done, there is nothing left for us to answer as agricultural income is exempt under the Act. We, accordingly, reframe the question as under:

'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the amount of Rs. 67,337 received by the assessee was exempt as agricultural income under Section 2(1) of the Income-tax Act, 1961 ?'

6. Section 4 of the I.T. Act brings to tax the income of an assessee. Section 10 provides for exclusion of certain income from the chargeable income. One such is agricultural income. Agricultural income has been defined in Section 2(1). The relevant clauses of this provision are Sub-clauses (a) and (b). They may be extracted:

'(a) any rent or revenue derived from land which is situated in India and is used for agricultural purposes :

(b) any income derived from such land by-

(i) agriculture ; or

(ii) the performance by a cultivator or receiver of rent-in-kind of any process ordinarily employed by a cultivator or receiver of rent-in-kind to render the produce raised or received by him fit to be taken to market; or

(iii) the sale by a cultivator or receiver of rent-in-kind of the produce raised or received by him, in respect of which no process has been performed other than a process of the nature described in paragraph (ii) of this sub-clause.'

7. Now before the amount in question can be treated as agricultural income it must fall either under Sub-clause (a) or Sub-clause (b) of Section 2(1). The income received by the assessee cannot possibly fall under Sub-clause (b). Sub-clause (ii) of Clause (b) contemplates the performance by the cultivator of any process to render the produce raised by him fit to be taken to the market. No agricultural produce was raised or processed by the assessee at all. Sub-clause (iii) is also out of the way, for it applies only in cases where the cultivator sells the produce raised by him. So far as Sub-clause (i) is concerned that is also out of the picture, for, though it applies to income derived from agricultural land, the income must be derived by the process of the agriculture. Mere income from agricultural land without resorting to the process of the agriculture for deriving the income will not do. The Supreme Court in the case of CIT v. Raja Benoy Kumar Sahas Roy : [1957]32ITR466(SC) , had this to say on this aspect of the matter at pages 505 and 507 (to 509):

'In order that an income derived by the assessee should fall within the definition of agricultural income two conditions are necessary to be satisfied and they are : (i) that the land from which it is derived should be used for agricultural purposes and is either assessed for land revenue in the taxable territories or is subject to local rates assessed and collected by the officers of the Government as such, and (ii) that the income should be derived from such land by agriculture or by one or the other of the operations described in Clauses (ii) and (iii) of Section 2(1)(b) of the Indian Income-tax Act......We have, therefore, to consider when it can be said that the land is used for agricultural purposes or agricultural operations are performed on it. Agriculture is the basic idea underlying the expressions 'agricultural purposes' and agricultural operations and it is pertinent, therefore, to enquire what is the connotation of the term 'agriculture'.

As we have noted above, the primary sense in which the term agricultural is understood is agar--field and cultra--cultivation, i.e., the cultivation of the field, and if the term is understood only in that sense agriculture would be restricted only to cultivation of the land in the strict sense of the term meaning thereby, tilling of the land, sowing of the seeds, planting and similar operations on the land. They would be the basic operations and would require the expenditure of human skill and labour upon the land itself. There are however other operations which have got to be resorted to by the agriculturist and which are absolutely necessary for the purpose of effectively raising the produce from the land. They are operations to be performed after the produce sprouts from the land, e.g., weeding, digging the soil around the growth, removal of undesirable under-growths and all operations which foster the growth and preserve the same not only from insects and pests but also from depradation from outside tending, pruning, cutting, harvesting, and rendering the produce fit for the market. The latter would all be agricultural operations when taken in conjunction with the basic operations above described, and it would be futile to urge that they are not agricultural operations at all. But even though these subsequent operations may be assimilated to agricultural operations, when they are in conjunction with these basic operations could it be said that even though they are divorced from these basic operations they would nevertheless enjoy the characteristic of agricultural operations Can one eliminate these basic operations altogether and say that even if these basic operations are not performed in a given case the mere performance of these subsequent operations would be tantamount to the performance of agricultural operations on the land so as to constitute the income derived by the assessee therefrom agricultural income within the definition of that term ?

We are of opinion that the mere performance of these subsequent operations on the products of the land, where such products have not been raised on the land by the performance of the basic operations which we have described above would not be enough to characterise them as agricultural operations. In order to invest them with the character of agricultural operations, these subsequent operations must necessarily be in conjunction with and a continuation of the basic operations which are the effective cause of the products being raised from the land. It is only if the products are raised from the land by the performance of these basic operations that the subsequent operations attach themselves to the products of the land and acquire the characteristic of agricultural operations. The cultivation of the land does not comprise merely of raising the products of the land in the narrower sense of the term like tilling of the land, sowing of the seeds, planting, and similar work done on the land but also includes the subsequent operations set out above all of which operations, basic as well as subsequent, form one integrated activity of the agriculturist and the term agriculture' has got to be understood as connoting this integrated activity of the agriculturist. One cannot dissociate the basic operations from the subsequent operations and say that the subsequent operations, even though they are divorced from the basic operations can constitute agricultural operations by themselves. If this integrated activity which constitutes agriculture is undertaken and performed in regard to any land that land can be said to have been used for 'agricultural purposes' and the income derived therefrom can be said to be 'agricultural income' derived from the land by agriculture.'

8. This view was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in the cases of CIT v. Jyotikana Chowdhurani : [1957]32ITR705(SC) , Maharajadhiraj Sir Kameshwar Singh v. CIT : [1957]32ITR587(SC) and CIT v. Ramakrishna Deo : [1959]35ITR312(SC) . Now the assessee performed no agricultural operation at all on the land. He received the money as a result of the stay order passed by this court, which led to the amount in question being deposited by the persons who were litigating against him, in order that they should not be ejected from the land. It was suggested that the money was deposited by Bachan Singh and others out of the agricultural income received by them from the land, and as they were cultivating the land under orders of the court, the cultivation of the land by them, and the income derived from that should be taken to be that of the assessee. The argument is far-fetched, as there is no evidence that the money deposited under the orders of the court was from income derived from the agricultural land. We are then left with Sub-clause (a). Under Sub-clause (a) it is only rent or revenue which is derived from land used for agricultural purpose which will qualify for being treated as agricultural income. The Privy Council in CIT v. Kamakshya Narayan Singh [1948] 16 ITR 325 has held that rent is a technical conception, its leading characteristic being that it is a payment in money or in kind by one person to another in respect of the grant of a right to use the land. The assessee did not grant any right to Bachan Singh and others to use the agricultural land. They did so under the orders of the court. Thus, the receipt is not rent. We are then left with the question as to whether it is revenue. Now assuming, that the word 'revenue' is a term of wider import than rent, the revenue must be derived from the land. The Privy Council in Kamakshya Narayan Singh's case [1948] 16 ITR 325 has held that the word 'derive' is not a term of Article It requires an inquiry into the genealogy of the product, and if the effective source from which the income accrues was not land, the fact that there is some nexus between the land and the income received would not convert it into agricultural income. It would be better to quote the Privy Council's decision. The observations of the Privy Council in this regard are to be found on page 328 of the report. Their Lordships have this to say :

'The word 'derived' is not a term of Article Its use in the definition indeed demands an enquiry into the genealogy of the product. But the enquiry should stop as soon as the effective source is discovered. In the genealogical tree of the interest land indeed appears in the second degree, but the immediate and effective source is rent, which has suffered the accident of non-payment. And rent is not land within the meaning of the definition.

There is no commercial connection between the interest and the rented land, and an effective source--not land--has become apparent.'

9. A similar test was applied by the Supreme Court in the case of Mrs. Bacha F. Guzdar v. CIT : [1955]27ITR1(SC) . The assessee in that case was a shareholder in certain tea companies, 60% of whose income was exempt from tax as agricultural income. She had received dividends in respect of her shares. A claim was put forward for exemption of 60% of the dividend income on the ground that it was agricultural income. This was roundly rejected. It was observed on p. 4 :

'Agricultural income as defined in the Act is obviously intended to refer to the revenue received by direct association with the land which is used for agricultural purposes and not by indirectly extending it to cases where that revenue or part thereof changes hands either by way of distribution of dividends or otherwise. In fact and truth dividend is derived from the investment made in the shares of the company and the foundation of it rests on the contractual relations between the company and the shareholder. Dividend is not derived by a shareholder by his direct relationship with the land. There can be no doubt that the initial source which has produced the revenue is land used for agricultural purposes but to give to the words 'revenue derived from land' the unrestricted meaning apart from its direct association or relation with the land, would be quite unwarranted. For example, the proposition that a creditor advancing money on interest to an agriculturist and receiving interest out of the produce of the lands in the hands of the agriculturist can claim exemption of tax upon the ground that it is agricultural income within the meaning of Section 4, Sub-section (3)(viii), is hardly statable. The policy of the Act as gathered from the various Sub-clauses of Section 2(1) appears to be to exempt agricultural income from the purview of the Income-tax Act. The object appears to be not to subject to tax either the actual tiller of the soil or any other person getting land cultivated by others for deriving benefit therefrom, but to say that the benefit intended to be conferred upon this class of persons should extend to those into whosoever hands that revenue falls, however remote the receiver of such revenue may be, is hardly warranted.'

10. It will be seen that the Privy Council adopted the 'effective source' test and brought in the 'genealogical tree' or the 'offspring test'. The Supreme Court has applied the 'direct association' test. Both the tests are substantially the same. For, what constitutes the 'effective source' or that which stands in the first degree of the 'genealogical tree'--its first offspring, must be necessarily directly associated with the source of the income. We propose to apply these tests in this case too. Before we do so we may dwell on the cases cited at the Bar.

11. The decisions relied upon are :

CIT v. Manna Ramji and Co. : [1972]86ITR29(SC) , CIT v. All India Tea & Trading Co. Ltd. : [1978]113ITR545(Cal) , CIT v. B. Gupta (Tea) P. Ltd. : [1969]74ITR337(Cal) , Simrathmull v. CIT : [1967]64ITR166(Mad) , CIT v. Sir Kameshwar Singh [1935] 3 ITR 305 , Raghuvanshi Mills Ltd v. CIT 0043/1952 : [1952]22ITR484(SC) and Province of Bihar v. Maharani Janki Kuer : [1947]15ITR360(Patna) .

12. We propose referring to the decisions of the Supreme Court first. In Manna Ramji's case : [1972]86ITR29(SC) , the respondents-firm was carrying on business in timber and had an office and six sheds for storing timber. In 1944, the Collector requisitioned the premises under the Defence of India Act. Though the requisition related to the entire property, the office was left with the assessee. An amount of Rs. 1,25,500 was awarded as compensation by the civil judge for the requisitioned premises apart from the rent payable. The question arose as to whether it was capital receipt or a revenue receipt. The Appellate Tribunal found that the business of the assessee had not come to a standstill, and he continued to carry on business, and as such the amount in question was a revenue receipt, but the High Court held that it was a capital receipt. It was held by the Supreme Court that the compensation received by the respondent was in the nature of a revenue receipt, inasmuch as the amount of compensation received was in lieu of profits which an assessee would have made in case it had continued to carry on the business. In Raghuvanshi Mills Ltd.'s case 0043/1952 : [1952]22ITR484(SC) , the mills had been destroyed by fire and had received certain amounts of money from the insurance company under a consequential loss policy. The Supreme Court took the view that it was income on the footing that the receipt was inseparably connected with the ownership and conduct of the business and arose from it.

13. The decision in Maharajadhiraja Sir Kameshwar Singh v. CIT : [1961]41ITR169(SC) is not in point, for, in that case, the question was as to whether the remuneration received by a trustee from a trust whose property consisted, inter alia, of agricultural land was agricultural income. It was held that as the source of the right was the trust deed, the remuneration received was not agricultural income.

14. The principle deducible from Manna Ramji's case : [1972]86ITR29(SC) and Raghuvanshi Mills' case 0043/1952 : [1952]22ITR484(SC) is that if income is received in lieu of a particular head of income or is inseparably connected with it, it should be taxed under that head of income. We propose to keep this in mind.

15. In CIT v. All India Tea & Trading Co. : [1978]113ITR545(Cal) agricultural land was requisitioned under the Assam Land (Requisition & Acquisition) Act, 1948, and compensation was paid for the requisition. The question arose as to whether the compensation paid was agricultural income and exempt from income-tax. The Calcutta High Court held that as payment of compensation was directly associated with the requisitioned land, and the source of compensation was the land itself, as such, the compensation received had to be treated as agricultural income.

16. In CIT v. B. Gupta (Tea) P. Ltd. : [1969]74ITR337(Cal) , the assessee had insured its tea crops against damage from hailstorm. The insurance company became liable under the policy as soon as the crops were damaged. It was held that the money received from the insurance company was agricultural income. The 'substituted profit or representing the profits' test applied by the Supreme Court in Raghuvanshi Mills' case 0043/1952 : [1952]22ITR484(SC) was applied.

17. In Province of Bihar v. Maharani Janki Kuer : [1947]15ITR360(Patna) , the assessee had realised damages from a trespasser for wrongful occupation of the land. The Patna High Court took the view that the income received was taxable under the Bihar Agrl. I.T. Act, for, the damages received were in lieu of rent.

18. In K. Simrathmull v. CIT : [1967]64ITR166(Mad) , the assessee, a money-lender, purchased coffee estates and leased them out and received rent in respect of them. It was held that the income was agricultural income as it was derived from agricultural land and the character of the assessee was irrelevant so also the fact that it was received in the course of money-lending.

19. In CIT v. Sir Kameshwar Singh [1935] 3 ITR 305 , the assessee carried on extensive money-lending business. He advanced a loan of Rs. 18.5 lakhs under a 'zarpeshgi' lease with usufructuary mortgage of zamindari property. The lessor, mortgagor, was given a certain portion of the rent as 'thika rent' and the assessee, mortgagee, was allowed to take the balance, after deducting expenses as 'thika profits'. It was held that the 'thika profits' were agricultural income notwithstanding that they were received by money-lending in the course of his business.

20. These cases illustrate the applicabilily of the tests laid down by the Privy Council and the Supreme Court referred to earlier.

21. The enquiry as such has to be directed to find out the effective source of the income and whether it is directly associated with land. Further, if the income is received in lieu of rent or revenue of agricultural land or is inseparably connected with them it would still enjoy exemption as agricultural income.

22. What is the position in the present case. Deposits made in this court were to compensate the assessee for being kept out of possession. They were inseparably connected with the agricultural land, and the assessee received it in lieu of the agricultural income ho world have received by cultivating the land. The deposites would, therefore, qualify for exemption as agricultural income.

23. But we do not think that the interest received on these deposits would do so. The effective source of the interest wore the deposits and not agricultural land. Interest on deposits cannot be taken to be in lieu of the profits which the assessee might have received had he cultivated the land, nor can interest be said to be directly associated with the land. Interest on these securities would stand on the same footing as interest on rent in Kamakshya Narayan Singh's case [1948] 16 ITR 325 .

24. Thus, although the assessee was entitled to exemption on the deposits as they were agricultural income, and not on the interest accruing thereon, but as the question about the interest was not canvassed before the Tribunal, on the frame of the question we have to answer the question in favour of the assessee.

25. We, accordingly, answer the question as reframed in the affirmative, in favour of the assessee and against the department. The assessee is entitled to its costs which are assessed at Rs. 200.


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