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Commissioner of Wealth-tax Vs. Smt. Tarabai Kanakmal - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtMadhya Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberMiscellaneous Civil Case No. 181 of 1982
Judge
Reported in[1983]140ITR374(MP)
ActsWealth-tax Act, 1957 - Sections 5(1); Finance Act
AppellantCommissioner of Wealth-tax
RespondentSmt. Tarabai Kanakmal
Appellant AdvocateB.K. Rawat, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateNone
Excerpt:
.....where there is nothing better to rely upon, dictionaries may be used to find out the general sense in which any particular word is understood in common parlance. in our opinion, it was clearly intended to give a wider meaning to the ward 'jewellery' with effect from 1st april, 1972, the very fact that the words 'but not including jewellery' were retrospectively added with effect from 1st april, 1963, and the explanation......the gujarat, allahabad and punjab and haryana high courts have taken the view that the word 'jewellery' even for an assessment year prior to 1st april, 1972, would cover gold and silver ornaments irrespective of whether they are studded with precious or semi-precious stones or not and that the explanation was added as a matter of abundant caution : cwt v. jayantilal amratlal : [1976]102itr105(guj) , cwt v. maharaja vibhuli narain singh : [1979]117itr246(all) and cwt v. rajeshwar parshad [1975] tax lr 194. the orissa and calcutta high courts, however, have taken a contrary view. according to the decisions of these high courts, the word 'jewellery' by itself would not cover gold and silver ornaments not studded with precious or semi-precious stones and that the explanation has.....
Judgment:

G.P. Singh, C.J.

1. A Division Bench which heard this reference under Section 27(3) of the W.T. Act, 1957, has referred the following question of law to be decided by a Full Bench :

'Whether, for the assessment years prior to April 1, 1972, jewellery will include gold ornaments not studded with precious or semi-precious stones, within the meaning of Section 5(1)(viii) of the Wealth-tax Act ?'

2. Section 3 of the Act imposes the charge of wealth-tax for every assessment year on the net wealth on the corresponding valuation date. The computation of net wealth is made in accordance with Section 4 by including the value of assets mentioned therein on the valuation date. Section 5 provides for exemptions in respect of certain assets. Clause (viii) of Section 5(1), as originally enacted, granted exemption in respect of 'furniture, household utensils, wearing apparel, provisions and other articles intended for personal or household use of the assessee'. Clause (xv) of the same section, as originally enacted, exempted 'jewellery' belonging to the assessee to a maximum of Rs. 25,000 'in value'. In CWT v. Arundhati Balkrishna : [1970]77ITR505(SC) , the Supreme Court held that jewellery intended for personal use of the assessee could also be described as an article intended for personal use and came within the scope of the exemption in Clause (viii) of Section 5(1). It was also held that Clause (xv) of Section 5(1) dealt with jewellery in general, whether intended for personal use of the assessee or not. To obviate the effect of this decision, Parliament amended Section 5(1) by the Finance (No. 2) Act of 1971. The first material amendment made by this Act was the addition of the words 'but not including jewellery' in Clause (viii) with retrospective effect from 1st April, 1963. Another material amendment was the addition of Expln. 1 to the same clause with effect from 1st April, 1972. As a result of this Act, Clause (viii) of Section 5(1) is to be read with effect from 1st April, 1963, as follows :

'(viii) furniture, household utensils, wearing apparel, provisions and other articles intended for personal or household use of the assessee, but not including jewellery.'

3. The Explanation referred to above, which was also added to Clause (viii) by the same Act with effect from 1st April, 1972, is as under :

'Explanation 1.--For the purpose of this clause and Clause (xiii), 'jewellery' includes--

(a) ornaments made of gold, silver, platinum or any other precious metal or any alloy containing one or more of such precious metals, whether or not containing any precious or semi-precious stone, and whether or not worked or sewn into any wearing apparel ;

(b) precious or semi-precious stones, whether or not set in any furniture, utensil or other article or worked or sewn into any wearing apparel.'

4. As the Explanation was added only with effect from 1st April, 1972, the meaning of the words 'but not including jewellery' added with retrospective effect from 1st April, 1963, for any assessment year prior to 1st April, 1972, has to be gathered without the aid of the Explanation, The Gujarat, Allahabad and Punjab and Haryana High Courts have taken the view that the word 'jewellery' even for an assessment year prior to 1st April, 1972, would cover gold and silver ornaments irrespective of whether they are studded with precious or semi-precious stones or not and that the Explanation was added as a matter of abundant caution : CWT v. Jayantilal Amratlal : [1976]102ITR105(Guj) , CWT v. Maharaja Vibhuli Narain Singh : [1979]117ITR246(All) and CWT v. Rajeshwar Parshad [1975] Tax LR 194. The Orissa and Calcutta High Courts, however, have taken a contrary view. According to the decisions of these High Courts, the word 'jewellery' by itself would not cover gold and silver ornaments not studded with precious or semi-precious stones and that the Explanation has the effect of enlarging the meaning of the word with effect from 1st April, 1972: CWT v. Binapani Chakraborty [1978] 114 ITR 82 and CWT v. Aditya Vikram Birla : [1978]114ITR711(Cal) . The question as to the true meaning of the word 'jewellery' in Clause (viii) first came up before a Division Bench of our High Court sitting at Indore in Nandkishore Girdharlal Modi v. CWT : [1981]132ITR868(MP) . The Division Bench agreed with the view taken by the Gujarat High Court. The contrary view taken by the Orissa and Calcutta High Courts was not brought to the notice of the Division Bench. The same question again came up before another Division Bench sitting at Jabalpur in CWT v. Sonal K. Amin : [1981]127ITR427(MP) . The decision of the Indore Bench in Nandkishore Girdharilal's case : [1981]132ITR868(MP) , was till then not published and was not brought to the notice of the Division Bench sitting at Jabalpur. The Division Bench deciding Sonal K. Amin's case : [1981]127ITR427(MP) , took notice of the sharp divergence of opinion on the meaning of the word 'jewellery' and it agreed with the view taken by the Orissa and Calcutta High Courts. The conflict of opinion between the two Benches of the same court is an unfortunate but inevitable consequence when a High Court sits at different places. It is this conflict which has resulted in the present reference to the Full Bench.

5. As earlier stated by us, the Explanation having been added only with effect from 1st April, 1972, defining the word 'jewellery' by an inclusive definition, we cannot use it for the assessment year prior to 1st April, 1972. A perusal of the dictionary meaning of the words 'jewel' and 'jewellery' will go to show that although these words in a generic sensewere used to denote costly ornaments made of gold and silver, whetherthey were studded with precious stones or not, yet this wide meaning hasbecome obsolete and these words are now restricted to precious stones andornaments containing precious stones. Reference in this connection maybe made to the compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. I,p. 1508, where the following meanings arc given of 'jewel' and 'jewellery' :

''Jewel': An article of value used for adornment, chiefly of the person ; a costly ornament, esp. one made of gold, silver, or precious stones. Obs. in general sense ; now restricted to a small ornament containing a precious stone or stones, worn for personal adornment.'

' 'Jewellery': jeweller's work ; gems or ornaments made or sold by jewellers; esp. precious stones in mountings; jewels collectively or as a form of adornment.'

6. In the same connection, we will also refer to the following meaning of the word 'jewel' in the Readers Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary (Vol. I, p. 466):

''Jewel': Ornament Chitiining precious stone(s) worn for personal adornment; precious stone; highly prized person or thing:--v.t. Adorn, furnish with jewels; fit (watch) with jewels for the pivot-holds. Jeweller, jewellery, jewelry ns. '

7. Although dictionaries are not dictators of statutory Construction, yet where there is nothing better to rely upon, dictionaries may be used to find out the general sense in which any particular word is understood in common parlance. 'The ordinary dictionary meaning cannot be discarded simply because it is given in a dictionary. To do that would be to destroy the literal rule of interpretation. This is a basic rule relying upon the ordinary dictionary meaning which, in the absence of some overriding or special reasons to justify a departure, must prevail' (p. 137) ; [CWT v. Officer-in-charge (Court of Wards), Paigah : [1976]10ITR133(SC) ). It will appear from, the dictionary meanings quoted above that the ordinary meaning of the word 'jewellery' is not so wide as to cover all ornaments. The ordinary meaning of the word as known now will only embrace precious and semi-precious stones and gold and silver ornaments which contain precious or semi-precious stones. It is in this sense that the word 'jewellery' as used in Clause (viii) has to be understood before 1st April, .1972. We are unable to accept that the inclusive definition contained in the Explanation which became effective from 1st April, 1972, was added merely as a matter of abundant caution. In our opinion, it was clearly intended to give a wider meaning to the ward 'jewellery' with effect from 1st April, 1972, The very fact that the words 'but not including jewellery' were retrospectively added with effect from 1st April, 1963, and the Explanation. was added with effect from 1st April, 1972, be the same Finance Act in Section 5(1)(viii) gives out the clear intention of Parliament that the wider meaning of the word 'jewellery' as contained in the Explanation, was not to be applied for any assessment year prior to 1st April, 1972. Reference was made to the decision of the Supreme Court in Arundhati Balkriskna's case : [1970]77ITR505(SC) , to support the wide meaning of the word 'jewellery', but a perusal of that case goes to show that the Supreme Court was not concerned with the question as to the meaning of the word 'jewellery' in the form arising before us. All that the Supreme Court decided in that case was that jewellery can also be an article for personal use. The Supreme Court's decision, therefore, cannot be helpful to support the wide meaning of the word 'jewellery' accepted by the Gujarat High Court and followed by the Division Bench sitting at Indore in Nand Kishore Girdharilal's case : [1981]132ITR868(MP) . The view taken by the Orissa and Calcutta High Courts and the dictionary meaning quoted by us above were not brought to the notice of the said Division Bench. For these reasons, we approve of the view expressed in Sonal K. Amin's case : [1981]127ITR427(MP) , and overrule the decision in Nandkishore Girdharilal's case : [1981]132ITR868(MP) .

8. Our answer to the question referred by the Division Bench is that for the assessment years prior to 1st April, 1972, jewellery will not include gold ornaments not studded with precious or semi-precious stones, within the meaning of Section 5(1)(viiv). The case will now be laid before, the Division Bench for final disposal. There will be no order as to costs.


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