DIXIT C.J. - These case and Miscellaneous Civil Case No. 121 of 1958 relate to the assessment of Messrs. Jethmal Girdharilal to agricultural income-tax under the Bhopal State Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1953, for the assessment year 1953-54. The assessing authority determined the amount of tax and super tax payable by the assessee at Rs. 34,644-8-0. This amount was, however, reduced in appeal to the Revenue Commissioner to Rs. 5,470. The assessee, however, felt aggrieved by this assessment and moved the Revenue Commissioner under section 23 of the Act for a reference to this court of certain questions of law arising out of the order of assessment. The Revenue Commissioner granted this application in part and has referred to this court only one question for decision, namely, 'whether assessment under Bhopal Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1953, can be made on the applicants for the year 1953-54 on the basis of their previous years income for the year 1952-53 in view of the fact that the Act came into force from July 15, 1953'. That reference is the subject-matter of Miscellaneous Civil Case No. 116 of 1958. The assessee desired that the Commissioner should refer questions about the status of the assessee firm, deductions, and validity of notice also to this court for opinion. The Revenue Commissioner rejected this prayer holding that the question about the status of the assessee was one of fact and the other questions raised were vague and did not involve any question of law which could be referred to this court. The assessee has, therefore, filed Miscellaneous Civil Case No. 121 of 1958 for requiring the Commissioner to refer to this court all the questions stated in paragraph 5 of the petition.
The principal question to be decided in these cases is whether the assessee firm is liable to any tax at all on the agricultural income revived by it in the year 1952-53. To decide this question, it is necessary to set out the relevant provisions of the Act. The Act was placed on the statute book in 1953. Section 1 (iii) provided that it shall be seemed to have come into force on such date as the State Government may, by notification, appoint. The Act was, however, brought into force from a date after its enactment, viz., from July 15, 1953. Section 2 (11) defines 'previous year' as meaning 'the twelve months ending on the 31st day of May preceding the year for which the assessment is to be made'. The definition of the word 'year' has been given in section 2 (15) as 'the agricultural year as defined in the Bhopal State Land Revenue Act, 1932' That Act gives the definition of 'agricultural year' in section 2 (3) as follows :
'Agricultural year means the year commencing on the 1st day of June or on such other date as the Government may, by notification, appoint.'
No notification was, however, issued by the Government under section 2 (3) of the Bhopal State Land Revenue Act, 1932, appointing any other day than the first day of June as the date of the commencement of the year. Section 3 of the Bhopal State Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1953, provides :
'Agricultural income-tax and super-tax at the rate or rates specified in the schedule shall be charged for each year in accordance with, and subject to the provisions of this Act and rules framed under clauses (a), (b) and (c) of sub-section (2) of section 43 on the total agricultural income of the previous year of ever person.'
This is the charging section. The contention of the assessee, in brief, is that it had no 'previous year' at all, within the meaning of the Act, for the assessment year 1953-54 and, therefore, it could not be made liable to pay any tax on the agricultural income revived by it during the year 1952-53.
In our opinion, this contention must given effect to. It is clear from section 3 of the Act that the income of the previous year is made subject of the charge and tax is levied on the income of the previous year though it is a tax for the assessment year. Now, 'previous year, as defined in section 2 (11) means a period of full twelve months ending on 31st day of May preceding the year for which the assessment is to made. The previous year thus is the year immediately preceding the assessment year. When there is no assessment year then it follows that there can be no previous year. There can be a previous year within the meaning of section 2 (11) only if there is an assessment year following the previous year. According to the definition given in year section 2 (15) of the Act read with section 2 (3) of the Bhopal State Land Revenue Act, 1932, assessment year would commence on the first day of June in each year. As the Act came into force on the 15th July, 1953, obviously there can be no assessment year, then there could be no previous year beginning on the 1st June, 1952, and ending on the 31st May, 1953. The definitions of the expressions 'previous year' and 'year' given in the Act do not at all contemplate a broken period of a few months. The Act does not provide any special machinery of levy of tax for any broken period. If it had made any such provision, the income of the assessee during the broken period would have been no doubt liable to tax. But that would have been because of the special provisions and not because of the broken period becoming the previous year, for the purposes of section 2 (11) and section 3 of the Act. Therefore, on a plain construction of the language used in sections 2 (11) and section 3 of the Act, it is clear that as before the coming into force of the Act there could be no assessment year beginning from 1st June, 1953, there could also be no 'previous year' within the meaning of the Act for that assessment year. For the purposes of the charging section of the Act, previous year is correlated with the year of assessment immediately following it.
It must be noted that it was with a view to enable the Government to bring into force the Act from a date prior to the issue of a notification under section 1 (iii), to wit, 1st July, 1953, that it was provided in section 1 (iii) that the Act shall be deemed to have come into force on such date as the State Government may, by notification, appoint. But the State Government did not think it proper to take advantage of this provision and to issue a notification bringing the Act into force from 1st July, 1953, so as to make the year beginning from that date as an assessment year within the meaning of the Act. If the Government had an intention to make the income received by the assessees in the year 1952-53 taxable, it should have expressed that intention clearly by the issue of a proper notification about the date of coming into force of the Act. The settled principle of construction of a taxing Act is that one has to look merely as to what is clearly said and the subject cannot be taxed unless he comes within the letter of the law. In a taxing Act there is no room for any internment. The learned Revenue Commissioner utterly failed to appreciate the true meaning of the terms 'previous year' and 'assessment year' and the date of the coming into force of the Act when he rejected the objection of the assessee as regards the non-liability for tax by merely saying that the 'previous year' meant the year commencing from the 1st June, 1952 and ending on 31st May, 1953, and that there was no question of giving retrospective effect to the Act. On a fair construction of the language used in the relevant sections of the Act the only conclusion that can be reached is that the assessee had no previous year at all beginning on 1st June, 1952, and ending on 31st May, 1953, within the meaning of the Act and, therefore, the assessee firm is not liable to be taxed on the income received in that year. The answer to the question referred to must, therefore, be that no assessment can be made on the assessee on the basis of its income in the year 1952-53.
In view of this answer, it is unnecessary to consider the grievance of the assessee about the refusal of the Revenue Commissioner to refer to this court the questions stated in paragraph 5 of the petition in Miscellaneous Civil Case No. 121 of 1958. But it must be said that the question of the status of the assessee as that of a firm and not that of a Hindu undivided family is a question of fact; and the assessee failed to state before the Revenue Commissioner and in this petition also the material facts and circumstances on which he claims that the questions raised in paragraph 5 of the petition are questions of law. All that the assessee has done is to say in a general and vague manner that questions about deductions, notice and other matters are questions of law without showing as to how in the context of proved and accepted fact and circumstances they become questions of law.
In the result, the question referred to in Miscellaneous Civil Case No. 116 of 1958 is answered in the negative and Miscellaneous Civil Case No. 121 of 1958 is dismissed. In the circumstances of the case, we leave the parties to bear their own costs.
Question answered accordingly.