1. In all these appeals the controversy is common, namely, whether or not the assessee is entitled to the exemption under Section 2(e)(1)(ii) of the Wealth-tax Act, 1957 ("the Act") in respect of his house known as "Garhi", situated in Chhoti Sadri.
2. The appellant is an ex-Jagirdar of the erstwhile estate of Udaipur.
He holds about 72 bighas of land around the township of Bari Sadri. The said lands are under the assessee's self-cultivation which of course is done with the help of labourers. The said house known as "Garhi" is situated in the town which has a municipal committee to look after the administration. The said house is used by the assessee for his own dwelling, for storing grains, for keeping his agricultural implements, tractor, bullocks, etc. While residing in the aforesaid Garhi, the assessee supervises the aforesaid agricultural operations being carried on in his field by hired labourers. The assessee's case is that in view of the aforesaid facts, the aforesaid house should not be regarded as an asset in terms of Section 2(e)(1)(ii) of the Act. The said section reads as follows : In this Act unless the context otherwise requires,- ** ** ** (e) 'assets' includes property of every description, movable or immovable, but does not include,- (1) in relation to the assessment year commencing on the 1st day of April, 1969 or any earlier assessment year- (ii) any building owned or occupied by a cultivator of, or receiver of rent or revenue out of, agricultural land : Provided that the building is on or in the immediate vicinity of the land and is a building which the cultivator or the receiver of rent or revenue by reason of his connection with the land requires as a dwelling house or a store-house or an out-house.
3. The assessee's plea is that the building known as Garhi is owned by him and is also occupied by him as a cultivator of agricultural land and that the said building is in the immediate vicinity of the land and is being used by him by reason of his connection with the land as a dwelling house and a store-house. The said building, therefore, should be excluded while aggregating his assets in terms of Section 2(m).
4. On behalf of the department, the aforesaid submission is resisted and it is pointed out that the said building is not situated on the agricultural land and is not needed by the assessee as a cultivator of the said land per se but that the said building is in the personal occupation of the Jagirdar for more than 200 years and that it was the official residence and the said building was not in connection with the user of the land as an agriculturist.
5. We have carefully examined the rival submissions and have also looked at the facts on record. Whatever might have been the past history of the assessee's forefathers, so far as the assessee is concerned, the facts remains that today he is no better than a cultivator having about 72 bighas of land situated on the three sides of the township of Bari Sadri. He gets this land cultivated and derives income from agriculture and that for supervising the agricultural operations carried on the said land, he has to dwell in the said dwelling house and has further been using the said house admittedly for storing grains, agricultural implements, tractor, etc. We are, therefore, not prepared to agree with the finding of the authorities below that the assessee is not requiring the said building as a cultivator by reason of his connection with the land as a dwelling house and a store-house. The only question about which there can be little controversy is whether or not the said building is in the immediate vicinity of the land of the assessee. The assessee's submission is that part of his land is situated at a distance of about 7 Jaribs, i.e., about 154 yds., from the house and another piece of land about 10 Jaribs, i.e., about 220 yds., from the said house. The other lands belonging to him, which are being cultivated, are about 10 Jaribs to 12 Jaribs, i.e., 220 yds. to 240 yds., away from the said house. It will, in our opinion, be difficult to say that the above distance is not covered by the words "immediate vicinity". A house situated at a distance of 150 yds. to 240 yds. from the agricultural land would, in our opinion, be in the immediate vicinity of the land.
The learned AAC and the ITO have pointed out that the assessee's house is situated in the township proper and that to reach the said agricultural lands, the assessee has to traverse part of the "abad" land. This, in our opinion, cannot be an impediment in the assessee's way as normally a cultivator would like to live in "abadi" rather than away from "abadi", on the land proper in complete isolation. Therefore, merely because the assessee lives in an "abadi" and is to traverse part of the township before he reaches his lands, which admittedly are not farther than 150 yds. to 240 yds. of the house, it cannot be said that the house in question is not situated in the immediate vicinity of the land. The area or the magnitude of the house is again of no consequence because Section 2(e)(1)(ii) refers to a building and does not say that the said building should be of a particular size. We, therefore, feel that the property in question, i.e., the Garhi situated in Bari Sadri, should not have been included in the net wealth of the assessee.
Accordingly, we exclude the same and allow the assessee's appeals.