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Wealth-tax Officer Vs. Sunil Lamba - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtIncome Tax Appellate Tribunal ITAT Delhi
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1982)1ITD916(Delhi)
AppellantWealth-tax Officer
RespondentSunil Lamba
Excerpt:
.....at this stage we make it clear that the assessee's learned counsel, by relying on the board circular, sought to support the aac's order not in its entirety but only to the limited extent that order falls within the scope of the said circular. we, however, consider that if the provisions of section 2(m) as interpreted herein above support the aac's order in totality, we should decide the present appeal accordingly. we hold so.14. before parting with the issue on hand, we would also refer to cit v. godavari devi saraf [1978] 113 ttr 589 (bom.), cited by the learned departmental representative, in support of the proposition that the wealth-tax act being an all india enactment, where there exists a solitary ruling of the high court, other high courts as also the tribunal should.....
Judgment:
1. This bunch of appeals relating to four assessment years preferred by the revenue against consolidated order dated 10-9-1980 of the AAC was heard together.

2. ASSESSMENT YEAR 1973-74-31-3-1973 is the corresponding valuation date. The assessee is an individual. The assessment was completed by the WTO as per order dated 30-12-1978 determining net wealth at Rs. 22,566.

3. The assessee had one-half share in a house situate at No. 29, Hanuman Road, New Delhi. He had purchased the said house jointly with one Smt. Meena on 25-5-1972. Cost price of the assessee's one-half share in the said asset came to Rs. 1,09,140. That sum had been borrowed by the assessee from a certain firm in which he was a partner.

In the assessment completed by the WTO, Rs. 1,09,140, i.e., the declared estimated value of the assessee's one-half share, was accepted as correct value. Benefit of exemption under Section 5(1)(iv) of the Wealth-tax Act, 1957 ("the Act"), was given to the assessee to the extent of Rs. 1 lakh. That left balance sum of Rs. 9,140 as value of taxable portion of the asset. In respect of the amount of Rs. 1,09,140, being the debt owed by the assessee to the partnership firm as aforesaid, the assessee claimed deduction under Section 2(m) of the Act from the aggregate value of his assets. The WTO took the view that out of the said debt, Rs. 1 lakh was relatable to exempt portion of the asset in question and that the balance debt of Rs. 9,140 was relatable to taxable portion of the said asset. In this view of the matter, deduction to the extent of Rs. 9,140 was allowed by the WTO under Section 2(m). Deduction of other debts amounting to Rs. 42,439 as allowed by the WTO under the said provisions is not material for purposes of the instant case.

4. The assessee went in appeal to the AAC. The AAC directed that the exemption contained in Sub-clause (ii) of Section 2(m) did not hit any portion of the entire debt of Rs. 1,09,140 and that, therefore, over and above the exemption of Rs 1 lakh as aforesaid, under Section 5(1)(iv), the assessee was further entitled to deduction of the entire debt of Rs. 1,09,140 with reference to provisions of Section 2(m). In this regard, learned AAC based his view on the aspect that whereas the word "payable" had been used in the opening part of Section 5(1), the word "chargeable" had been used in Section 2(m)(ii). The said two words, according to the AAC, carried different meaning and connotation.

5. Feeling aggrieved, the department has come up in appeal against the said finding of the AAC. Learned departmental representative referred to T.V. Srinivasan v. CWT [1980] 123 ITR 464 (Mad.) for the proposition that amount borrowed on security of house property would not be deductible under Section 2(m), even though the exemption available under Section 5(1)(iv) was up to a ceiling of Rs. 1 lakh. The debt owed by the assessee in that case was Rs. 36,000 for the assessment year 1972-73.

6. As against this, the learned counsel for the assessee relied on the decision dated 28-7-1980 of the Madras Bench 'A' of the Tribunal in the case of one C. R. Rajendran. In the said decision the Bench of the Tribunal had noticed the aforesaid Madras High Court ruling and still held that deduction of debt owed was permissible even though borrowed money stood utilised in relation to assets partly exempt from tax. For taking such view, the Tribunal relied on Board's Circular No. 1070 dated 28-6-1977. Para 3 whereof reads as under: The Board have also examined the question as to how the deduction in respect of debts which are secured on or have been incurred in relation to any property which is partly exempt under Section 5(1) of the Act is to be allowed. The Board are of the view that in the absence of any clear indication in the Act, the deduction for such debts will have to be allowed in the manner which is most beneficial to the assessee. Accordingly, if for instance, debt of Rs. 1 lakh has been secured on a house property the value of which is Rs. 1,50,000 and exemption of Rs. 1 lakh is allowed under Section 5(1)(iv) of the Act, the debt will have to be allowed to the extent of Rs. 50,000 being the value of the house property which is otherwise includible in the net wealth.

7. Faced with this situation, the learned departmental representative submitted on strength of Sir pur Paper Mills Ltd. v. CWT [1970] 77 ITR 6 (SC) that Board's Circular tantamounted to interpretation of legal provisions and that such function being judicial function was exclusively within the ambit and domain of the quasi-judicial body concerned, whether it be assessing authority or an appellate authority.

In other words, according to the learned departmental representative the said Circular of the Board not being confined to an administrative instruction had no relevance on the aspect as to the meaning and scope of the provisions of Section 2(m)(ii). The assessee's contention, on the other hand, was that the Board's Circular merely purported to give a concession to the assessees by way of administrative policy and that, therefore, as held by the Madras Bench of the Tribunal as aforesaid, the Board's circular should be followed.

8. On close reading of para 3 of the circular as extracted above, we are inclined to agree with the department that the said circular involved interpretation of legal provisions on the basis of rule of harmonious construction and rule of supplying a meaning in the absence of requisite indications. Further basing ourselves on Sirpur Paper Mills (supra), we hold that such function is the exclusive domain of the quasi-judicial authorities concerned and the Board's view in that connection, whether beneficial to the assessee or not, is of no significance.

9. On merit we are of the view that if the words "payable" and "chargeable" as occurring in Section 5(1) and Section 2(m)(ii) are to be held as used interchangeably, then of the debt, deduction of which is claimed by an assessee from the aggregate value of his assets, had been obtained on the security of or in relation to an asset, which is partly exempt and partly not exempt from payability of tax, namely, in cases where the value of such asset exceeds the exempt ceiling, debt owed would have to be deducted to that extent of the value of the asset to which it is not exempt under the provisions of Section 5(1)(iv).

With respect to their Lordships of the Madras High Court, our thinking on the aspect of the aforesaid words "payable" and "chargeable" having been interchangeably used in the Wealth-tax Act is different. Firstly, the Parliament would not indulge in any tautology, namely? using an enactment two different words to convey identical meaning and connotation. This aspect assumes, in our view, great importance as by the amendment affected by the Parliament with effect from 1-4-1965, in Section 2(m)(ii) as per the Wealth-tax (Amendment) Act, 1964, it choose to use the word "chargeable" instead of the word "payable", which existed in the said provision until before the said amendment. To make the proposition clear, we reproduce below, firstly, the unamsnded text of said Sub-clause (ii) and later the amended text ; "(ii) debts which are secured on, or which have been incurred in relation to any asset in respect of which wealth-tax is not payable under this Act ;' " "(ii) debts which arc secured on, or which have been incurred in relation to any property in respect of which wealth-tax is not chargeable under this Act;" 10. Contrast of the above two versions of Sub-clause (ii) shows that Parliament had a particular purpose when introducing the amendment by way of substitution. We proceed to explain that purpose. The term "asset" has been defined in Section 2(e). Para 1 thereof contains the definition in relation to the assessment year commencing on the first day of April, 1979 or any earlier assessment year and excludes five items of property from the definition of the term "asset".

11. Para 2 of the said definition in Section 2(e) is in relation to the assessment year commencing on the first day of April, 1970 or any subsequent assessment year and it purports to exclude three items from the ambit of definition of asset.

12. Section 3 is the charging section. It makes tax chargeable in respect of the net wealth of an individual/HUF, etc. Net wealth in turn as defined in Section 2(m) takes into account in the first instance the aggregate value of the asset. That implies that basically only the value of the assets is chargeable to tax and not the value of each and every item of property irrespective of its constituting or not constituting as an asset. In other words, value of items of property excluded from the ambit of the definition of the term "asset" is not chargeable to tax. Thus, the amendment introduced with effect from 1-4-1965 as aforesaid, is significant so far as the scope of non-deductible debts is concerned.

13. At this stage we make it clear that the assessee's learned counsel, by relying on the Board Circular, sought to support the AAC's order not in its entirety but only to the limited extent that order falls within the scope of the said Circular. We, however, consider that if the provisions of Section 2(m) as interpreted herein above support the AAC's order in totality, we should decide the present appeal accordingly. We hold so.

14. Before parting with the issue on hand, we would also refer to CIT v. Godavari Devi Saraf [1978] 113 TTR 589 (Bom.), cited by the learned departmental representative, in support of the proposition that the Wealth-tax Act being an all India enactment, where there exists a solitary ruling of the High Court, other High Courts as also the Tribunal should feel bound by such ruling. The ratio in Smt. Godavari Devi (supra) was laid down in the peculiar context of the constitutional vires of a certain provision, i.e., Section 140A(3), and not on the aspect of interpretation as such of provision of the Income-tax Act.

16. So far as the assessment years 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77 are concerned, we on the aforesaid reasonings again confirm the AAC's order.

17. Though the figures of the returned estimated value of the asset in question and of deductions held by the WTO as admissible under Section 2(m) as for the subsequent three assessment years vary in comparison with the comparative figures of assessment year 1973-74, the issue involved before us is not different in character.


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