1. This is an appeal by Smt. C. Meenakshi Sundaram of Thanjavur against the order of the AAC, Tiruchirapalli for the assessment year 1977-78, 2. The assessee is an individual and has income from business and property. Her two minor sons, C. Sundarapandian and C. Chidambaram, were admitted to the benefits of partnership in Maniam Transports. The ITO included such share incomes of the minors under Section 64 of the Income-tax Act, 1961 ("the Act"). This was resisted in first appeal on the ground that Section 64( \)(iii) authorises the inclusion of income arising from admission to benefits of partnership ''to a minor child" and that "a minor child" would mean only one child and not both children. Since the assessee had two minor children, the assessee argued that none could be included. It was alternatively argued that, at best, income of one child only could be included. The first appellate authority referred to Section 13 of the General Clauses Act which provided that "words in the singular shall include the plural and vice versa" unless the context requires otherwise. In this view, he confirmed the assessment. In the second appeal, the arguments are repeated.
3. The learned representative for the assessee referred us to Section 16 of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922, where the words used were "the wife" and "the minor child". Section 64, before and after it was substituted by the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Act, 1975, uses the words "a child" in contradistinction to the words ''the spouse", "the son's wife". Hence, he claimed that the intention is now different. He further pointed out that Section 160(1) of the Act, which makes the person entitled to receive the income on behalf of the minor, uses the words "a minor" and the guardian as one on behalf of "such minor" while defining a "representative assessee". This definition, according to him, precludes the application of the General Clauses Act. He also contended that the context of the Income-tax Act also makes an exception to the general rule and such exceptions, according to context, are recognised under Section 13 of the General Clauses Act. If singular could include plural, he claimed that there will be ambiguity in the plural of "son's wife" and "son's minor child" used in Section 64(1)(vi), since Section 64 stipulates an artificial inclusion. It was, therefore, contended that it should be rigidly construed. Other rules of interpretation were also sought to be invoked for his view. The learned departmental representative relied upon the order of the first appellate authority with particular emphasis on the clear intention of Legislature and the specific provision of the General Clauses Act.
4. We have carefully considered the arguments presented before us.
Section 64(1)(aa) reads as under : (1) In computing the total income of any individual, there shall be included all such income as arises directly or indirectly-** ** ** (ii) to a minor child of such individual from the admission of the minor to the benefits of partnership in a firm.
History of the section could leave us in no doubt as to the intention of the Parliament. As pointed out by the learned representative himself, the original intention was to cover income from assets transferred to minor children even by mother on the recommendation of Direct Taxes Enquiry Committee under item 38, in para 7.81(5) and (6) of its report which reads as under : 38-7.81(5) & 6-A provision similar to Section 16(3) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 should be made so as to cover cases of assets transferred by wife to the husband. A further amendment may also be made to Section 16(3) of the Indian Income-tax Act so as to cover transfers of assets to minor children by the mother.
The substitution of the word "a" for the word "the" in the 1961 Act and the extension of the principle of aggregation of minor's income under specified circumstances to "automatic" aggregation of specified income from 1-4-1976 do not have the effect of restricting the inclusion only to a case where there is only one minor child. There could be no rationale or logic in such a move unless we find that the object was to discourage families with a single child.If such a radical change was sought to be made in the scope of Section 64 the reasoning should have appeared in a more explicit form elsewhere. We are, therefore, not impressed with the argument regarding the alleged intention to vary the scheme of inclusion confining to cases where there is only one minor child. Section 13 of the General Clauses Act reads as under : 13. Gender and Number.-In all Central Acts and Regulations, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context, - (1) words importing the masculine gender shall be taken to include females; and The above clause is explicitly against the assessee. There is no context in the income-tax law which would justify an exception to the above rule. Section 160 does not define a "child" and it cannot, therefore, override the general principle stipulated under Section 13 of the General Clauses Act. In Coast Brick & Tile Works Ltd. v.Premchand Raichand  1 AC 192, the Privy Council held that the words "the security" in sub-para (b) of the Kenya Money-Lenders' Ordinance] need not mean "the sole security" and that' the" should be read as "a" or it can altogether be omitted-see, Maxwell on The Interpretation of Statutes, 12th, edn., p. 232. Hence, there is no special significance in the word "the" even in the earlier statute. It also stands to reason that "a" and "the" may be inter-changeable. It is true that Section 64 should be rigidly construed and in case of doubt, it should be interpreted in favour of the taxpayer. But there is, in our opinion, no scope whatsoever for reasonable doubt. There are also other rules of interpretation like interpretation to avoid absurd unreasonable consequence which would automatically follow if we accept the artificial interpretation canvassed on behalf of the assessee.