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Wealth-tax Officer Vs. Smt. Uma Rani Choudhurani - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtIncome Tax Appellate Tribunal ITAT Kolkata
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1982)1ITD745(Kol.)
AppellantWealth-tax Officer
RespondentSmt. Uma Rani Choudhurani
Excerpt:
.....required in the proforma prescribed for the purpose and claimed compensation. on 18-6-1976 the assessee received a sum of rs. 63,050 from the government of india, through the custodian of enemy property for india, as an ad hoc compensation, with a condition that she should have to reimburse the compensation to the government of india in case she would be paid any compensation by the bangladesh government at any future date. the assessee claimed before the wto that during the assessment years under consideration the amount she received as compensation on 18-6-1976 could not be said to be her asset as she had no right to receive the same prior to 18-6-1976. this submission of the assessee did not find favour with the wto. he found that the amount of compensation received by the.....
Judgment:
1. These 14 appeals by the revenue are directed on the common ground that the AAC erred in facts as well as in law in excluding the value of compensation, amounting to Rs. 2,52,200, receivable by the assessee from her total net wealth.

2. Before partition of India in 1947 the assessee was residing in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and owning certain immovable properties.

After the partition, the assessee left Bangladesh for good, came to India and since then she has been residing in West Bengal. The properties left by her in Bangladesh were seized by the Government of that country and were declared as enemy property. Subsequently, the Government of India invited from the persons leaving their properties in Bangladesh the details of such properties and the quantum of such losses suffered in respect of seizure of their properties with their respective claim for compensation. Accordingly, the assessee furnished details required in the proforma prescribed for the purpose and claimed compensation. On 18-6-1976 the assessee received a sum of Rs. 63,050 from the Government of India, through the custodian of enemy property for India, as an ad hoc compensation, with a condition that she should have to reimburse the compensation to the Government of India in case she would be paid any compensation by the Bangladesh Government at any future date. The assessee claimed before the WTO that during the assessment years under consideration the amount she received as compensation on 18-6-1976 could not be said to be her asset as she had no right to receive the same prior to 18-6-1976. This submission of the assessee did not find favour with the WTO. He found that the amount of compensation received by the assessee was an ad hoc payment which represented 25 per cent of the total claim. He, therefore, came to hold that the assessee was entitled to receive a total compensation of Rs. 2,52,200 (Rs. 63,050 X 4) at an early date when her immovable properties were seized by the Bangladesh Government. Accordingly, the WTO included the sum of Rs. 2,52,200 in the net wealth of the assessee for each of the years under appeal.

3. The assessee appealed to the AAC and contended that when the properties were taken over by the custodian of the enemy property, she could not exercise the right of ownership on the said properties.

Therefore, it was urged that the WTO was not justified in assessing the value of a non-existent asset. It was claimed that it was only when the compensation was actually received by the assessee, the question of assessability arose. Reliance was placed on the decision of the Calcutta High Court in the case of CWT v. U.C. Mahatab [1970] 78 ITR 214 for the said proposition. The AAC, after considering the submissions made before him as also following the decision of the Calcutta High Court in the case of U.C. Mahatab (supra), held that since the compensation was received by the assessee only on 18-6-1976, the WTO was not justified in including the amount of Rs. 2,52,200 in the net wealth of the assessee for each of the years under appeal.

4. Against the said order of the AAC, the department has preferred the present appeals before us. It was contended by the learned departmental representative that the word "property" is a term of widest import and, subject to any limitation which the context may require, it signifies every possible interest which a person can clearly hold and enjoy. He urged that the fact that the assessee was paid compensation in respect of her properties seized by the Bangladesh Government went to suggest that she had the right to receive compensation on and from the date when her property was taken over by the Government of Bangladesh. He, therefore, submitted that the right to receive compensation being an asset, the WTO was justified in including the value of the total compensation in the net wealth of the assessee. The learned counsel for the assessee, on the other hand, strongly supporting the order of the AAC and relying on the decision of the Calcutta High Court in the case of U.C. Mahatab (supra), urged that the assessee had no legal right to the compensation before 18-6-1976 which could be regarded as an asset.

He next urged that such a right would arise from the date on which the assessee received the compensation. According to him, the mere fact that the assessee had applied for the compensation could not be a reason for coming to the conclusion that the assessee had a right to receive such compensation on the date of claiming the same.

Reliance was placed on the decision of the Tribunal in the case of Ashoka Walamji Parmar WT Appeal Nos. 432 to 434, Calcutta Bench E, dated 22-10-1979 in support of his aforesaid contention.

5. We have heard the submissions of both the parties and perused the decision of the Calcutta High Court relied on by the learned counsel for the assessee and the AAC. The fact that the assessee's immovable properties in Bangladesh were seized and taken over by the Government of that country was not in dispute. There is also no dispute about the fact that the assessee had not received any compensation during the valuation dates relevant to the assessment years under consideration.

It is well known that in a case where properties were seized and taken over by the custodian of enemy property (Bangladesh), the owner had no access to the said properties and, therefore, it has to be held that the owner could not exercise his or her right of ownership in the properties so seized. As a matter of fact, the assessee had no legal right to the compensation that she received only on 18-6-1976. The mere fact that the Government of India allowed certain compensation after the close of the previous years relevant to the assessment years under consideration, in our opinion, cannot be a reason for coming to the conclusion that the assessee was owning asset in Bangladesh or she had right to receive compensation in respect of that asset, the value of which was includible in the net wealth of the assessee for the years under appeal.

Reliance may be placed on the decision of the Calcutta High Court in the case of U.C. Mahatab (supra). In that case the revenue assessed the right of the assessee to receive compensation for the Zamindari properties of the assessee which had vested in the State in 1954 under the provisions of the West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1953 at Rs. 32 lakhs. On appeal, the Tribunal held that as the compensation roll had not been prepared and published, the assessee had no right on the valuation date to receive any compensation for the acquisition of his estate and that the assessee had no actionable claim which had a hypothetical market value on the valuation date. On a reference, at the instance of the Commissioner, the Calcutta High Court held that although the assessee's rights vested in the State immediately on the notification under Section 4 of the West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, under the provisions of that Act, there was no legal right yet in the assessee to compensation, which right would arise only on the publication of the compensation roll, as rightly held by the Tribunal.

We should say that the position of the present case is worst inasmuch as the assessee had no ray of hope in getting any compensation from the Government of Bangladesh in respect of her property that were taken over and declared as enemy property. It is on account of compassionate view taken by the Government of India that the assessee received compensation of Rs. 63,050 on 18-6-1976. On a consideration of this fact and keeping in view the decision of the Calcutta High Court in the case of U.C. Mahatab (supra), we are of the opinion that the AAC was justified in his direction to exclude the value of the compensation from the net wealth of the assessee receivable by the assessee after the valuation dates relevant to the assessment years under appeal, in respect of her assets seized and possessed by the Bangladesh Government.


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