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A. Seetharamaiah Vs. Wealth-tax Officer - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtIncome Tax Appellate Tribunal ITAT Hyderabad
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1983)3ITD495(Hyd.)
AppellantA. Seetharamaiah
RespondentWealth-tax Officer
Excerpt:
.....as the donee, the gifts were meant for the benefit of his family and that, therefore, the gift deeds had created an interest in favour of the huf consisting of the assessee and his children. it was, therefore, claimed that the inclusion of the said properties in the individual assessments of the assessee was not justified. the commissioner, however, was of the view that the recitals in the gift deeds indicated very clearly that donee was given full rights of enjoyment in the property for himself and that his progeny would also be entitled to inherit the property eventually. he further observed that the recitals in the deeds also clarified the above view by giving full rights of alienation and disposition to the assessee exclusively. he held that the intention of the donor was.....
Judgment:
1. The assessee, an individual, has filed these appeals against the identical order passed separately for the assessment years 1977-78 and 1978-79 by the Commissioner, Visakha-patnam, under Section 25(2) of the Wealth-tax Act, 1957 ('the Act').

2. Originally, the assessements to wealth-tax for the above assessment years were made by the WTO by orders dated 10-11-1978 under Section 16(3) of the Act by accepting the assessee's claim that certain properties received by way of gift from his paternal uncle belonged to his HUF, but not to him as individual. Later, the Commissioner initiated action under Section 25(2), for both the assessment years on the ground that the conclusion of the WTO that the aforesaid properties belonged to the HUF and not to the assessee as individual was erroneous and prejudicial to the interests of the revenue. On behalf of the assesses it was explained before the Commissioner that the assessee had received the impugned properties as gift from his paternal uncle under three deeds of gift dated 12-9-1952, 29-6-1954 and 6-9-1954, that though the assessee was described as the donee, the gifts were meant for the benefit of his family and that, therefore, the gift deeds had created an interest in favour of the HUF consisting of the assessee and his children. It was, therefore, claimed that the inclusion of the said properties in the individual assessments of the assessee was not justified. The Commissioner, however, was of the view that the recitals in the gift deeds indicated very clearly that donee was given full rights of enjoyment in the property for himself and that his progeny would also be entitled to inherit the property eventually. He further observed that the recitals in the deeds also clarified the above view by giving full rights of alienation and disposition to the assessee exclusively. He held that the intention of the donor was only to give full rights over the property to the assessee and not to create any rights in favour of the HUF of the assessee as claimed. He accordingly set aside the assessments for both the assessment years and directed the WTO to redo the same by including in the assessee's net wealth the value of the above properties received by him under the aforesaid three gift deeds. It is against these orders of the Commissioner that the assessee has filed these appeals before the Tribunal.

3. The learned counsel for the assessee, Shri Sreerama Rao, submitted that the assessee was gifted by his paternal uncle three vacant sites under deeds of gift dated 12-9-1952, 29-6-1954 and 6-9-1954, that at the time when the gifts were made the assessee had two sons, that for the years under appeal, due to ignorance of the correct position in law, the assessee had included the value of the above properties in the net wealth but later on coming to know the correct legal position, he had filed revised return in which it was claimed that the above properties belonged to his HUF, that the WTO, when he made the original assessments, had considered the above claim of the assessee with reference to the records of the case, that the WTO had found the claim in order and accepted the same by excluding the value of the properties from the net wealth of the assessee assessed as individual, that as per the recitals in the gift deeds the donor had intended that the properties should be enjoyed by the assessee 'putra poutra paramparya' which clearly indicated that the property should be enjoyed by the assessee and his lineal male descendants, that the intention was not to gift the properties to the assessee as an individual, that merely because powers of alienation were also conferred under the gift deeds, it cannot be said that the intention was to gift the properties to the assessee as an individual because even a HUF can alienate property subject to the limitation laid down by law and that, therefore, the Commissioner had erred in holding that the properties were gifted to the assessee as an individual.

4. The learned counsel referred to the ruling of the Supreme Court in C.N. Arunachala Mudaliar v. C.A. Muruganatha Mudaliar [1954] SCR 243 which was referred to by the Supreme Court later in its decision in the case ofM.P. Periakaruppan Chettiar v. CIT/CWT/CGT [1975] 99 ITR 1. He pointed out that the matter is one of construction of the deeds of gift and the Supreme Court in the above cases had held that the court would have to collect the intention of the donor from the language of the document taken along with the surrounding circumstances in accordance with the well-known canons of construction. He pointed out that the facts in the case before the Supreme Court in Periakaruppan (supra) were different in that the recitals in the documents were not the same is in the instant case.

5. The learned counsel further submitted that the donor having indicated in the documents that the donee, i.e., the assessee should enjoy the properties 'putra poutra paramparya', had also stated that the properties should be enjoyed by the assessee with absolute rights, which comprised of also the right of alienation. In this connection, he drew our attention to the ruling of the Delhi High Court in Raghbir Singh v. Budh Singh AIR 1978 Delhi 86, in which the Court pointed out that the different parts of a document should be construed harmoniously and the document should be construed in such a way that the language of a part of it, if given full effect to, would not result in making the other part of the document defeasible. The learned counsel submitted that even a HUF has powers of alienation for limited purposes and that the Commissioner had erred in holding that because rights of alienation and disposition had been conferred on the assessee the gift should be construed as a gift to the assessee as individual. The learned counsel, relying upon the ruling of the Delhi]High Court in the case of Raghbir Singh (supra) aforesaid, submitted that on a harmonious reading of the recitals in the deeds, the gifts of the properties were made with an intention to gift them to the assessee's HUF. He further submitted that the assessee's son Ratnaji Rao who was born on 30-7-1947 and Chinnavarahalu who was born on 5-6-1950 were in existence prior to the execution of the first document of gift referred to above and another son Pydi Suryanarayana who was born on 30-8-1963 was in existence when the latter two documents of gift were executed. He, therefore, pointed out that the above sons also had vested rights in the properties gifted and it is incorrect to say that the gifts were intended to be made to the assessee as an individual. The learned counsel further pointed out that merely because in the earlier assessment years the assessee had claimed that the properties gifted belonged to him as individual there can be no estoppel for these years. In support of this submission he relied on the following rulings CIT v. Bharat General Re Insurance Co.

Ltd. [1971] 81 ITR 303 (Delhi), R.B. Jessa Ram Fateh Chand v. CIT [1971] 81 ITR 409 (All.). The learned counsel also drew our attention to the ruling of the Calcutta High Court in the case of Pandubala Debi v. Jotindranath Goswami AIR 1926 Cal. 993 which was referred to in the Judicial Dictionary, 8th Edition 1980 by K.J. Aiyer at page 793. He submitted that though the Calcutta High Court had interpreted the words 'putra poutradi krame' as meaning and including female heirs, the context in which the judgment was rendered was different from the context obtaining in the present case. He pointed out that to gather the intention of the donor regard must be had to the context in which the gifts were made in the present case and also taking note of the fact that Hindu Succession Act had not yet come into force.

6. On behalf of the revenue the learned departmental representative, besides relying upon the orders of the Commissioner, heavily relied upon the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Periakaruppan (supra). He further pointed out that in this case no coparcenary was in existence and, therefore, there could be no question of making a gift to a non-existing coparcenary. He pointed out that on the facts and in the circumstances of the case it must be held that the donor had gifted the properties under consideration to the assessee as an individual only.

7. We have considered the rival submissions. It is common ground that the properties under dispute were the subject-matter of gifts made by the paternal uncle of the assessee under the three deeds dated 12-9-1952, 29-6-1954 and 6-9-1954. The deeds are stated to be written in Telugu. The learned counsel for the assessee has, however, furnished to us free English translation of the same. The relevant operative recitals in the aforesaid deeds, in seriatim, as per the free English translation, are as under: DEED DATED 12-9-1952 -The said vacant site shall be enjoyed by you 'putra poutra paramparaya' with a right to gift, sale, etc.

DEED DATED 29-6-1954 -The said vacant site is for enjoyment for you, putra poutra paramparya with absolute rights of sale, disposition and gift. You may, therefore, pay all the taxes due to Municipality and death duty leviable by the Government attributable to this property etc. and enjoy the property with absolute rights of gift, sale etc.

DEED DATED 6-9-1954 -You enjoy the land yourself putra pautra paramparya with absolute rights.

The simple point at issue in these appeals is whether the aforesaid vacant sites obtained by the assessee under the aforesaid deeds of gift represented the property of his HUF or his individual property.

8. The Supreme Court in C.N. Arunachala Mudaliar's case (supra) held that the Court would have to collect the intention of the donor from the language of the document taken along with the surrounding circumstances in accordance with the well-known canons of construction.

Applying the above dictum, we have to gather the intention of the donor from the deeds of gift aforesaid along with the surrounding circumstances of the case. In the instant case, the learned counsel for the assessee has banked very heavily on the expression 'putra poutra paramparya' used in the above deeds of the gift in support of his contention that the donor had intended that the property gifted should be enjoyed by the assessee as and on behalf of his joint family. Apart from placing sole reliance upon the above terms, we do not find any other circumstance obtaining in this case in support of the claim of the assessee that the properties aforesaid belonged to the joint family of the assessee. On the other hand, in all the prior years inclusive of the assessment year 1977-78 the assessee had admitted the above propefties as belonging to him as individual. The words 'putra poutradi krame', which are equivalent to 'putra poutra paramparya', are explained in K.J. Aiyer's Judicial Dictionary, 8th Edition 1980, at page 793 as under : Putra poutradi krame. 'Although the words literally signify descendants of the male sex, they ordinarily mean and include female heirs where, by law, the estate would descend to such heirs and are apt for conferring an estate of inheritance to either male or female heir (Ghose, J., in Pandubala Debi v. Jotindra, 53 Cal. 816 : AIR 1926 Cal. 99.

(Ind. term) Son, grandson and so on. It is an expression used generally in a sale deed or will meaning heirs.

In Mulla on the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, 6 th Edition, at page 95 the following passage appears : ...Words of 'limitation' such as 'and his heirs,' or 'from generation to generation' denote an absolute estate. These words are said to denote an 'estate of inheritance', by which is meant that the heirs of the grantee take by inheritance from the grantee.

...In an Indian will the words putra poutradi krama are words of limitation denoting an estate of inheritance-Ram Lal Mukerjee v. Secretary of State [1980] 7 Cal. 304 The learned counsel for the assessee had strongly contended that the interpretation of the words 'putra poutradi krame' made by the Calcutta High Court in the case of Pandubala Debi (supra) would not apply to the facts of this case because, according to him, the context of this case was different from that case. We have gone through the aforesaid decision. In that case the plaintiff had claimed that the lease read with ekrarnama did not confer a permanent lease of a certain property but it was really a lease for the lifetime of the male heirs of the grantee. The Court extracted the relevant portions of the patta and ekrarnama at page 995 of the said report. In the patta it was provided that the grantee would continue to enjoy and possess the premises by residing therein through sons, grandsons, etc. (putra poutradi krame).

The Court further extracted the ekrarnama which provided that the daughter or daughter's son of the grantee shall not be able to reside therein as heirs and that they would not be entitled to the said property. The contention of the defendant was that the clause in the ekrarnama which should be read as part of the lease excluding the daughter and daughter's son of the grantee was inoperative. The Calcutta High Court reversing the judgments of the Trial Court and the judgment of the Single Judge of the High Court observed as under : There can hardly be any doubt on a proper construction of the documents which, it is admitted, must be read together, that the lease is a permanent heritable one. Although the words 'putra poutradi krame' literally signify descendants of the male sex, they ordinarily mean and include female heirs where by law the estate would descend to such heirs and are apt for conferring an estate of inheritance to either male or female heirs. (p. 995) The Calcutta High Court gave the above decision even though the ekrarnama had expressly excluded the female heirs while interpreting the words 'putra poutradi krame'. As referred to above the Calcutta High Court in the case Pandubala Debi (supra) had held the words 'putra poutradi krame' denote an estate of inheritance. The deeds of gift had further recited that the properties will be taken by the donee with absolute rights. This, in our view, further clarified the position beyond doubt that the donee would enjoy the property as his individual property. We are unable to agree with the argument of the learned counsel of the assessee that the term 'absolute rights' should be understood to mean a right which a HUF has in respect of the property belonging to it. The Supreme Court had dealt with a similar case of gift by a father of self-acquired properties to his sons in the case of M.P. Periakaruppan (supra). It was argued before the Supreme Court that the gift in that case was stated to be in favour of the donees, i.e., four sons of the assessee and 'their respective heirs, executors, administrators and assignees' which was claimed to indicate that the objects of the bounty were the sons as heads of their respective families. The Supreme Court repelled the above contention and observed as under: ...It is clear from the deeds that the donor's desire was to transfer the properties to the three sons whom he named and described as donees. It was not stated that the donees would take the property as heads of their family units. The use of the words 'heirs, executors, administrators and assignees', in the context in which they appear, in our opinion, indicate on the contrary that the gift was to the sons absolutely, the property gifted being both heritable and alienable. There is nothing in the two documents to suggest that the interest transferred to the sons was limited in any way. The surrounding circumstances also do not support Mr. Desai's contention. As stated already, for many years following the gift, the appellant in either group of appeals used to file returns in the status of an individual and was being assessed as such....(pp. 5-6) The facts obtaining in the instant case are similar. Instead of the words heirs, executors, administrators and assignees, the words 'putra poutra paramparya' are used in the instant case. The words putra poutra param-parya have been interpreted by the Calcutta High Court and in the Judicial Dictionary referred to above as meaning heirs including female heirs. It is common ground that in prior years inclusive of the assessment year 1977-78 under appeal the assessee had been admitting the aforesaid properties obtained under the aforesaid gift deeds of 1952 and 1954 as his individual properties. It is true as contended by the learned counsel of the assessee and which was also fairly conceded by the learned departmental representative the assessee cannot be estopped from claiming that the properties belonged to the HUF for the years under appeal. But as pointed out by the Supreme Court in the case of C.N. Arunachala Mudaliar (supra) the intention of the donor has to be gathered from the language of the document along with the surrounding circumstances. In the case of Periakaruppan (supra), the Supreme Court has taken note of the fact that for many years following the gift the assessee had filed returns in the status of an individual in respect of the properties gifted and was being assessed as such as one of the surrounding circumstances. As pointed out earlier, apart from placing sole reliance upon the term 'putra poutra paramparya', no other surrounding circumstance is referred or relied on behalf of the assessee to show that the intention of the donor was to gift the properties in question to the assessee to be owned and enjoyed as belonging to his joint family. For the foregoing reasons, we confirm the orders of the Commissioner (Appeals).


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