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Commissioner of Wealth-tax Vs. Seth Nand Lal Ganeriwala - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWealth-tax Reference Nos. 1 to 5 of 1974
Judge
Reported in[1977]107ITR758(P& H)
ActsWealth Tax Act, 1957 - Sections 4(1)
AppellantCommissioner of Wealth-tax
RespondentSeth Nand Lal Ganeriwala
Appellant Advocate D.N. Awasthy and; B.K. Jhingan, Advs.
Respondent Advocate Anand Sarup,; K.G. Chaudhry and; M.L. Bansal, Advs.
Cases ReferredT. Saraswathi Achi v. Commissioner of Income
Excerpt:
.....passed by a single judge in exercising powers of superintendence under article 227 of the constitution. - on a plain reading, it lays down that where the transfer of assets is exigible to gift-tax those assets as well as the assets which fall within the purview of section 5 of the gift-tax act, which relates to certain exemptions, shall not be included in the net wealth of the individual under section 4 of the act if he happens to donate these assets, on any day after the 31st day of march, 1964, up to the 1st day of april, 1972. it appears that during this period gift-tax was imposed at a much higher rate and parliament thought that the property gifted during this period should not be further subjected to taxation under the act. the punctuation has never been..........assets donated after the 31st day of march, 1964, up to the 1st day of april, 1972, shall not be included as belonging to the donating individual for computing his net wealth for all times to come, on the basis of the law as it stands today. since the gift of the assets in question had been made in 1958, these assets could validly be included in the total assets of the assessee for computing his net wealth. the reference stands answered accordingly. no costs.
Judgment:

M. R. Sharma, J.

1. The assessee made a gift of rupees one-lakh in favour of his wife in 1958. The Wealth-tax Officer included this amount in the total wealth of the assessee under Section 4(1) of the Wealth-tax Act (hereinafter called 'the Act'). The assessee went in appeal before the Appellate Assistant Commissioner of Wealth-tax, A Range, Patiala, and argued 'that proviso to Section 4 is not happily worded. According to him the words 'for any assessment year commencing after the 31st day of March 1964' refer to the assessment year under the Wealth-tax Act and not to the assessment year under the Gift-tax Act, the reason being that there is a comma after the words 'under Section 5 of that Act' (Gift-tax Act). If these words were meant to refer to the Gift-tax Act, this (comma) should not have been there. Even if the other interpretation that these words refer to the Gift-tax Act be possible (which is not so) then even in the case of two possible interpretations, the interpretation favourable to the appellant should be adopted, because unless the words are capable only of one interpretation and in favour of the revenue, no tax can be levied.' .

2. The said officer agreed with the contention raised on behalf of the assessee, allowed the appeal and excluded a sum of rupees one lakh from the return of the assessee filed under the Act. The appeal filed by the department was dismissed by the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Delhi Bench 'D'. However, at the instance of the Commissioner of Wealth-tax, the Appellate Tribunal has referred the following question to us for our opinion :

'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was right in law in upholding the action of the Appellate Assistant Commissioner of Wealth-tax in excluding the amount of Rs. 1,00,000 from the assessee's net wealth ?'

3. The material portion of Section 4 of the Act reads as under:

'4. (1) In computing the net wealth of an individual, there shall be included, as belonging to that individual-

(a) the value of assets which on the valuation date are held-

(i) by the spouse of such individual to whom such assets have been transferred by the individual, directly or indirectly, otherwise than for adequate consideration or in connection with an agreement to live apart, or.....

Provided that where the transfer of such assets or any part thereof is either chargeable to gift-tax under the Gift-tax Act, 1958 (18 of 1958), or is not chargeable under Section 5 of that Act, for any assessment year commencing after the 31st day of March, 1964, but before the 1st day of April, 1972, the value of such assets or part thereof, as the case may be, shall not be included in computing the net wealth of the individual;.....'

4. A reading of this Section shows that the assets donated by the husband to the wife would normally be included in the net wealth of the husband provided of course the case does not fall within the ambit of the proviso. So, we are concerned with the assets in their true meaning as per the proviso mentioned above. On a plain reading, it lays down that where the transfer of assets is exigible to gift-tax those assets as well as the assets which fall within the purview of Section 5 of the Gift-tax Act, which relates to certain exemptions, shall not be included in the net wealth of the individual under Section 4 of the Act if he happens to donate these assets, on any day after the 31st day of March, 1964, up to the 1st day of April, 1972. It appears that during this period gift-tax was imposed at a much higher rate and Parliament thought that the property gifted during this period should not be further subjected to taxation under the Act. The punctuation has never been regarded as a safe guide in the interpretation of a legislative enactment. The appearance of the comma after the words, 'under Section 5 of the Gift-tax Act', does not alter the true meaning of the Section. The words 'is not chargeable under Section 5 of that Act' show that the amount upon which gift-tax is calculated as also the amountwhich enjoys exemption under the same Act are to be excluded from the assets of the donor for calculating his wealth-tax. In other words, the phraseology employed debars the revenue from turning round and asserting that the assets which are exempt from payment of gift-tax should be deemed to belong to the donor.

5. Similar view of this provision was taken by a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court in Commissioner of Wealth-tax v. Smt. Sarala Debi Birla : [1975]101ITR488(Cal) and by the Madras High Court in T. Saraswathi Achi v. Commissioner of Income-tax : [1976]104ITR185(Mad) . We are in respectful agreement with the view taken in the aforementioned two cases. We, accordingly, hold that the assets donated after the 31st day of March, 1964, up to the 1st day of April, 1972, shall not be included as belonging to the donating individual for computing his net wealth for all times to come, on the basis of the law as it stands today. Since the gift of the assets in question had been made in 1958, these assets could validly be included in the total assets of the assessee for computing his net wealth. The reference stands answered accordingly. No costs.


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