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Sunita Sabharwal Vs. Commissioner of Income-tax - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writ Petition No. 85 of 1967
Judge
Reported in[1973]92ITR377(Delhi)
ActsIncome Tax Act, 1961 - Sections 139 and 140; Finance (No. 2) Act, 1965 - Sections 24 and 24(4); Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 - Sections 6, 8 and 11
AppellantSunita Sabharwal
RespondentCommissioner of Income-tax
Appellant Advocate R.K. Makhija, Adv
Respondent Advocate B.N. Kirpal, Adv.
Cases ReferredGirdhari Lohar v. Anand Lohar
Excerpt:
.....therein, by a person who had failed to furnish return or which had not been disclosed in the return of income on or before the 19th day of august, 1965. the income so declared was to be liable to tax at the rates specified in sub-section (3) of section 24, but was exempt from all other penalties, etc. by this petition the petitioner has assailed the order of the income-tax officer dated april 26, 1966, returning the declaration as well as the order of the income-tax commissioner, dated december 28, 1966, rejecting the representation with a further prayer that the respondent. limaye, commissioner of income-tax, the filing of the declaration as well as the representation are admitted. according to subsection (1), subject to the provisions of this sub-section where any person made, on..........therein, by a person who had failed to furnish return or which had not been disclosed in the return of income on or before the 19th day of august, 1965. the income so declared was to be liable to tax at the rates specified in sub-section (3) of section 24, but was exempt from all other penalties, etc., otherwise provided by law in terms of this section. on march 30, 1966, a declaration disclosing an income of rs. 10,000 was filed by the mother of the minor petitioner in the name of the minor but under her own signatures. it was returned by the income-tax officer on april 26, 1966, with the following endorsement: 'returned to the declarant (in original) as invalid since the declaration has not been signed by the natural guardian of the minor who alone is competent in law to sign on.....
Judgment:

S.N. Shankar, J.

1. This order will dispose of Civil Writs Nos. 85 of 1967, 165 of 1967, 166 of 1967, 167 of 1967, 168 of 1967, 169 of 1967, 170 of 1967, 171 of 1967, 172 of 1967, 173 of 1967, 174 of 1967, 196 of 1967 and 197 of 1967. The petitioners in all these petitions are minors. Declarations of voluntary disclosure of income under Section 24 of Act No. 15 of 1965 were submitted on their behalf through persons other than the natural guardian which were returned by the Income-tax Officers concerned with the objection that the same were invalid as they did not bear the signature of the natural guardian of the minors. The petitioners in all the petitions have assailed these orders. The learned counsel for the parties are agreed that the points involved in the petitions are the same. They have, thereforee, been heard together. For purposes of this order, facts in C. W. No. 85 of 1967 alone are being referred to.

2. The petitioner in C. W. No. 85 of 1967 is Miss Sunita Sabharwal, minor daughter of H. L. Sabharwal. Section 24 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1965, provided for voluntary disclosure of income on conditions mentioned therein, by a person who had failed to furnish return or which had not been disclosed in the return of income on or before the 19th day of August, 1965. The income so declared was to be liable to tax at the rates specified in Sub-section (3) of Section 24, but was exempt from all other penalties, etc., otherwise provided by law in terms of this section. On March 30, 1966, a declaration disclosing an income of Rs. 10,000 was filed by the mother of the minor petitioner in the name of the minor but under her own signatures. It was returned by the Income-tax Officer on April 26, 1966, with the following endorsement:

'Returned to the declarant (in original) as invalid since the declaration has not been signed by the natural guardian of the minor who alone is competent in law to sign on the minor's behalf.'

3. On September 17, 1966, the father of the petitioner made a representation to the Commissioner of Income-tax stating that as he was out of station and had given general instructions to his wife to deal with 'the matter of my daughter and her amount in any manner beneficial and in her interest', and that he had specifically authorised his wife (petitioner's mother) to take a decision and declare the income of the petitioner 'so that the petitioner may be benefited by the concessional scheme of the Government'.The declaration was returned with the representation with the prayer that it may be accepted. By letter dated December 28, 1966, the Commissioner of Income-tax rejected the representation. By this petition the petitioner has assailed the order of the Income-tax Officer dated April 26, 1966, returning the declaration as well as the order of the Income-tax Commissioner, dated December 28, 1966, rejecting the representation with a further prayer that the respondent. Commissioner of Income-tax, be directed to accept the declaration and allow the benefits of the declaration to the petitioner.

4. In the counter filed by Shri R.N. Limaye, Commissioner of Income-tax, the filing of the declaration as well as the representation are admitted. It is maintained that the declaration had not been properly filed and was rightly returned, It is further contended that the declaration on behalf of the minor should have been signed by the natural guardian of the minor and that the mother of the minor who signed the declaration was not a natural guardian and as such was not competent to sign it. It is not admitted that the natural guardian could delegate his powers in respect of dealings with the property of the minor and the delegation of powers by the petitioner's father in the instant case as alleged is denied. It is further stated that the declaration entailed pecuniary liability for the minor and, thereforee, the only person competent in law to file the declaration was the father of the petitioner.

5. I have heard the learned counsel for the parties and find substance in the contentions of the department. Section 24 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1965, provided for voluntary disclosure of income. According to Subsection (1), subject to the provisions of this sub-section where any person made, on or after the 19th August, 1965, and before the 1st April, 1966, a declaration in accordance with Sub-section (2) in respect of the amount representing income chargeable to tax under the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922, or the Income-tax Act, 1961, for any assessment year commencing on or before the 1st day of April, 1964, for which he had failed to furnish a return within the time allowed by the two Acts or had failed to disclose in the return of income filed by him on or before the 19th August, 1965, under either of the two Acts or which had escaped assessment by reason of the omission or failure on the part of such person to make a return under either of the said Acts or to disclose fully and truly all material facts necessary for assessment, he shall, notwithstanding anything contained in the two Acts, be liable to pay income-tax in accordance with Sub-section (3) of this section in respect of the amount so declared. Sub-section (3) specified the rates at which the income-tax had to be paid. The declaration envisaged in this section is in the nature of return of income provided for in Section 139 of the Income-tax Act, 1961. The provision as to who couldsign and verify the return is contained in Section 140 of this Act. Clause (a) of Section 140 provided for the case of an individual. Clause (b) related to the Hindu undivided family and Clauses (c), (d) and (e) provided for a company, a firm and any other association. Clause (f) then read as under :

'In the case of any other person, by that person or by some person competent to act on his behalf,'

6. Minor is a person for purposes of the Income-tax Act. His case is not provided by Clauses (a) to (e) of Section 140. He is covered by Clause (f). As the minor could not sign the return himself or herself, according to Clause (f), the return on behalf of the minor could be signed only by some person competent to act on his or her behalf. The sole question for determination, thereforee, in these petitions is as to who was the person competent to act on behalf of the petitioner, minor, and as such who was the person competent to sign the declaration under Section 24.

7. To determine this question, recourse has to be taken to the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 (Act No. 32 of 1956). This Act codified the law relating to minority and guardianship among Hindus. According to Section 5, after the promulgation of this Act, any text, rule or interpretation of Hindu law or any custom or usage as part of that law in force immediately before the commencement of this Act ceased to have effect with respect to any matter for which provision was made in this Act. Section 6 of the Act, in the case of a boy or unmarried girl, made the father to be the natural guardian of the minor and after the father, came the mother. Section 8 provided that the natural guardian of a Hindu minor had the power, subject to the provisions of this section, to do all acts which were necessary or reasonable and proper for the benefit of the minor or for the realization, protection or benefit of the minor's estate except that the guardian could in no case bind the minor by a personal covenant. Section 6 read with Section 8, thus provided that in the case of a Hindu minor, the father would be the person competent to act on behalf of the minor in respect of his property wherever it was necessary or reasonable and proper for the benefit of the minor or for the realization, protection or benefit of the minor's estate. The filing of the declaration in the instant case was an act reasonable and proper for the benefit of the minor and for the protection and benefit of the minor's estate. The father, thereforee, was the person competent in law to file the declaration and to sign it on behalf of the minor. In the presence of the father) the mother could not do the same. She came only after the father, i.e., if the father was no more in existence or capable to act.

8. Section 11 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act also provides that, after the commencement of this Act, no person shall be entitled to dispose of or deal with the property of a Hindu minor merely on the groundof his or her being de facto guardian of the minor. This makes the position further clear. The mother, even if she be a de facto guardian, is incompetent to deal with the property of the minor in the presence of the father. The filing of the declaration on behalf of the minor entailed consequences of the disclosed income of the minor being taxed in accordance with Subsection (3) of Section 24 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1965. The de facto guardian had no authority to deal with the income, which was the property of the minor, to expose it to this risk. Such a guardian in fact has no legal existence qua the minor in the eye of law in relation to the property of the minor in face of the clear provision in Section 11 of the Act. This is also borne out on a reference to the definition of 'guardian' in Section 4(b) of the Act which makes no mention of the de facto guardian in any maner qualifying Section 11, even though in Section 6(a) the mother is provided to be a natural guardian of the minor after the father.. Dealing with Section 6(a) and Section 11 of the Act, in Narain Singh v. Sapurna Kuer, : AIR1968Pat318 it was observed :

'The mother has been described under Section 6(a) of the Act as a natural guardian of the Hindu minor, but that is only after the father of a minor. As long as the father is alive the mother cannot claim to be the competent natural guardian of a Hindu minor. The position was not very much different in regard to father and mother of a minor even before this new Act came into force. A de facto guardian is a person who does not come under any of the categories given in Section 4 of the Act but who meddles with the properties or affairs of a minor. To. safeguard the minor's interest from any invasion whatsoever through the assistance of a de facto guardian, the provisions under Section 11 of the Act have been made. If the mother of a Hindu minor is not a de facto guardian and if she cannot act as the natural guardian in the presence of the father of the Hindu minor, then, although Section 11 may not be attracted in terms against the transaction made by such mother, yet, she will derive no authority whatsoever to act as a guardian for the purpose of disposing of the minor's property as she will not come under any of the categories given in Section 4 of the Act.'

9. There is no escape, thereforee, from the conclusion that the mother of the minor in the presence of the father had no authority and was not competent to sign the declaration under Section 24 as she was not the natural guardian.

10. Shri R.K. Makhija, appearing on behalf of the petitioners, minors, in all the petitions referred to Rule 4 of Order 32 of the Code of Civil Procedure and contended that any person who was of sound mind and had attained majority could act as a next friend of the minor or his guardian in the suit. The learned counsel submitted that in view of this provisionthere was no bar to the mother of the minor acting as a guardian of the minor and to sign the declaration. In support of this contention he placed reliance on the observations in Girdhari Lohar v. Anand Lohar, : AIR1967Pat8 . The argument has no merits. Provisions of Order 32, Code of Civil Procedure, are not attracted for purposes of the Income-tax Act. Except Section 282 of the Income-tax Act, 1961, providing for service of notice generally, my attention was not drawn to any other provision in this Act, making the Code of Civil Procedure applicable to it. The next friend or guardian for purposes of a suit can in fact be any person appointed by the court and not necessarily guardians enumerated in Section 4 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956. That is a special provision made for purposes of the suits. The guardian appointed in the suit does not become a guardian of the minor for all other purposes. The powers of a person appointed by the court as next friend of minor are limited to the legal proceedings in which the appointment is made and do not extend beyond it. Reference to Order 32 and the observations made in Girdhari Lohar's case in the context of this provision are, thereforee, of no assistance to the learned counsel.

11. The learned counsel then said that no specific provision had been made in the Income-tax Act, 1961, nor was there any indication in Section 24 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1965, as to who was to sign the declaration or file the return on behalf of the minor and the mother as a de facto guardian of the minor could, thereforee, not be excluded to act on behalf of her- ward. As stated earlier, the declaration of income under Section 24 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1965, is in the nature of a return of income. Specific provision has been made in Section 140 of the 1961 Act which provides for the person by whom the return could be signed and verified. The case of the minor is covered by Clause (f) of this section extracted above. It is, thereforee, not correct to say that there is no provision in the Act in regard to the filing of the return by the minor. The further argument that the mother as a de facto guardian could sign the return is also without merit in the face of Section 11 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act for reasons already stated.

12. The learned counsel next contended that the father of the minor had ratified the declaration by sending the letter, dated September 17, 1966, copy of which is annexure 'B' on the record. Receipt of this letter is not denied by the department. Referring to Section 196 of the Contract Act, the learned counsel contended that after the ratification by the father the declaration filed by the mother should have been deemed to have been filed with the authority of the father. To meet the argument that the ratification by letter dated September 17, 1966, was beyond the last dateprescribed for the filing of the declaration by Section 24, namely, March 31,1966. the learned counsel said that the ratification in law operated retrospectively and the fact that the letter of ratification was sent after March 31, 1966, made no difference. After hearing Shri B. N. Kirpal, appearing for the department, in view of the scheme of Section 24, I am unable to sustain this argument. Clause (a) of Sub-section (4) of Section 24 provides that the Commissioner of Income-tax, within 30 days of the receipt of the declaration shall, if he is satisfied that the whole or any part of the income declared had been detected or deemed to have been detected by the Income-tax Officer prior to the date of declaration, make an order in writing to that effect and forward a copy thereof to the declarant after compliance with the terms of this clause. Clause (b) of this sub-section provides what income shall be deemed to have been detected by the Income-tax Officer. The period of 30 days prescribed by this sub-section cannot be extended. After the expiry of this period the Commissioner loses jurisdiction to make any order in regard to the detected or deemed to have been detected income comprised in the declaration. To say that an invalid declaration could be validated by ratification after the expiry of these thirty days would be to render nugatory the provisions of this sub-section. It is difficult for this reason to accept the argument that ratification after the expiry of thirty days could make the declaration valid. The letter of the petitioner's father dated September 17, 1966, thereforee, is of no avail in the instant case.

13. The learned counsel, lastly, contended that the filing of the declaration by the mother was not a 'dealing with the property of the minor' and as such provisions of Section 11 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act did not come into play. The submission is wholly devoid of merit. The sum of Rs. 10,000 belonging to the minor referred to in the declaration was the property held by the minor. By making the declaration under Section 24 of the Finance (No. 2) Act, 1965, in respect of it this amount was sought to be made liable to tax in accordance with sub-section (3) of this section which provided the rates at which the tax had to be paid on the declared income. The sum of Rs. 10,000 held by the minor was thus being dealt with by the declarant and the filing of the declaration did amount to a dealing with the property.

14. The petitioners, minors, for reasons aforesaid have thus not been able to make out a case for the reliefs prayed for by them in the writ petitions.

15. In consequence C.Ws. 85 of 1967, 165 of 1967, 166 of 1967, 167 of1967, 168 of 1967, 169 of 1967, 170 of 1967, 171 of 1967, 172 of 1967, 173 of 1967, 174 of 1967, 196 of 1967 and 197 of 1967 fail and are hereby dismissed but with no order as to costs.


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