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Lalita Dalmia Vs. Commissioner of Wealth-tax Delhi (Central) and Another. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writs Nos. 1291, 1292 & 1293 of 1970
Reported in[1981]132ITR139(Delhi)
AppellantLalita Dalmia
RespondentCommissioner of Wealth-tax Delhi (Central) and Another.
Cases Referred and D. Cawasji & Co. v. State of Mysore
Excerpt:
- - the petitioners are hindu wives and belong to a well-to-do family of industrialists and business. unless -(i) the application is accompanied by a fee of twenty-five rupees, and (ii) the application is made within one year from the date of the order sought to be revised or within such further period as the commissioner may think fit to allow on being satisfied that the assessed was prevented by sufficient cause from making the application within the period. we are also satisfied that there was nothing to prevent the assessed from approaching the commissioner within time for the revision of the order of assessment......of the petitioner. the petitioner, for the various assessment years from 1957-58 to 1967-68, filed wealth-tax returns and disclosed her net wealth including the jewellery. the petitioner did not claim in her return any exemption in relation to jewellery under s. 5(1)(viii) of the act as an article in tended for the personal and household use of the assessed. since the petitioner did not claim any such exemption, her wealth-tax returns were finalised and orders of assessments were passed on various dates during the period january 24, 1961, to december 27, 1969.on february 25, 1970, the supreme court decided the aforesaid case of arundhati balkrishna : [1970]77itr505(sc) . in this case, the supreme court took the view that s. 5(1)(xv) of the act deals with jewellery in general,.....
Judgment:

YOGESHWAR DAYAL J. - This order will dispose of C.Ws. Nos. 1291, 1292 and 1293 of 1970 which have been filed by Smt. Lalita Dalmia, Smt. Krishna Dalmia and Smt. Abha Dalmia respectively. The petitioners are Hindu wives and belong to a well-to-do family of industrialists and business. They are assessed to wealth-tax.

The petitioners have in all the three petitions challenged an identical order dated October 3, 1970, passed by the Commissioner of Wealth-tax Delhi (Central), new Delhi, dismissing their revision petition filed before the Commissioner under s. 25 of the W.T. Act, 1957 (Act 27 of 1957), hereinafter referred to as 'the Act.'

The revision petitions filed by Smt. Lalita Dalmia and Smt. Krishna Dalmia were in respect of various assessment years from 1957-58 to 1967-68, whereas the revision petition in relation to Smt. Abha Dalmia was filed in respect of assessment years 1964-65 to 1966-67. The revisions petitions were filed as a sequel to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of CWT v. Arundhati Balkrishna : [1970]77ITR505(SC) . The said revision petitions were filed by all the petitioners on April 3, 1970.

Since the facts and the legal submissions involved in all the writ petitions are identical, we would giver the facts of C.W. No. 1291/70 for the sake of convenience.

The petitioner owned and possessed considerable jewellery besides other properties which she now alleges was intended for the personal of the petitioner. The petitioner, for the various assessment years from 1957-58 to 1967-68, filed wealth-tax returns and disclosed her net wealth including the jewellery. The petitioner did not claim in her return any exemption in relation to jewellery under s. 5(1)(viii) of the Act as an article in tended for the personal and household use of the assessed. Since the petitioner did not claim any such exemption, her wealth-tax returns were finalised and orders of assessments were passed on various dates during the period January 24, 1961, to December 27, 1969.

On February 25, 1970, the Supreme Court decided the aforesaid case of Arundhati Balkrishna : [1970]77ITR505(SC) . In this case, the Supreme Court took the view that s. 5(1)(xv) of the Act deals with jewellery in general, whether intended for the personal use of the assessed or not, and s. 5(1)(viii) dealt with the jewellery intended for the personal use of the assessed and comes within the meaning of articles intended for the personal use of the assessed and thus, where it was the common case of the parties that the jewellery in question was intended for the personal use of the assessed, the assess was entitled to claim exemption for determining her net wealth under the provisions of s. 5(1)(viii) of the Act irrespective of the limited exemption available to jewellery under s. 5(1)(xv). The Supreme Court in this case affirmed the decision of the Gujarat High Court.

After the decision of the Supreme Court in Arundhati Balkrishna case : [1970]77ITR505(SC) , s. 5(1)(viii) has since been amended retrospectively with effect from the assessment year 1963-64. We are, thereforee, concerned in the present case only in relation to the revision petitions filed by the petitioners for the assessment years from 1957- 58 till effective date of amendment of s. 5(1)(viii) of the Act.

The Commissioner by his impugned orders dismissed the revision petitions filed by all the petitioners on the ground of their being barred by time and that the petitioners were not prevented by 'sufficient cause' from impugning their assessment orders within the time allowed by law.

The scheme of the Act is somewhat similar of the I.T. Act in the matter of creating an hierarchy of authorities and the provisions for appeals and revision. Section 3 of the Act is the charging section and s. 4 provides for the computation of net wealth of an individual. Section 5 provides for various assets being exempted for the purpose of computing the net wealth of an assessed. Section 14 of the Act, which appears in Chap. IV of the Act, provides for the return of wealth. Section 15 provides for furnishing a revised return before the assessment is made. Section 16 provides for assessment. Against the order of assessment and various other order, we have provision for appeals, revisions and reference similar of those in the I.T. Act, 1961.

It will be noticed that all the petitioners in the present writ petitions never claimed exemption from wealth-tax under s. 5(1)(viii) of the Act (as it stood before its amendment) in their respective returns with the result that in this regard, in any case, the returns filed by the assesses were accepted by the WTO. No attempt was made either to revise the returns for claiming exemption under s. 5(1)(viii) of the Act.

Relevant part of sub-s (1) of s. 25 of the Act which confers revisional powers is as under :

'25. (1) The Commissioner may, either of his own motion or on application made by an assessed in this behalf, call for the record of any proceeding under this Act in which an order has been passed by any authority subordinate to him, and may make such inquiry, or cause such inquiry to be made, and, subject to the provisions of this Act, pass such order thereon, not being an order prejudicial to the assessed, as the Commissioner thinks fit :

Provided that the Commissioner shall not revise any order under this sub-section in any case - .....

(c) where the application is made by the assessed for such revision; unless -

(i) the application is accompanied by a fee of twenty-five rupees, and

(ii) the application is made within one year from the date of the order sought to be revised or within such further period as the Commissioner may think fit to allow on being satisfied that the assessed was prevented by sufficient cause from making the application within the period....'

We have heard Mr. V. S. Desai in support of the petitioners. The learned counsel submitted that both the W.T. authorities and the petitioners were under a common bonafide mistake of fact that jewellery as a wearing apparel or article for personal use was not entitled to exemption under the provisions of s. 5(1)(viii) of the Act before its amendment and, thereforee, the petitioners did not claim exemption in their returns and thus the Commissioner was bound to revise the assessment order. In any case, he submitted, there was sufficient caused for not preferring the revision within time as the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Arundhati Balkrishna : [1970]77ITR505(SC) was delivered only on February 25, 1970, which, for the first time, appeared by way of short notes in the Supreme Court Short Notes on March 15, 1970. Thereafter, without any further delay, the revision petitions were filed before the Commissioner on April 3, 1970. In this connection, it was averred in the Writ petitions that it was a uniform and universal practice of the W.T. authorities to treat jewellery intended for the personal use of the assessed as liable to wealth tax and in the view of the aforesaid uniform and universal practice, the petitioners herein along with the revenue authorities bona fide and reasonably believed that the jewellery of the petitioners was liable to tax under the provisions of the Act and in this connection referred to the decisions of the Supreme Court in Sales Tax Officers Banaras v. Kanhaiya Lal Makund Lal Saraf : [1959]1SCR1350 and D. Cawasji & Co. v. State of Mysore, AIR 1957 SC 813 and it was submitted that even a suit will be maintainable under s. 72 of the contract Act within three years of the discovery of the common mistake.

It will be noticed that the case of Kanhaiya Lal Makund Lal : [1959]1SCR1350 was where levy of sales tax on forward transactions was held by the High Court to be ultra virus and, thereafter, the assessed has filed a writ petition for quashing the assessment orders and for refund of the amount paid. In the case of D. Cawasji & Co. AIR 1957 SC 813, the Supreme Court has declined to interfere with the discretion of the High Court in dismissing the writ petition for claiming a refund of cess paid and in directing the petitioners therein to resort to the remedy of a suit in relation to the cess collected under a statute declared to be ultra vires.

The present case does not appear to have any parallel with the aforesaid two cases. No law has been declared ultra virus in the present case. As it appears from the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Case of Arundhati Balkrishna : [1970]77ITR505(SC) , the revenue authorities in that case has not reconciled themselves in spite of the decision of the Gujarat High Court and has taken up the matter further to the Supreme Court and, thereforee, there can be no question of both the parties being under a bona fide mistake of fact.

It appears to use that the revision petitions before the Commissioner, in these circumstances, were misconceived, irrespective of the question of the existence of sufficient case for the condensation of delay. As stated earlier, the petitioners never claimed exemption, before filing the revision petitions, as contemplated by s. 5(1)(viii) of the Act (as it stood before its amendment). The WTO simply accepted the returns of the petitioners in this behalf and there was nothing by which the petitioners could be said to have a locus standi to even approach the Commissioner by way of a revision petition under s. 25 of the Act. The revisional power was sought to be exercised by the petitioners themselves and it was not a case of suo motu exercise of revisional power. The only person who is entitled to go in revision is the one who is aggrieved by an order. The petitioners themselves has never claimed an exemption, so, there was nothing for the WTO to allow any reduction by way of exemption while computing the net wealth of the petitioners. It was for the assesseds themselves while filing the returns to claim any exemption which they may feel entitled to for the purpose of computation of their net wealth. It is not for the authorities under the Act to suggest an exemption which is not claimed by the assesseds unless on the statements made in the returns they were entitled to exemption under the law. No revised return was filed either, which could be filed only before assessment.

Since the revision petitions were misconceived, we find no merit in the Writ petitions either.

We are also satisfied that there was nothing to prevent the assessed from approaching the Commissioner within time for the revision of the order of assessment. Merely because in some other case, with which the assesseds have no concern, a superior court interpreted a law in a particular way, would not in all circumstances constitute a sufficient cause within the meaning of cl. (ii) of prov. (c) to s. 25(1) of the Act. It is not a case when the assesses has even claimed exemption at an appropriate stage which was declined by the revenue.

There is thus no merit in the writ petitions and the same are dismissed with costs.


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