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K.J. Thomas Vs. Commissioner of Agricultural Income Tax, Madras - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation;Limitation
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 880 of 1956 (M)
Judge
Reported inAIR1958Ker6
ActsLimitation Act, 1908; Madras Plantations Agricultural Income Tax Rules, 1955 - Rule 31; Constitution of India - Article 245
AppellantK.J. Thomas
RespondentCommissioner of Agricultural Income Tax, Madras
Appellant Advocate C.K. Viswanatha Iyer, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateGovt. Pleader
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredKruse v. Johnson
Excerpt:
.....plantations agricultural income-tax act, 1955 and rule 31 of madras plantations agricultural income tax rules, 1955 - petitioner director of company owning rubber estate - petitioner sought composition under section 65 (1) of act - application rejected on ground of delay - contention of assessee that rule fixing certain date as last date for filing application for composition unreasonable and it should be struck down - all legislation subject to doctrine of ultra vires and liable to judicial review - length of period of limitation or power of condonation not within power of judicial review - rules cannot be struck down on such grounds under power of judicial review - petition dismissed. - - --in determining the extent of a plantation for the purposes of this section and of the..........by the agricultural income-tax officer, thamarasseri, on the ground that it was filed out of time:'the application for composition of tax under section 65 of the act is rejected as the same was received only on 18-5-1956 i.e., long after the due date'. (ext. b dated 19-5-1956).3. the petitioner then filed a revision petition before the commissioner of agricultural income-tax under section 34 of the act; but without success :'i have perused the connected records. as this new measure of taxation was introduced in the year 1955-56 the government after very careful consideration finally extended the date for the receipt of the applications for the composition of tax for the assessment year 1955-56 till 26th december 1955. sufficient time had been granted for the small growers for.....
Judgment:
ORDER

M.S. Menon, J.

1. The petitioner is the Director of the Thalayar Rubber Industries Limited, North Malabar, which owns a rubber estate with an extent of 55 acres. Sub-section (1) of Section 65 of the Madras Plantations Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1955 (omitting the two Illustrations) reads:

'Any person, who derives agricultural income from a plantation not exceeding twentyacres in extent if used for growing tea, or an extent equivalent thereto if used for growing any crop other than tea, may apply to the prescribed officer for permission to compound the agricultural income-tax payable by him and to pay in lieu thereof a lump sum at the rate or rates specified in Part II of the Schedule:

Provided that the lump sum payable under this sub-section shall be calculated only on the extent of the plantation which, is in excess of five acres if used for growing tea or of an extent equivalent thereto if used for growing any crop other than tea. Explanation.--In determining the extent of a plantation for the purposes of this section and of the Schedule, three acres of plantation used for growing any crop other than tea shall be taken to be equivalent to one acre of plantation used for growing tea and the plantation growing tea as well as the plantation growing any other crop from which agricultural income is derived by the same person shall be taken into account.'

and Sub-section (2) :

'Every application under Sub-section (1) shall be submitted in such form, in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed'.

2. The petitioner sought a composition under the section for the year 1955-56 on 18-5-1956 and the petition was rejected by the Agricultural Income-tax Officer, Thamarasseri, on the ground that it was filed out of time:

'The application for composition of tax under Section 65 of the Act is rejected as the same was received only on 18-5-1956 i.e., long after the due date'. (Ext. B dated 19-5-1956).

3. The petitioner then filed a revision petition before the Commissioner of Agricultural Income-tax under Section 34 of the Act; but without success :

'I have perused the connected records. As this new measure of taxation was introduced in the year 1955-56 the Government after very careful consideration finally extended the date for the receipt of the applications for the composition of tax for the assessment year 1955-56 till 26th December 1955. Sufficient time had been granted for the Small Growers for filing the applications for the composition oi tax in the year 1955-56 on account of the two extensions of time granted by the Government.

The assesses in this case filed neither an application for composition nor a return within the due date. In the above circumstances, I find no reason why any extension of time should be granted to the applicant. The plea that the petitioner is ignorant of the provisions of the Act is not maintainable and cannot be accepted. His application dated 18-5-1956 for composition of tax is long out of time. The petition is, therefore, rejected'. (Ext. C dated 27-6-1956).

There is no doubt that the petition filed on 18-5-1956 was clearly out of time. The relevant rule, Rule 31 of the Madras Plantations Agricultural Income-tax Rules, 1955, (as amended) is:

'The application referred to in Section 65 (2)shall be in Form VIII and shall be sent to the Agricultural Income-tax Officer by registered post or in person or through the authorized representative so as to reach him on or before 13th April every year specifying the total area under each crop in the applicants' plantation during the previous year :

Provided that for the year 1955-56 the application shall be sent not later than 26th December 1955.'

4. The contention before me is not that the petition should be considered as one filed within time or that there is a power of condonation which should have been exercised in favour of the petitioner. The only contention is that the rule in so far as it fixes 26th December 1955 as the last date for the filing of applications for composition for 1955-56 is unreasonable and that it should be struck down on that ground.

5. The Madras Plantations Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1955, came into force on 30-3-1955. The Madras Plantations Agricultural Income-tax Rules, 1955, were originally framed on 1-9-1955 and published in the Fort St. George Gazette dated 7-9-1955. The proviso to Rule 31 of those rules was as follows :

'Provided that for the year 1955-56 the application shall be sent not later than 30th September, 1955.'

By a notification dated 28-11-1955 and published in the Fort St. George Gazette dated 30-11-1955 the following proviso was substituted :

'Provided that for the year 1955-56 the application shall be sent not later than 15th December, 1955'.

A fresh set of rules superseding the previous rules was framed on 17-12-1955 after previous publication as contemplated by Section 61 (1) of the Act and published in the Fort St. George Gazette dated 21-12-1955. The proviso to Rule 31 of those rules says :

':Provided that for the year 1955-56 the application shall be sent not later than 26th December, 1955'.

6. It is true that the interval betweenthe publication of the rules (21-12-1955) andthe last date for the filing of applications forcomposition for the year 1955-1956 (26-12-1955);is very short and that there were some holidays during the said period. In the background of the history of the proviso, however, I amnot prepared to say that the fixing of 26-12-1955 as the last date for the receipt of applications under Section 65 (2) of the Act for the year1955-56 is unreasonable.

7. It has also to be remembered that, as pointed out by the Privy Council in Nagendra Nath Dey v. Suresh Chandra Dey, AIR 1932 PC 165 (A) :

'The fixation of periods of limitation must always be to some extent arbitrary, and may frequently result in hardship. But in construing such provisions equitable considerations areout of place, and the strict grammatical meaning of the words is the only safe guide.

8. Under the constitutional set up in this country all legislation, whether Central, State or delegated, is subject to the doctrine of ultra vires and liable to judicial review. But the scope of that review is only to see whether they fall within the periphery of the power conferred and has been made in the manner provided. 1 need hardly say that to hold that a period of limitation prescribed should have been longer or that a power of condonation should have been given, and strike down a rule on that account is certainly not within that power. In the words of Cockburn C. J., in Bailey v. Williamson, 1873-8 QB 118 (B).

'If the rule made is within the scope of the authority given by the legislature, there is an end of the matter so far as we are concerned'.

9. I am not dealing in this case with the bye-laws of a local or public authority and so it is unnecessary for me to discuss the larger power that English Courts have claimed in respect of such bye-laws, the right to examine not only the scope of powers, but also the reasonableness of the bye-law concerned.

10. As to the use of the word 'unreasonable' in the context of bye-laws Lord Russell of Killowen asked in Kruse v. Johnson, (1898)2 QB 91 at p. 99 (C): 'Unreasonable in what sense?' and answered:

'If for instance (the bye-laws) were found to be partial and unequal in their operation as between different classes; if they were manifestly unjust; if they disclosed bad faith; if they involved such oppressive or gratuitous infererence with the rights of those subject to them as could find no justification in the minds of reasonable men, the Court might well say 'Parliament never intended to give authority to make such rules. They are unreasonable and ultra vires''. (See also Street on Ultra Vires, pages 50 and 498).

11. In the light of what is stated above the petition has to be dismissed and it is hereby dismissed though in the circumstances of the case without any order as to costs.


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