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Commissioner of Agrl. Income-tax Vs. K.N. Krishnan Nair - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Case NumberIncome-tax Referred Case Nos. 20 and 21 (Agrl.) of 1974
Judge
Reported in[1976]104ITR408(Ker)
ActsKerala Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1950 - Sections 2, 3 and 9(2)
AppellantCommissioner of Agrl. Income-tax
RespondentK.N. Krishnan Nair
Appellant AdvocateGovernment Pleader
Respondent Advocate C.S. Rajan, amicus curiae
Cases ReferredVanguard Fire and General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Fraser and Ross
Excerpt:
.....:appellate assistant commissioner has failed to take note of theprovision in section 3 that agricultural income-tax may be charged on the total agricultural income of every person and according to the definition of 'person' in section 2(m) only an individual or association of individuals owning or holding property in any capacity recognised by law is a 'person'.in other words only an individual or association of individuals owning or holding property can be assessed under section 3. in this case it is common ground that the appellant has gifted away all his properties and does not own or hold any property and as such he is not a person as defined in section 2(m). therefore, we are of the view that the appellant is not liable to be assessed under section 3 of the agricultural..........the accounting years ending on march 31, 1968, and march 31, 1969, respectively). the assessee was assessed to agricultural income-tax on an estimated income of rs. 4,081.25 for each of the two years. in answer to the pre-assessment notices, the assessee contended that he had no income which arose in the relevant accounting years as he had gifted away all his properties to his four daughters, two of whom were minors. the properties had been gifted on may 1, 1967. the assessee, therefore, contended that the income of his minor daughters could not be included in his income under section 9(2) of the agricultural income-tax act, 1950, as he did not have any income of his own. his contention was rejected by the income-tax officer and he was assessed to tax under section 9(2) in respect of the.....
Judgment:

Kochu Thommen, J.

1. These reference cases arise from a common order of the Kerala Agricultural Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Trivandrum, in R.As. Nos. 7 & 8 of 1973 in A.I.T.As. Nos. 337 and 338 of 1970. The assessment years are 1968-69 and 1969-70 (relating to the accounting years ending on March 31, 1968, and March 31, 1969, respectively). The assessee was assessed to agricultural income-tax on an estimated income of Rs. 4,081.25 for each of the two years. In answer to the pre-assessment notices, the assessee contended that he had no income which arose in the relevant accounting years as he had gifted away all his properties to his four daughters, two of whom were minors. The properties had been gifted on May 1, 1967. The assessee, therefore, contended that the income of his minor daughters could not be included in his income under Section 9(2) of the Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1950, as he did not have any income of his own. His contention was rejected by the Income-tax Officer and he was assessed to tax under Section 9(2) in respect of the income attributable to his two minor daughters arising from the properties transferred. The assessee challenged the orders of assessment in appeal before the Appellate Assistant Commissioner on the ground that Section 9(2) of the Act would not warrant assessment in cases where the transferor of the property did not retain any property and, consequently, had no income of his own. The appeal was, however, dismissed by the Appellate Assistant Commissioner. The assessee filed a second appeal which was allowed by the Tribunal by its order dated June 29, 1973. Setting aside the assessment orders, the Tribunal held as follows :

' ......Appellate Assistant Commissioner has failed to take note of theprovision in Section 3 that agricultural income-tax may be charged on the total agricultural income of every person and according to the definition of 'person' in Section 2(m) only an individual or association of individuals owning or holding property in any capacity recognised by law is a 'person'. In other words only an individual or association of individuals owning or holding property can be assessed under Section 3. In this case it is common ground that the appellant has gifted away all his properties and does not own or hold any property and as such he is not a person as defined in Section 2(m). Therefore, we are of the view that the appellant is not liable to be assessed under Section 3 of the Agricultural Income-tax Act and hence both the assessments under appeal are illegal. We, therefore, set aside the assessments and appellate orders and thus allow the appeals.'

2. The following questions of law have been referred to us by the Tribunal at the instance of the Commissioner of Agricultural Income-tax:

'1. Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the appellant is not liable to be assessed under Section 9(2) of the Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1950, in respect of the properties gifted away to his minor daughters

2. Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was justified in law in holding that the appellant is not a person as defined in Section 2(m) of the Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1950?'

3. The Tribunal proceeded on the assumption that the assessee who had gifted away all his properties and had no agricultural income of his own could not be deemed to be a 'person' under the Act, and, consequently, the income arising from the properties gifted to his minor daughters could not be taken into account in computing the total agricultural income of the assessee.

4. Section 2(m) of the Act defines a person as follows :

''person' means any individual or association of individuals owning or holding property for himself or for any other, or partly for his own benefit and partly for another, either as owner, trustee, receiver, common manager, administrator or executor or in any capacity recognised by law, and includes a Hindu undivided family, a firm or a company, an association of individuals, whether incorporated or not, and any institution capable of holding property.'

5. On the basis of this definition the assessee contended that only an individual owning or holding property for himself or for any other would come within the definition of 'person'. Section 3, which is the charging section, reads as follows:

'(1) Agricultural income-tax at the rate or rates specified in the Schedule to this Act shall be charged for each financial year in accordance with and subject to the provisions of this Act, on the total agricultural income of the previous year of every person......'

6. Section 9 says:

'(1) .....'

(2) In computing the total agricultural income of any individual for the purpose of assessment there shall be included-

(a) so much of the agricultural income of a wife or minor child of such individual as arises directly--...... (iv) from assets transferred directly or indirectly to the minor child not being a married daughter by such individual otherwise than for adequate consideration......'

7. The above provisions clearly indicate that income arising from properties gifted to the unmarried minor daughters of a person shall be included in computing his total agricultural income for the purpose of assessment under the Act. But the question that arises for our consideration is whether the method of computation provided for under Section 9(2) would apply to an individual who did not own or hold any property for himself or for any other. If the definition of person as mentioned in Section 2(m) were to be read in isolation, it would appear that there is some force in the contention that an individual in the position of the assessee would not come within the definition of person. But in interpreting the expression 'person', one has to bear in mind that the definitions mentioned under the section are subject to the qualification that they would apply only if there is nothing repugnant in the subject or context. The expression 'person' should not, therefore, be read in isolation, but in the context in which it appears in the relevant provision. While the assessee is referred to as a person in Section 3, he is referred to as an individual in Section 9(2). We do not think that the expression 'individual' under Section 9(2) bears a different meaning from the expression 'person' under Section 3. The purpose of the legislature was to include the income arising from properties gifted to minor unmarried daughters in computing the income of any person who is liable to be assessed under Section 3. If, on such computation, he is found to have an assessable income; he is liable to be assessed under the said charging section. In other words, it is not necessary that he should be owning or holding any property to be assessed under Section 3 if he has an assessable income when the income is computed in the manner laid down under Section 9(2). This is how we read Sections 3 and 9. We, therefore, are of opinion that 'person' as defined under Section 2(m), for the purposes of Section 3 read with Section 9(2), should be read as an 'individual' owning or holding or had owned or held any property for himself or for any other.

8. In this connection it may be apposite to extract a passage from the judgment of the Supreme Court in Vanguard Fire and General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Fraser and Ross, [1960] 30 Comp Cas (Ins.) 13, 17, 18 ; AIR 1960 SC 971. The court said:

'It is well settled that all statutory definitions or abbreviations must be read subject to the qualification variously expressed in the definition clauses which created them and it may be that even where the definition is exhaustive inasmuch as the word defined is said to mean a certain thing, it is possible for the word to have a somewhat different meaning in different sections of the Act depending upon the subject or the context. That is why all definitions is statutes generally begin with the qualifying words similar to the words used in the present case, namely, unless thereis anything repugnant in the subject or context ......... In view of thisqualification, the court has not only to look at the words but also to look at the context, the collocation and the object of such words relating to such matter and interpret the meaning intended to be conveyed by the use of the words under the circumstances.'

9. In view of what is stated above, particularly in the light of the observations of the Supreme Court extracted above, we answer the two questions referred to us in the negative, i.e., in favour of the department and against the assessee.

10. A carbon copy of this judgment, under the seal of the High Court and the signature of the Registrar, will be forwarded to the Kerala Agricultural Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Trivandrum.

11. We are grateful to counsel, Mr. C. S. Rajan, for the valuable assistance rendered to us as amicus curiae.We make no order as to costs.


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