The judgment of the court was delivered by
M. S. MENON C.J. - This is a reference by the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Madras Bench, under section 66(1) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922. The assessee is the India Pepper and Spice Trade Association, Cochin. The assessment year 1958.
2. The reference is in pursuance of an application by the assessee. The question referred is :
'Whether the 'laga' collected by the association as per bye-law 207 had been rightly brought to tax under the provisions of the Income-tax Act, 1922 ?'
Bye-law 207 of the bye-laws of the association is entitled 'LAGA' and reads as follows :
'A contribution at the rate of 50 nP. per unit of 25 quintal of pepper shall be paid to the association by the seller as well as the buyer on all contracts, or at such other rates as may be fixed by the board from time to time with the concurrence of the Forward Markets Commission.'
'Laga', we are told, normally signifies a collection for religious or charitable purposes. The Appellate Tribunal had held on the basis of the memorandum and articles of association (annexure 'A' to the statement of the case) and the bye-laws of the association (annexure 'B' to the statement of the case) that the 'laga' of the assessee is not a collection in that sense, and that it should be brought to tax under section 10(6) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922.
3. Sub-section (1) of section 10 of the Act provides that the tax shall be payable by an assessee under the head 'Profits and gains of business profession or vocation' in respect of the profits or gains of any business, profession or vocation carried on by him and sub-section (6) that :
'A trade, professional or similar association performing specific services for its members for remuneration definitely related to those services shall be deemed for the purpose of this section to carry on business in respect of those services, and the profits and gains therefrom shall be liable to tax accordingly.'
4. It is common ground that the assessee is a trade association within the meaning of sub-section (6) of section 10. The controversy is only as to whether the 'laga' collected under bye-law 207 is 'remuneration definitely related' to 'specific services' performed by the assessee for the members of the association.
5. The Appellate Tribunal dealt with the point in paragraphs 9 to 16 of its order and said in paragraph 17 :
'Judged in the light of these remarks, the services which the members, who entered into contracts, received from the association is relatable to the fee of laga paid and but for this payment, the member would not have a claim for the enforcement of the contract, settlement of differences, surveys, arbitrations, appeals and other procedures. We, therefore, hold that the department is right in including this sum as taxable income.'
The conclusion of the Appellate Tribunal, as summarised in paragraph 8 of the statement of the case, is as follows :
'(i) That the payment of laga was a condition precedent to the requisition of the services of the association;
(ii) That the fact that no provision had been made that the other services would not be rendered by the association if laga was not paid and only a provision had been made for collecting it, did not show that the other services could be secured even by default or failure to pay this initial fee.'
6. We have been taken through all the relevant provisions of annexures 'A' and 'B', and we see nothing therein to justify an inference that the 'laga' collected for religious or charitable purposes or that it is not remuneration definitely related to the specific services performed by the assessee for the members of the association. It cannot be contended that it is a voluntary payment unrelated to the membership of the association. And so far as we can see it is nothing else other than an overall charge for all the services performed by the association in respect of the buying and selling of pepper over and above the separate fees prescribed for many of those services.
7. It is unnecessary to discuss the decisions cited at the Bar as the conclusion in this case has to be depend entirely on the construction of annexures 'A' and 'B' to the statement of the case, and they are not discussed in this judgment. Our conclusion is the same as that of the Appellate Tribunal, and it follows that we should answer the question referred in the affirmative and against the assessee. We do so, but without any order as to costs.
8. A copy of this judgment under the seal of the High Court and the signature of the Registrar will be forwarded to the Appellate Tribunal as required by sub-section (5) of section 66 of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922.
Questions answered in the affirmative.