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The Commissioner of Expenditure Tax, Gujarat I, Ahmedabad Vs. Ambalal Sarabhai and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtGujarat High Court
Decided On
Case NumberExpenditure Tax Reference No. 1 of 1966
Judge
Reported inAIR1970Guj141
ActsExpenditure Tax Act, 1957 - Sections 5 and 5(A)
AppellantThe Commissioner of Expenditure Tax, Gujarat I, Ahmedabad
RespondentAmbalal Sarabhai and ors.
Appellant Advocate J.M. Thakore, Adv. General, i/b.,; M.G. Doshit, Adv.; Bh
Respondent Advocate K.H. Kaji, Adv.
Cases ReferredTax v. Mrs. Manorama Sarabhai
Excerpt:
.....the present case. 5. the decided cases illustrate the futility of attempting a definition of the word 'occupation'.so vast is the range of human activity and so diverse and varied its nature that it is well-nigh impossible to find a definition exclusive or inclusive which will take in all activities falling within the matrix of 'occupation' and leave out those which do not. but there are certain features which are, in any view of the matter, definitely indicative of what is 'occupation' and they are clearly brought out in the discussion of the word 'occupation' in corpus juris secundum, vol. it is a relative term, in common use with a well-understood meaning, and very broad in its scope and significance. it is described as a generic and very comprehensive term, which includes every..........activity such as the one carried on by the assessee's wife in the present case. what then does the word 'occupation' mean?5. the decided cases illustrate the futility of attempting a definition of the word 'occupation'. so vast is the range of human activity and so diverse and varied its nature that it is well-nigh impossible to find a definition exclusive or inclusive which will take in all activities falling within the matrix of 'occupation' and leave out those which do not. the word 'occupation' is a word of large and indefinite import and its meaning is not susceptible of any precise or definite formulation. no universal test can be laid down for determining when an activity amounts to an 'occupation' and when it does not. but there are certain features which are, in any view of the.....
Judgment:

Bhagwati, C.J.

1. This Reference raises a short question of law relating to the applicability of Section 5(a) of the Expenditure Tax Act, 1957. The question is whether a certain amount expended by the assessee's wife for the purpose of attending meetings of four institutions of social welfare is exempt from expenditure tax under that provision. The Reference arises out of assessment of the assessee as an individual for the assessment year 1959-60, the relevant account year being the financial year 1958-59. The assessee's wife was, during the relevant year of account associated in different capacities with about twenty-four institutions and organizations engaged in social welfare work and she was also connected with certain other institutions and organizations with which she had to carry on correspondence during the relevant year of account. Out of these twenty-four institutions with which she was associated in one capacity or the other, there were four whose meetings were held outside Ahmedabad and they were (1) Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, (2) National Council of Women, (3) Bombay State Welfare Board, and (4) Nutan Bagh Shiksha Sangh. The assessee's wife incurred an expenditure of Rs. 5,182/- for attending the meetings of these four institutions during the relevant year of account. The expenditure of the assessee's wife was included for the purpose of computation in the taxable expenditure of the assessee under Section 4(ii) and the question therefore arose whether the expenditure of Rs. 5,182/- incurred by the assessee's wife was taxable as expenditure of the assessee or was exempt from expenditure tax. The assessee claimed that this expenditure was incurred by his wife wholly and exclusively for the purpose of her vocation or occupation of social service carried on by her and it was therefore exempt from expenditure tax under Section 5(a). The claim to exemption was negatived by the Expenditure Tax Officer on the ground that there was no possibility of any income arising from the activity of the assessee's wife and it could not therefore be regarded as a vocation or occupation within the meaning of section 5(a). The assessee thereupon preferred an appeal to the Appellate Assistant Commissioner but the Appellate Assistant Commissioner took the same view as the Expenditure Tax Officer and the appeal was unsuccessful. The assessee then carried the matter in appeal to the Tribunal and before the Tribunal the fortunes were reversed: the assessee succeeded in establishing his claim to exemption under Section 5(a). The Tribunal took the view that in order that an activity should be a vocation or occupation within the meaning of Section 5(a). It was not necessary that there should be any element of profit making motive in it or that it should be carried on by the assessee with intent to make profit. The Tribunal pointed out that the assessee had furnished a list of various institutions and organizations with which his wife was connected in different capacities and observed that it was therefore evident that the assessee's wife was a woman dedicated to social and constructive work and in the circumstances the activity of the assessee's wife must be held to be a vocation or occupation of a social worker within the meaning of Section 5(a). The Tribunal also held that the expenditure in question was incurred by the assessee's wife in connection with her vocation or occupation of a social worker and the expenditure was therefore exempt from tax even though in carrying on the activity she was not actuated by any profit making motive. The Tribunal rejected the contention of the Revenue that under Section 5(a) the only expenditure which was eligible to exemption was expenditure incurred by the assessee and since the expenditure in the present case was an expenditure incurred by the assessee's wife, no exemption could be claimed in respect of it under Section 5 (a). The Tribunal pointed out that it would be highly iniquitous if the benefit of the exempting provisions contained in Section 5 was held restricted only to expenditure actually incurred by the assessee and was not extended to expenditure which, though not actually incurred by the assessee, was yet includible in the taxable expenditure of the assessee. The Tribunal accordingly held that the expenditure incurred by the assessee's wife was exempt under Section 5 (a). This view taken by the Tribunal is challenged before us in the present Reference made at the instance of the Commissioner of Expenditure Tax.

2. Two questions are referred to us for our opinion and they are:

(1) Whether on the facts and circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was justified in holding that the activities which the wife of the assessee was engaged in amounted to a vocation or occupation within the meaning of Section 5(a) of the Act?

(2) Whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the assessee was entitled to claim exemption under Section 5 (a) of the Act in respect of the expenditure incurred by the wife of the assessee wholly and exclusively for the purpose of her vocation or occupation?

We may point out at the outset that so far as the second question is concerned, the Revenue did not press it and it is therefore not necessary for us to answer it. The only question argued before us was the first question and that raises the issue as to whether the activity of the assessee's wife during the relevant year of account could be said to be a vocation or occupation carried on by her within the meaning of Section 5 (a). The determination of this issue obviously depends upon a proper interpretation and application of Section 5 (a)and we will therefore set out that provision in extenso:

'5. No expenditure-tax shall be payable under this Act in respect of any such expenditure as is referred to in the following clauses, and such expenditure shall not be included in the taxable expenditure of an assessee- (a) any expenditure, whether in the nature of revenue expenditure or capital expenditure, incurred by the assessee wholly and exclusively for the purpose of the business, profession, vocation or occupation carried on by him or for the purpose of earning income from any other source.'

The Revenue contended that in order that an activity may be a vocation or occupation within the meaning of Section 5(a), it must be shown that it was indulged in with a motive of making profit; that as the activity of social service carried on by the assessee's wife was not performed with a view to making profit and there was no element of profit making motive in it, the assessee's wife could not be said to be carrying on a vocation or occupation within the meaning of that section. The Revenue relied strongly on the context in which the words 'vocation or occupation' occur in the section and particularly the juxtaposition of the words 'for the purpose of earning income from any other source' as indicating the legislative intent that vocation or occupation must also be an activity calculated to produce income. But this contention can no longer be accepted in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in P. Krishna Menon v. Commt. Of Income-tax : [1959]35ITR48(SC) . The assessee in that case was teaching his disciples Vedanta without any motive or intention of making profit out of such activity and the question was whether in the absence of profit making motive or intent, the activity could be regarded as a vocation. The Supreme Court held:

'........ It is not the motive of the person doing an act which decides whether the act done by him is the carrying on of a business, profession or vocation. If any business, profession or vocation in fact produces an income, that is taxable income and none the less because it was carried on without the motive of producing income. This, we believe, is too well established on the authorities now to be questioned. It was decided as early as 1888 in the case of Commrs. Of Inland Revenue v. Incorporated Council of Law Reporting, (1888) 3 Tax Cas 105 and follows ever since, that 'it is not essential to the carrying it on should make a profit, nor is it even necessary to the carrying on of trade that the people carrying it on should desire or wish to make a profit' ........ it matters not whether that activity is called by the name of business, profession, vocation or by any other name or with what intention it was carried on.'

This decision of the Supreme Court was given in reference to a question arising under the Income-Tax Act but the reasoning on which it is based must apply equally to a question arising under the Expenditure Tax Act. Moreover there is also a decision of a Division Bench of this Court consisting of K. T. Desai, C. J., as he then was, and myself in Commr. Of Expenditure-Tax v. Mrs. Manorama Sarabhai, : [1966]59ITR262(Guj) where following the above decision of the Supreme Court, we have taken the view that it is not necessary that income or profit motive should exist before an activity can be termed a vocation or occupation within the meaning of Section 5 (a). We must therefore hold, rejecting the contention of the Revenue, that mere absence of profit making motive or intent does not take an activity out of the category of vocation or occupation and the activity of the assessee's wife could not be denied the character of vocation or occupation merely because she was carrying on that activity without any motive or intent of earning income.

4. But the question still remains whether the activity of the assessee's wife could be said to constitute vocation or occupation within the meaning of Section 5(a). Now 'occupation' is admittedly a word of much wider import than 'vocation' and if the activity of the assesseee's wife falls within the category of 'occupation'. It would be unnecessary to consider whether it constitutes 'vocation' as well. We will therefore first consider whether the activity of the assessee's wife could be regarded as an 'occupation' within the meaning of that term as used in Section 5 (a). That raises a question: what is the true meaning of 'occupation' in section 5(a)? Whilst considering this question, it is necessary to bear in mind that the object of enactment of Expenditure-Tax Act was to impose an annual tax on personal expenditure so that it might discourage excessive personal expenditure and encourage savings. The non-personal expenditure incurred by an assessee was therefore sought to be excluded and that was done by enacting inter alia the exempting provisions in Section 5. Section 5 (a) exempted expenditure incurred by an assessee wholly and exclusively for the purpose of business, profession, vocation or occupation carried on by him or for the purpose of earning income from any other source, for such expenditure would be clearly non-personal expenditure. Now it is significant to note that in enacting this exemption, the Legislature did not restrict itself to the well-worn formula 'business, profession or vocation' employed in the income-tax Act but enlarged it by adding a word of large connotation, namely, 'occupation'. The legislative intent clearly was to bring within the scope and ambit of the exempting provision non-personal expenditure incurred by an assessee in connection with a much wider class of activity then what would be comprehended within the expression 'business, profession or vocation'. The Revenue also did not dispute this proposition and conceded that 'occupation' was a word of much wider signification than 'vocation' which, in its turn, was again wide than 'business' or 'profession', but the contention of the Revenue was that howsoever wide that word might be, it did not include within it activity such as the one carried on by the assessee's wife in the present case. What then does the word 'occupation' mean?

5. The decided cases illustrate the futility of attempting a definition of the word 'occupation'. So vast is the range of human activity and so diverse and varied its nature that it is well-nigh impossible to find a definition exclusive or inclusive which will take in all activities falling within the matrix of 'occupation' and leave out those which do not. The word 'occupation' is a word of large and indefinite import and its meaning is not susceptible of any precise or definite formulation. No universal test can be laid down for determining when an activity amounts to an 'occupation' and when it does not. But there are certain features which are, in any view of the matter, definitely indicative of what is 'occupation' and they are clearly brought out in the discussion of the word 'occupation' in Corpus Juris Secundum, Vol. 67, page 74. 'The word 'occupation'' says Corpus Juris Secumdum, 'is employed as referred to that which occupies time and attention'; it also means 'a calling or a trade' and then the Corpus Juris Secundum proceeds to elaborate the meaning:

'There is nothing ambiguous about the word 'occupation' as it is used in the sense of employing one's time. It is a relative term, in common use with a well-understood meaning, and very broad in its scope and significance. It is described as a generic and very comprehensive term, which includes every species of the genus, that compasses, the incidental, as well as the main, requirements of one's vocation, calling or business. The word 'occupation' is variously defined as meaning the principal business of one's life; the principal or usual business in which a man engages; that which principally takes up one's time, thought and energies; that which occupies or engages the time and attention; ...... that activity in which a person .. .. is engaged with the element of a degree or premanancy attached........

The word 'occupation' has reference to the principal or regular business of one's life .... The word particularly refers to the vocation, profession, trade, or calling in which a person is engaged for hire or for profit, and, it has been repeatedly held that a person's principal business and chief means of obtaining a livelihood constitutes his occupation. The term 'occupation' expressed the idea of continuity; a continuous series in transactions; ........ and implies regularity in a specific line of endeavour. Furthermore, time is a necessary ingredient, and, although it need not be protracted, it must not be momentary. As generally understood, the term does not include an isolated or semi-occasional and temporary adventure in another line of endeavour, and does not extend to acts and duties which are simply incidents connected with the daily life...

A person may engage in more than one occupation,..... or he may engage in two occupations at the same time, as where he carries on his chief occupation and also another as a side line.'

It may be debatable whether the idea of continuity or regularity is a necessary ingredient of the concept of 'occupation' and if so what degree of regularity or continuity is requisite to qualify an activity for coming within the category of 'occupation'. But one thing is clear that whatever else 'occupation' may comprise, activity in a specific line of endeavour which engages or occupies time and attention of a person and which is carried on with a certain amount of continuity or regularity in the sense that it is not 'momentary' - not 'an isolated or semi-occasional and temporary adventure' in that line of endeavour - would certainly constitute 'occupation'. Applying this test to the facts found by the Tribunal the activity of the assessee's wife must be held to be her 'occupation'.

6. The Tribunal found as a fact that the assessee's wife was associated in one capacity or another with twenty-four different institutions engaged in social and constructive work; she was a Vice-President in some of the institutions, a trustee and treasurer in some others and a member of the managing committee in the rest; she was also devoting her time and attention to the care and management of Kasturba Sevalaya, Sardarnagar. Ahmedabad which is a home for unattached women and children and old and infirm men. The Tribunal on the basis of these facts held that the assessee's wife was a woman who had dedicated her life to social and constructive work. The assessee's wife was thus engaged in social and constructive work and her activity in this particular line of endeavour was not or semi-occasional adventure but it was a continuous regular activity engrossing her whole life; she was 'dedicated to social and constructive work'. The activity of the assessee's wife was not an isolated or stray activity in the field of social and constructive work, nor an activity indulged in by way of hobby to utilise her leisure hours but it was a serious pursuit to which she had dedicated her life and it must therefore be held to be her 'occupation' within the meaning of Section 5 (a). In this view, it becomes unnecessary to consider whether it also constituted her 'vocation' within the meaning of that Section.

7. Our answer to the first question therefore is that the Tribunal was justified in holding that the activity in which the assessee's wife was engaged amounted to an 'occupation' within the meaning of Section 5(a). The Commissioner will pay the costs of the Reference to the assessee.

8. Reference answered.


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