SARJOO PROSAD C.J. - This reference has been made by the Appellate Agricultural Income-tax Tribunal under section 86(2) of the Rajasthan Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1953 (XXIII of 1953) (herein after called the Act) at the instance of the petitioners.
The petitioners, assessees, are jagirdars of the erstwhile Mewar State. Within the ambit of their jagirs, large forest areas are included. The Agricultural Income-tax Officer in his assessment order assessed the petitioners on income from the forest areas in each case. The petitioners appealed against the order of assessment and the learned Appellate Assistant Commissioner observed that in the 'absence of tillage or cultivation of the soil', that is to say, 'absence of the process of ploughing, hoeing and opening up of the soil or planting or sowing of seeds' it could not be said that there was any agricultural process involved in the management and development of the forests in question and the trees in the forest were all of natural growth without the intervention of human agency. He, therefore, held that the processes employed in the forest areas did not constitute 'agricultural processes' within the meaning of the Act and, therefore, any income derived from the forests in question could not be taxable as agricultural income. Against that order, the Agricultural Income-tax Officer preferred appeals to the Tribunal. The Tribunal took the view that if there was any expenditure of human skill or labour to aid the growth of the trees in the forest areas, the income derived from such forest should be held to be agricultural income. It was pointed out by the Tribunal that there was evidence to show that the jagirs were under the management of the forest Department of the State, and that technical and experienced officers and forest guards were appointed for systematic protection, management and development of the forest areas in question and that the scientific modern processes adopted by the forest staff were tantamount to the expenditure of human skill and labour and, therefore, the income so derived was agricultural income. The petitioners then moved for a reference to this court on the point :
'Whether, in the circumstances of these cases, the forest income sought to be assessed is agricultural income within the meaning of section 2(1)(ii) of the Rajasthan Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1953 ?'
The definition of 'agricultural income' as given in section 2(1) of the Act is almost in identical terms with the definition as given in section 2(1) of the Income-tax Act, which came up for consideration before the Supreme Court in Commissioner of Income-tax v. Raja Benoy Kumar Sahas Roy. What is meant by agricultural operation is now placed beyond the pale of controversy by the connotation of the expression given in the above decision. Their Lordships observed that agriculture in its strict sense was restricted to the basic operations on the land itself, meaning thereby the cultivation and tilling of the soil, sowing of seeds, planting, hoeing and similar operations upon the land which require expenditure of human skill and labour on the land itself. Other operations also resorted to by the agriculturist, which are absolutely necessary for the purpose of raising the produce of the land, such as weeding, digging the soil around the growth, removing of undesirable undergrowth, tending, pruning, cutting, etc., can also become agricultural operations in conjunction with the basic operations described above. Where, therefore, the products on the land have not been raised by the performance of those basis operations, the other subsequent operations cannot by themselves be regarded as agricultural operations, so as to make the income derived from such produce agricultural income under the law. It would thus appear that on the above authority the view of law taken by the learned Commissioner appears to be correct and not that which was held by the Agricultural Income-tax Appellate Tribunal.
Mr. Kan Singh, on behalf of the department, however, points out that in some areas basic agricultural operations appear to have taken place. He refers to the observations in the letter of reference where the Tribunal says that 'the trees are coppiced in such a manner that the coppiced shoots may come up without any assistance and at places where there are gaps the planting is done after excavating pits, circular trenches and ordinary trenches.' To the extent that the income is derived from basic operations, the income can be said to be agricultural income; but that of course is a matter of evidence which will have to be investigated by the department itself.
We, therefore, answer the point under reference as stated above. The petitioners are entitled to their costs of Rs. 50 in each case.
Reference answered accordingly.