1. The short question that arises for consideration in this case is whether the income derived from the cutting and sale of Odai trees will fall within the meaning of agricultural income as defined in the Tamil Nadu Agrl. I.T. Act, 1955, hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'. The Commr. of Agrl I.T. in his order, dated March 31, 1978, which is under challenge in this writ petition has stated that the entire extent of land under odai trees is used as grazing land for cattle. The seeds available in the excreta of cattle sprout spontaneously during rainy season. The farmers till the soil, enabling the plant to grow. As per the practice obtaining in Tirunelveli district, plants are allowed to grow in the fields for 4 to 5 years after which they are cut an sold as fuel-wood. In the counter affidavit filed by the respondents, it is stated that the basic and variety of agricultural operations as are generally understood may not all be there still certain amount of attention and manual labour is necessary to get the best out of the odai tree growth.
2. In CIT v. Raja Benoy Kumar Sahas Roy : 32ITR466(SC) , the Supreme Court has dealt with the connotation of the word 'agriculture' in relation to agricultural income. The Supreme Court has observed as follows as is evident from the headnote :
''Agriculture' in its primary sense denotes the cultivation of the field and is restricted to cultivation of the land in the strict sense of the term, meaning thereby tilling of the land, sowing of the seeds, planting and similar operations or the land. These are basic operations and require the expenditure of human skill and labour upon the land itself.
These operations which the agriculturist has to resort to and which are absolutely necessary for the purpose of effectively raising produce from the land, operations which are to be performed after the produce sprouts from the land, e.g., weeding, digging the soil around the growth, removal of undesirable under-growth, and all operations which foster the growth and preservation of the same not only from insects and pests but also from depredation from outside, tending, pruning, cutting, harvesting and rendering the produce fit for the market, would all be agricultural operations when taken in conjunction with basic operations. The human labour and skill spent in the performance of these subsequent operations cannot be said to have been spent on the land itself.'
3. In CIT v. Jyotikana Chowdhurani : 32ITR705(SC) , the question arose thus (headnote) :
'The assessee, who derived income from the sale of sal trees from their forests with were admitted to be of spontaneous growth, claimed that the income was agricultural income as in addition to the maintenance of a forest establishment, human skill and labour were employed in the following operations : (a) reservation of blocks of forest and their operation by rotation; (b) marking of trees for felling; (c) creeper and climber cutting; (d) thinning and removal of diseased and unsound trees; (e) clearing of jungles and undergrowths; (f) allowing grazing in certain months; (g) during undergrowths in certain months; (h) protection from fire and maintenance of fire lines; (i) closure of roasts to men and cattle during the rainy season; and (j) preservation of mother trees :
Held (assuming that the operations which the assesses claimed had been performed, has been proved), the operations in forestry were performed after the produce had sprouted from the soil and no human skill and labour was aspect by the assessees on the cultivation of the forest land; nor were any operations performed on the land itself. Even though the operations performed by the assessee had the effect of increasing the produced of the forest, the forests remained forests of of spontaneous growth. Not one of these operation was assimilated to the basic operation in agriculture; and as there was not even one basic operation on the land itself, the operations performed could not be tacked on to any such basic operation so as to convert them into agricultural operation; the income derived by the assessees from the sale of sal trees of spontaneous growth was, therefore, not agricultural income under section 2(i) and 4(3)(viii) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922.'
4. Tested in the light of the principles set forth above I am of the opinion that no basic agricultural operations have been performed by the petitioner for the growth of odai trees. It is admitted that they are trees of spontaneous growth. The land is allowed to be used as a grazing land for cattle. It is further stated that they are the spontaneous growth from the seeds found in the excreta of the cattle. I am of the opinion that the income derived by the cutting and sale of odai trees does not fall within the definition of agricultural income. The impugned order is, therefore, set aside and the writ petition is allowed, but, in the circumstances, without costs.