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First Additional Income-tax Officer Vs. R. Shanmugha Rajeswara Sethupathi - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberS.C. Petn. Nos. 117 to 133 of 1962
Judge
Reported inAIR1963Mad190; [1963]48ITR647(Mad); (1963)2MLJ395
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 133 and 226
AppellantFirst Additional Income-tax Officer
RespondentR. Shanmugha Rajeswara Sethupathi
Appellant AdvocateS. Ranganathan, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateV. Vedantachariar and ;U. Somasundaram, Advs.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredOfficer v. Joti Prasad
Excerpt:
.....or criminal or other proceeding, article 133 is confined to judgment, decree or final order in a civil proceeding, and article 134 in a like manner is restricted to a judgment, final order or sentence in a criminal proceeding. the constitution has accordingly employed, besides the well-known expression 'civil proceeding' and 'criminal proceeding',three other terms 'other proceeding' in article 132 and 'any cause or matter' in article 136. it is certainly patent from these provisions of the constitution that there can be proceedings other than civil or criminal and that it is impossible to say that any proceeding other than a criminal proceeding must necessarily be a civil proceeding. it is well settled that a suit would not have been maintainable by the petitioners in respect of the..........and that therefore the writ proceedings arose out of revenue proceedings and do not relate to any 'civil proceedings' within the meaning of article 133 of the constitution.4. the question we have to consider is whether this objection, raised by the respondents is sustainable and whether this court can issue the certificate prayed for.5. on behalf of the respondents, the difference in the language employed in the relevant articles of the constitution has been pointed out. while article 132 provides for an appeal to the supreme court from any judgment, decree or final order of a high court whether in a civil or criminal or other proceeding, article 133 is confined to judgment, decree or final order in a civil proceeding, and article 134 in a like manner is restricted to a judgment, final.....
Judgment:

Srinivasan, J.

1. These are applications by the First Additional Income-tax Officer, Karaikudi, for grant of certificate under Article 133 of the Constitution. The judgment of this Court from which appeals are sought to be filed in the Supreme Court was rendered in a series of applications under Article 226 of the Constitution. Broadly stated, two persons who were landholders were under the provisions of the Estates Abolition Act dispossessed of their estates and compensation was paid to them in lieu of such dispossession. In terms of the Act, certain further payments referred to as interim, payments were also made to them. The department took proceedings under Section 34 of the Indian Income-tax Act and sought to bring these interim payments to assessment.

One of the writ applications related to a case where such an assessment had in fact been made. In the others, the matter stood at the stage of notices under Section 34 of the Indian Income-tax Act to those persons. It was in these circumstances that applications were filed under Article 226 of the Constitution seeking to have the order of assessment in the one case and the proceedings under Section 34 in the remaining cases quashed. The Judgment of this Court was that these interim payments were not income, representing as they did capital receipts for the loss of the assets which was the income-producing asset belonging to the petitioners. It is this decision of this Court that is sought to be taken up in appeal before the Supreme Court.

2. The petitioner, the Income-tax Officer, prays for the issue of a certificate claiming that the requirements of Article 133 are satisfied.

3. On behalf of the respondents, objection has been taken that the applications do not come within the scope of Article 133. It is claimed that the writ petitions were filed either to quash the assessments made by the department or for the writs of prohibition against the levy of assessments which they were about to levy, on the ground that such assessments were illegal and that therefore the writ proceedings arose out of revenue proceedings and do not relate to any 'civil proceedings' within the meaning of Article 133 of the Constitution.

4. The question we have to consider is whether this objection, raised by the respondents is sustainable and whether this Court can issue the certificate prayed for.

5. On behalf of the respondents, the difference in the language employed in the relevant articles of the Constitution has been pointed out. While Article 132 provides for an appeal to the Supreme Court from any judgment, decree or final order of a High Court whether in a civil or criminal or other proceeding, Article 133 is confined to judgment, decree or final order in a civil proceeding, and Article 134 in a like manner is restricted to a judgment, final order or sentence in a criminal proceeding. Turning to Article 136 which provides for special leave to appeal to the Supreme Court it refers to any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order in any cause or matter. The Constitution has accordingly employed, besides the well-known expression 'civil proceeding' and 'criminal proceeding', three other terms 'other proceeding' in Article 132 and 'any cause or matter' in Article 136. It is certainly patent from these provisions of the Constitution that there can be proceedings other than civil or criminal and that it is impossible to say that any proceeding other than a criminal proceeding must necessarily be a civil proceeding. The question then arises whether a judgment rendered by the High Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 must in all cases be termed a judgment in a civil proceeding.

6. In a Full Bench decision of the Nagpur High Court in Sriram Gulab Das v. Board of Revenue, 1953 STC 340: AIR 1954 Nag 1 , the question arose whether the decision of the High Court rendered in a reference by the Board of Revenue under Section 23(2) of the Central Provinces and Berar Sales-tax Act does not arise out of a civil proceeding within the meaning of Article 133. It was held that the proceedings under Section 23 dealt with matters pertaining to liability and assessment to tax and can properly be regarded as revenue proceedings, and that they are not civil proceedings. Two of the learned Judges observed that the words 'other proceedings' in Article 132 are words of wide amplitude and include all proceedings other than civil and criminal proceedings. It is unnecessary to refer to any other aspect of that decision except to refer to the reasoning that where proceedings relate to liability and assessment to tax, they cannot be regarded as civil proceedings.

7. That a decision rendered by a High Court in the exercise of its advisory jurisdiction under Section 66 of the Indian Income-tax Act, would not come within the scope of Article 133(1) of the Constitution, as the decision would not be a judgment, decree, or final order, was decided by the Bombay High Court in Jamnadas Prabhadas v. Commissioner of Income-tax, Bombay City : [1952]22ITR150(Bom) . The High Court however did not decide the question whether proceedings in the High Court on a reference under Section 66 are civil proceedings within the meaning of Article 133(1). But nevertheless the learned judges took the view that the question whether leave should be granted or not in a matter arising out of a reference under the Indian income-tax Act should be considered only under Section 66-A of the Indian Income-tax Act and not under Article 133.

8. A Full Bench of the Patna High Court in Tobacco . v. Income-tax Officer, Patna : [1955]28ITR70(Patna) .

This decision is of considerable importance, for it deals with a position that is almost parellel to the facts flow before us. In that case, the assessees wers taxed under the Indian Income-tax Act, and against the order of assessment they applied under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution. These applications were dismissed and they moved the Court tor a certificate under Article 133 of the Constitution. The learned Chief Justice referred to the Full Bench decision in : AIR1951Pat29 and after quoting extracts therefrom observed:

'It seems clear to me that every writ application is not necessarily a civil proceeding; it may be a civil proceeding, or a criminal proceeding, or other proceeding, according to the nature of the application and the questions raised and decided in the proceeding. It is well settled that a suit would not have been maintainable by the petitioners in respect of the two assessment orders; and if the petitioners had proceeded under the machinery of the Indian Income-tax Act, the proceeding would not have been anything but a revenue proceeding.

The mere fact that the petitioners filed two applications for writs in the High Court against the assessment orders, does not, in my opinion, change the nature of the proceeding. I agree with the view expressed by their Lordships of the Rajasthan High Court, which states that the question whether a proceeding under Article 226 is a civil proceeding or not depends upon the nature of the proceeding.

In the case before us, the nature of the proceeding was that it called into question certain assessment orders made by the Income-tax Authorities. The proceeding was not a civil proceeding, as there was no right of suit, and I do not think it can be said to be a civil proceeding within the meaning of Article 133 of the Constitution.'

This view of the matter found approval in the decision of this Court in Dhanalakshmi Ammal v. Income-tax Officer : (1957)2MLJ567 . That was a case where the question arose in relation to a judgment in a writ petition under Article 226. The facts were that the Collector took proceedings for attachment of certain properties in pursuance of a certificate issued under the Indian Income-tax Act for recovery of arrears of tax. The properties stood in the name of the wife of the assessee. The wife contended that the properties were hers, while the department took the stand that the wife was only a benamidar for the asses-see. The wife moved the High Court by way of Article 226. But that application was dismissed on the ground that the Collector exercised powers of a Civil Court and that it was open to the petitioner to prefer a claim and resort to a suit under the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure. Against the dismissal of the writ, leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was sought.

The question accordingly arose whether Article 133(1) of the Constitution applied. The learned Judges referred with approval to the observations of Section K. Das, J. in (S) : [1955]28ITR70(Patna) . They proceeded to observe,

'if the application filed by the petitioner before us under Article 226 of the Constitution had been to quash the assessment order, it may well be said that it is not a civil proceeding on the above reasoning. But such is not the relief sought by the petitioner. There is no quarrel as such with the orders of assessment passed on her husband. All that she complains of is that her own property is beingattached and sold to realise the amount of tax due by her husband. She is only asserting her right to the property standing in her name and seeking relief against any interference with her right. We do not think that it is proper to describe her application as a revenue proceeding. She could not have obviously proceeded under the machinery of the Indian Income-tax Act as the petitioners in the Patna case could have. Further, a suit would have been maintainable by the petitioner to restrain the Income-tax Authorities from taking proceedings against her property to satisfy the arrears of tax due from her husband, whereas in the Patna case and other similar cases a suit would not have been maintainable, to challenge the validity of the assessment orders. We, therefore, hold that the writ petition, filed by the petitioner was not a revenue proceeding.'

It is seen from the above observations that it is the nature of the proceeding in which the judgment is rendered that can govern the classification of the proceeding as criminal, civil or other proceeding. It would be incorrect to say that any matter that is brought before the High Court invoking the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution must be regarded as a civil proceeding.

9. In Income-tax Officer v. Joti Prasad AIR 1960 All 34, a Bench of the Allahabad High Court referred to the earlier cases and their observations seem to us, if we may say so with respect, very pertinent:

'The more liberal view in favour of the applicant is that a proceeding under Article 226 of the Constitution is a civil proceeding if it relates to civil rights. But it seems to us that, even on this view, the petitioner would not be entitled to the certificate sought, because it cannot be held that this particular order related to any civil right. The order which was passed by this Court related to proceedings for assessment of tax and some assessment orders were quashed by this Court. Proceedings for assessment of income-tax, in our opinion, are not proceedings relating to a civil right. The liability to income-tax is not a civil right enforceable as such in Courts of law. 'Liability to tax is created by the Income-tax Act and is for the purpose of gathering revenue for carrying on the Government of the country. No one can claim it as a civil right that he is not liable to pay tax. Nor can the State claim that any person is liable to income-tax under the common law relating to civil rights. A proceeding relating to liability to income-tax partakes of the nature of a proceeding which has been usually described as a revenue proceeding.'

10. The line of cases we have referred to has consistently taken the view that the order of the High Court made in writ application seeking to quash assessment orders or to prohibit an Income-tax Officer from proceeding under the machinery of the Income-tax Act in any of its aspects cannot be termed to be judgments in civil proceedings. There is a well-marked distinction between civil and criminal proceedings and when the Constitution itself refers to other proceedings in juxta position with civil and criminal proceedings, those words must be given a proper meaning. The principle that the nature of the right adjudicated upon in a proceeding is one that determines the nature of the proceedings is what has been stressed in the several cases to which we have made reference and if we apply that test, it follows that a judgment in a writ application seeking to quash an assessment order or to issue a writ of prohibition against the taxing authorities cannot come within the scope of the expression civil proceedings as used in Article 133 of the Constitution. It follows that the petitioner is not entitled to the grant of the certificate under Article 133.

11. The petitions fail and are dismissed with costs in one --S. C. P. No. 117 of 1962. Counsel's fee Rs. 150.


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