Skip to content


The Fringford Estates Limited, Calicut Vs. the Commissioner of Income-tax, Madras - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCase Referred No. 2 of 1948
Judge
Reported inAIR1952Mad47; [1951]20ITR385(Mad); (1951)2MLJ452
ActsIncome Tax Act, 1922 - Sections 4(1) and 4(3)
AppellantThe Fringford Estates Limited, Calicut
RespondentThe Commissioner of Income-tax, Madras
Appellant AdvocateT.L. Venkatarama Aiyar, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateC.S. Rama Rao Sahib, Adv.
Cases ReferredBritish South Africa Co. v. Commr. of Income
Excerpt:
.....- section 4 (1) and 4 (3) of income tax act, 1922 - whether profit derived by assessee company on sale of timber assessable income - contented that main business of company not to sell plantations - articles of association show that company formed to carry such operation - profit arising from these operations was business profits and cannot be considered as casual profit - business profits liable to income-tax - not exempt from taxation as casual profits. - - 3. the trees already cut by the company and stocked as well as those cut by mammu hajee, were transported to kalai, which is a centre of the timber trade in matabar, and, there sold in open market as timber. these con-tentions were negatived by the revenue authorities as well as the appellate tribunal. profits derived from..........it arises. the price of the sale of a factory is ordi-narily a capital receipt, but it may be an income receipt in the case of a person whose business it is to buy and sell factories.'here the business of the company is not to sell the plantations which it acquires, but it is its avowed object and purpose to keep and develop teem and sell the produce of the estates. even though the existence of a large quantity of timber trees -- in this case they have realised a sum of rs. 39215 --might have determined the price paid by the company for the acquisition of the estate, still the profits made by cutting down the timber over a period of three years and making them marketable and selling them in the market are not a realisation of capital. . we consider that the argument of the teamed.....
Judgment:

Viswanatha Sastri, J.

1. The question that has been referred to us is whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was right in holding that the sum of Rs. 11242 derived by the assessee company on sale of timber was assessable Income.

2. The facts that have led up to this reference are these. The assessee is a limited company. Its main business is to cultivate and sell tea, coffee, cardamom etc. in its estates. It purchased a tract of land part of which had already been cultivated with tea, the rest of it being a jungle capable of being cleared and maae fit for plantation. The company cleared the jungle of trees in order to make the land fit for cultivation and sold the trees in order to make the land fit for cultivation and sold the trees in the open market. The accounts of the company showed an income of Rs. 11242 received from sales of timber cut down from the jungle and sold. The Clearing operations started in 1939 and the trees that were cut were stocked in the estate of the assessee. In October 1941 the company entered into an agreement with one Ma-mmu Hajee, a timber merchant, for clearing the rest of the jungle of all trees and for the sale of the timber in the market.

3. The trees already cut by the company and stocked as well as those cut by Mammu Hajee, were transported to Kalai, which is a centre of the timber trade in Matabar, and, there sold in open market as timber. A profit and loss account in respect of the timber deal was prepared which showed a receipt of Rs. 7473-9-0 as Kattukanam by the assessee company. The expenses of cutting the trees incurred by Mamu Hajee came to Rs. 8866-0-7 and the transport charges came to Rs. 10,956-11-0. There were other expenses incurred in connection with the transport and sale of the timber. The price realised by the sale of timber was Rs. 39,215-0-1 and the resultant net profit of Rs. 8,817 less a deduction for a reserve fund and for bonus to employees, was divided equally between the assessee Company and Mammu Hajee, each getting Rs. 3,877-11-10. The total net realisation of the company from the sale of timber including the Kuttikanam amount credited to it in the accounts was Rs. 11242. It was not and it could not be contended that the income derived from the sale of jungle trees of spontaneous growth was agricultural income. The assessee company claimed that this sum was a capital receipt and therefore not liable to income-tax as profits or gains.

Secondly, the company contended that the receipt of Rs. 11242 was a casual and non-recurring receipt and therefore exempt from income-tax. These con-tentions were negatived by the revenue authorities as well as the Appellate Tribunal. Hence this re-ference.

4. In our opinion, these contentions of the assessee company are untenable. Profits derived from capital which is consumed or exhausted in the process of realisation are none-the-less taxable income, and this proposition has been well settled since the decision of the House of Lords in 'Coltness Iron Co. v. Black', (1881) 6 A C 315. This principle has been applied to profits derived from the working of mines and minerals in 'Kamakshya Narain v. Commissioner of Income tax' 22 Pat 713 nitrate deposits in 'Allanza Co. Ltd. v. Bell' (1906) A.C. 18 and timber bearing forests in 'Kauri Timber Co., Ltd. v. Commissioner of Taxes' (1913) A .C. 171. In particular, it has been held both in this Court and in the Patna High Court that income derived from I he sale of forest trees is not capital receipt and I s liable to tax even though there is an exhaustion of capital assets in the shape of valuable and longstanding trees. 'Commr. of Income-tax, Madras v. Manavedan 'Tirumalpad' 54 Mad 21 'Kamakshya Narain Singh v. Com. of Income tax', B & O : [1946]14ITR673(Patna) .

5. Mr. T. L. Venkatarama Aiyar, learned advocate for the assessee referred us to two decisions of the English Courts 'Van Den Berghs Ltd. v. Clark' (1935) A.C. 431 and 'British South Africa Co. v. Comr. of Income tax' (1946) A. C. 62. In the first of these two cases two competing companies manufacturing margarine entered into an arrangement to avoid competition between them, the arrangement extending over a considerable period of time. The companies agreed to share their profits and losses in accordance with a very complicated scheme. On account of differences between them tne agreement was put an end to, one of the companies paying the other a sum of Rs. 450,000 by way of compensation. The House of Lords held that the receipt of . 450,000 was one of a capital nature and not a revenue receipt. The agreement in that case, so far from being one made in the ordinary course of business, provided a fundamental organisation of the companies' activities and affected the entire conauct of the business of the companies. Therefore, money received for the cancella-tion of such an agreement which affected the whole structure of the profit-making apparatus was held to be a capital receipt. Lord Macmillan observed:

'It is important to bear in mind at the outset that the trade of the appellants is to manufacture and deal in margarine, for the nature of the receipt may vary according to the nature of the trade in connection with which it arises. The price of the sale of a factory is ordi-narily a capital receipt, but it may be an income receipt in the case of a person whose business it is to buy and sell factories.'

Here the business of the company is not to sell the plantations which it acquires, but it is its avowed object and purpose to keep and develop teem and sell the produce of the estates. Even though the existence of a large quantity of timber trees -- in this case they have realised a sum of Rs. 39215 --might have determined the price paid by the company for the acquisition of the estate, still the profits made by cutting down the timber over a period of three years and making them marketable and selling them in the market are not a realisation of capital. . We consider that the argument of the teamed advocate is merely an attempt to get round the well-known principle repeatedly laid down in Income-tax cases both in England and here, that exhaustion of capital by the working of mines, quarries and forests, however it might be treated on strict actuarial principles or on strict principles of economics, may for purposes of the levy of income tax be treated as profits. It is sufficient to refer to the decision of the Judicial Committee in 'Kamakshya Narain v. Commr. of Income-tax' 22 Pat 713. Lord Wright in delivering the judgment of Judicial Committee observed:

'If the receipts are income, it is not material for tax purposes that that for which they are paid comes from a wasting property. If the payment ceases because the source ceases so does the tax. Once it is established that the royalties are income within the meaning of the Act it is not material that the mines are in course of being exhausted unless there is provided in the Act that there should be a deduction from the income on that particular ground.'

5a. The further contention of Mr. Venkatarama Aiyar is that in computing profits arising from the sale of timber the cost of acquisition of the timber must be deducted. Though the company paid a lump sum for the purchase of the entire estate of 2000 acres, still according to him, the cost will have to be apportioned as between the land and the timber trees and the value of the latter should be deducted in arriving at the taxable profits. He claims that the Kuttikanam or stump fee of Rs. 7473 represents the cost of the trees and this should be deducted in arriving at the balance of the profits and gains of the company. In our opinion this is the old argument presented in another form, but it was sought to be supported by a reference to the decision of the Judicial Committee in 'British South Africa Co. v. Commr. of Income tax' (1946) A.C. 62. In that case a company acquired numerous concessions in respect of minerals and mining rights in Rhodesia which the company turned to account by effecting sales of mining rights in various plots of land to various persons and companies. The Judicial Committee held that the company was assessable to income-tax under the local income-tax-law on its receipts from the sales of mining rights after deduction of the cost of acquiring such rights. The company did not itself embark on mining operations But merely sold the mining concessions and advantages which it had acquired, to various other persons and companies in return for a price. Therefore, in calculating the profits arising from the trade so carried on the cost price of the properties sold was held to be deductible. In our opinion, this decision has no application to a case like the present where the company is not engaged in the trade of buying and selling estates or plantations but its business is to turn to account the produce of the estate, both of the cultivated portions and of the jungle, The company retains the whole of the estate and sells the trees which are the produce of the Jungle, and, tea, coffee and cardamom which are the produce at the plantations. Even though the trees are cut and sold they may grow up again on the stumps left intact and new trees may also spring up in the jungle and these trees can again be sold. This is what happens in Malabar. forests. Even if all the timber is sold away beyond the possibility of any replenishment and the timber is considered as part of the original capital asset of the company as suggested by Mr. Venkatarama Aiyar, in our opinion, the true analogy is to be found in cases where the courts have held that where the income of a taxpayer is derived from the exhaustion of a capital asset, it is none-the-less income. In such cases no deduction can be claimed from the income in respect of the diminuation or exhaustion of the capital asset from which that income is derived. The very case cited by Mr. Venkatarama Aiyar recognises the difference between the case of a trader who buys mines and mining concessions and sells them for profit and a trader who retains a mine purchased by him and exploits it for minerals which he sells in the market. In the latter case there is no provision for allowance for amortisation in respect of the minerals which are exhausted by the working of the mines under the Indian Income-tax Act.

6. The further contention of the assessee is that the profits derived from the sale of timber by the company are of a casual and non-recurring nature and therefore exempt from tax under Section 4(3)(vii) of the Act. But then, that very provision requires that the profits sought to be brought under the exemption must not have arisen from a business, the expression 'business' being defined as including any trade, commerce, or manufacture or any adventure or concern in the nature of trade, commerce or manufacture. The receipt in the present case cannot be said to be a casual receipt in the sense in which that expression is used in the Income-tax Act. The expression 'casual' is defined in the Oxford Dictionary in these terms:

'1. Subject to, depending on, or produced by chance; accidental, fortuitous.

2. Occurring or coming at uncertain times; not to be calculated on, uncertain, unsettled.

3. Subject to chance or accident.'

The Articles of Association of the company, which we have seen, clearly show that the purchasing or taking on lease of estates, the clearing, opening, planting, development and improvement of such estates, the cultivation of tea, coffee, cardamom, pepper and trees, and the selling of the produce of the estates, were all included among the objects of he company. The purchase of an estate consisting of forest land as well as arable land, the clearing of the forest land of trees and making the land fit for cultivation for tea, coffee, cardamom, rubber etc., was part of the normal and ordinary line of business of the company. The jungle in the present case was purchased by the company with a view to its exploitation. The land was cleared of the trees and the trees were cut and sized so as to be put on sale in the open market. They were sold in the timber market for advantageous prices. A receipt of money which is known, foreseen, anticipated and worked for in the course, of carrying on a business is not a casual receipt. This is not a casual profit made on isolated buying or selling of an article not amounting to a trade or business. This is not the case of an individual selling a plantation after holding it for a considerable time at a price greater than what he paid for it. The assessee is a public company whose sole 'raison d'etre' is to have a business, to carry it on for profit and to divide the profit among the shareholders as dividends, 'prima facie', therefore any profit that the company makes otherwise than by sale of its plantations must be the taxable profit of its business. In the case of the assessee company the object of its existence, is, among other things, to turn the forest to profit and thereby benefit its shareholders. The fact that the operation of cutting the trees and selling timber may not be carried out again, or may not be carried out for a considerable time hereafter does not make any difference. The company was formed to carry on this business of acquiring clearing and developing estates, clearing the land purchased, of trees and selling them as timber. Necessarily the profits arising from these operations must be profits of the business of the company and cannot be considered to be casual profits. When one is considering whether a certain form of enterprise is carrying on business or not it is material to look and see whether it is a company that is doing it. Where a company or a partnership is formed for the purchase of large estates and for clearing and developing the area and raising a plantation, there is a trade or business because you have that from which you would infer continuity. The company is formed for that purpose and for nothing else. In this case the exploitation of the trees in the estate was made by the company in partnership with a timber merchant and the operations of cutting and sizing the timber, transporting it for sale and selling it in the timber market in Kallai were carried on in the same way as those which are characteristic of ordinary trade in the line of business of a timber merchant. Consequently we hold that the profits realised from the sale of timber, including therein the Kuttikanam fee credited to the estate in the accounts, are trade profits which are liable to income-tax. They are not exempt from taxation as casual profits.

7. We therefore answer the question referred tous in the affirmative and against the assessee. Theassessee will pay the costs of the Commissioner ofIncome-tax on this reference which we fix atRs. 250/-.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //