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R. Venkataswamy Naidu, Peelamedu, Coimbatore Vs. the Commissioner of Income-tax, Madras - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCase Ref. No. 30 of 1950
Judge
Reported inAIR1953Mad223; [1952]22ITR276(Mad); (1952)2MLJ520
ActsIncome-tax Act, 1922 - Sections 2(1)
AppellantR. Venkataswamy Naidu, Peelamedu, Coimbatore
RespondentThe Commissioner of Income-tax, Madras
Appellant AdvocateT.M. Krishnaswami Aiyar, Adv. for ;M. Subbaraya Aiyar, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateC.S. Rama Rao Sahib, Adv.
Cases ReferredBurma v. Kokine Dairy
Excerpt:
.....- section 2 (1) of income-tax act, 1922 - dispute as to nature of income derived from sale of milk - cows not stall-fed - cows fed on produce of agricultural land owned by assessee - sale of milk organized on business lines does not change nature of income - tribunal had no material on record to conclude income in question as not agricultural income - milk was agricultural produce - income received by assessee agricultural income. - - where cattle are being exclusively or mainly pastured and are nonetheless fed with small amounts of oil cake or the like, it may well be that the income derived from the sale of their milk is agricultural income. however, we respectfully agree with the principles as enunciated by the full bench, of the rangoon high court, on an examination of the..........(iii) that the account for the maintenance of these cows had been deliberately withheld; (iv) that milk sales exceeded rs. 2000 a month; (v) that it was difficult to believe that cows just let loose on pasture lands would yield milk of that value; and (vi) the supply of milk to the co-operative milk supply union shows that sales were on, organised business lines.' 10. of these, grounds 1, 2, 4 and 6 were not relevant factors at all. even had the assessee kept the cows primarily for the sale of milk, in the circumstances established in this case, the milk would nonetheless have been agricultural produce, the produce of agricultural lands; and the profits of the sale of such milk would still have been agricultural income. that the sale of that milk was organised on business lines would not.....
Judgment:

1. The question that has been referred to us under Section 66(2) of the Indian Income-tax Act runs:

'Whether on the facts and circumstances of the case, the income from the sale of milk received by the assessee during the accounting year is not 'agricultural income' within the meaning of the Income-tax Act,'

The accounting year of the assessee ended with 31st March 1946. The assessment year was 1946-47. The assesses, an undivided Hindu family, owned about 70 acres of agricultural land at Perur near Coimbatore. The family also owned 65 cows & 10 pairs of bulls. With reference to the cows the statement of the assessee furnished to the Income-tax Officer was:

'The cows are purely pasture-fed and not stall-fed. It is not being run as a commercial proposition. The cows are maintained purely for manuring and other purposes connected with agriculture and only surplus milk after satisfying assessee's needs is sold to outsiders.'

During the year of account,- the assesses received about Rs. 28,000 as sale proceeds of milk. The milk was sold to the Co-operative Milk Supply Union at Coimbatore. The assessee claimed that the profits of the sale of milk constituted agricultural income which was exempt from the payment of income-tax. The Income-tax Officer rejected that contention. In the absence of any accounts with reference 10 these cattle, the Income-tax Officer estimated the profits of the sale of milk in the year of account at Rs. 4000 and assessed the amount to income-tax. The Assistant Commissioner, & on further appeal, the Appellate Tribunal upheld that assessment.

2. Income and agricultural income have been defined by Section 2, Income-tax Act. The expression 'agriculture', however, has not been defined by the Act. 'Agricultural income' has been defined by Section 2(1) of the Act. 'Agricultural income' means:

'(a) any rent or revenue derived from land which is used for agricultural purposes, and is either assessed to land revenue in British India or subject to a local rate assessed and collected by officers of the Crown as such;

(b) any income derived from such land by--(i) agriculture, or

(ii) the performance by a cultivator or receiver of rent-in-kind of any process ordinarily employed by a cultivator or receiver of rent-in-kind to render the produce raised or received by him lit to be taken to market, or '(iii) the sale by a cultivator or receiver of rent-in-kind of the produce raised or received by him, in respect of which no process has been performed other than a process of the nature described in Sub-clause (ii);

(c) any income derived from any building owned and occupied by the receiver of the rent or revenue of any such land, or occupied by the cultivator, or the receiver of rent in kind, of any land with respect to which, or the produce of which, any operation mentioned in Sub-clauses (ii) and (iii) is carried on;'

3. In -- 'Commr. of Incometax, Burma v. Kokine Dairy. Rnngocn', [1933] 6 ITR 502 Roberta C. ,T. delivering the leading judgment of the Full Bench of the Rangoon High Court, observed at page 509:

'What is exempted from tax by the Income-tax Act Is agricultural income and for the purpose of considering the position of a dairy farm and the milk which is derived from it, it is necessary to enquire whether the cattle are kept in an urban area and stall-fed or whether they are pastured upon the land. Where cattle are wholly stall-fed and not pastured upon the land at all, doubtless it is trade and no agricultural operation is being carried on; where cattle are being exclusively or mainly pastured and are nonetheless fed with small amounts of oil cake or the like, it may well be that the income derived from the sale of their milk is agricultural income.'

The learned Chief Justice observed further:

'......the Income-tax Officer has to see whether the cattle derived sustenance to a material extent from the produce of the ground, and whether they did so or not is entirely a question of fact for him and one which cannot be reviewed by this Court.'

4. Those observations were not specifically correlated by the learned Chief Justice to the definition of agricultural income in Section 2 (1) o the Act. However, we respectfully agree with the principles as enunciated by the Full Bench, of the Rangoon High Court, On an examination of the implications of the statutory definition of agricultural income in Section 2(1) of the Act, we are satisfied that the principles enunciated in that case and extracted above are correct.

5. The question that arose for consideration in this case was, whether the income derived from the sale of milk by the assessee in the accounting year was agricultural income. It was neither rent nor revenue within the meaning of Section 2 (1) (a) of the Act, and that clause could not apply; nor can Section 2(1)(b)(ii) or Section 2 (1) (c) of the Act apply to the facts of this case. That leaves Section 2 (1)(b)(i) and 2(1) (b)(iii). Even before either of these provisions could be invoked, the condition to be satisfied by the assessee was that the income had been derived from 'such land' within the meaning of Section 2 (1) (b). The expression 'such land' has to be construed with reference to the definition in Section 2 (1) (a), i.e., it must have been land used for agricultural purposes and assessed to land revenue. That this test was satisfied by the assessee in the accounting year was really never in dispute. The 70 acres of land that the assessee owned at Perur were agricultural lands, held obviously on ryotwari tenure, subject to liability for payment of land revenue to the Government.

6. So the question is, was the income derived during the accounting year by the assessee by the sale of milk, income derived from 'such land' by agriculture within the meaning of Section 2 (1)(b)(i)? As we have already pointed out, the expression 'agriculture' itself was not defined by the Act.. In --'Commr. of Incometax, Madras v. K. E. Sundara Mudaliar', : [1950]18ITR259(Mad) , to which decision one of us was a party, after referring to the meaning given to the word 'agriculture' by the Oxford Dictionary, which treated agriculture as synonymous with husbandry, Viswanatha Sastri J. observed at p. 272:

'In my opinion the word 'agriculture' is used in Section 2 of the Income-tax Act in a wide sense so as to denote the raisins; of useful or valuable products which derive nutriment from the soil with the aid of human skill and labour. It would include horticulture, which involved intensive cultivation of land as garden in the production of fruits, flowers or vegetables. It would also include growing of trees or plants whose growth is effected by the expenditure of human effort, skill and attention in such operations, as those of ploughing, sowing, planting, pruning, manuring, watering, protecting etc. as held by Spencer J. in -- 'Pavadai Pathan v. Ramaswami Chetti', 45 Mad 710. The word 'agriculture' applied to the cultivation of the soil for food produce or any other useful or valuable growth of the field or garden and is wide enough to cover the rearing, feeding, and management of livestock, which live on the land and draw their sustenance from the soil.'

We respectfully agree with those observations. It should therefore be unnecessary for us to review again the case law on the subject which was considered in -- 'Commr. of Incometax, Madras v. K.E. Sundara Mudaliar', : [1950]18ITR259(Mad) . We shall content ourselves with a reference to the dicta of Lord Wright at pages 638, 639 in -- 'Lord Glanely v. Wight-man', 1933 A C 618:

'......equally it is obvious that the rearing of animals, regarded as they must be as products of the soil -- since it is from the soil that they draw their sustenance and on the soil that they live -- is a source of profit from the occupation of land, whether these animals are for consumption as food (such as bullocks, pigs, or chickens) or for the provision of food (such as cows, goats or fowls), or for recreation (such as hunters or racehorses), or for use (such as draught or plough horses). All these animals are appurtenant to the soil, in the relevant sense for this purpose, as much as trees, wheat crops, flowers or roots, though no doubt they differ in obvious respects.'

7. It is with reference to these principles that we have to answer the primary question that arose for consideration in this case: 'Was the milk the assessee sold in the accounting year an agricultural produce?' If it was, the profits of sale of the milk should be viewed either as income derived from 'such land' by agriculture within the meaning of Section 2(1)(b) (i), or as income derived from such land 'by the sale by a cultivator of the produce raised .........by him in respect of which no process has been performed other than a process of the nature described in Sub-clause (ii)' within the meaning of Section 2(1)(b)(iii). In fact, it would satisfy the requirements of both the subsections, though even one would be sufficient to treat the income as agricultural income to secure for it the exemption granted by the Act.

8. While there was nothing in the material before the Tribunal to establish that the milk in this case was not an agricultural produce, the evidence on record really justified only one conclusion, that it was agricultural produce. The assessee had 70 acres of agricultural lands. The cows were fed primarily on the produce of those agricultural lands. There was no indication that they were stall-fed. The assessee satisfied the test formulated by the Full Bench of the Rangoon High Court in --'Commr. of Income-tax, Burma v. Kokine Dairy, Rangoon', [1938] 6 ITR 502. with which test, as we have pointed out, we agree.

9. The grounds -given by the Tribunal for holding that it was not agricultural income were set put in the statement of the case: 'The Tribunal was not satisfied that this was agricultural income for the reasons inter alia:

(i) it was not explained why 65 cows were . necessary for obtaining manure;

(ii) there was nothing to show how much manure was actually required for agricultural operations;

(iii) that the account for the maintenance of these cows had been deliberately withheld;

(iv) that milk sales exceeded Rs. 2000 a month;

(v) that it was difficult to believe that cows just let loose on pasture lands would yield milk of that value; and

(vi) the supply of milk to the Co-operative Milk Supply Union shows that sales were on, organised business lines.'

10. Of these, grounds 1, 2, 4 and 6 were not relevant factors at all. Even had the assessee kept the cows primarily for the sale of milk, in the circumstances established in this case, the milk would nonetheless have been agricultural produce, the produce of agricultural lands; and the profits of the sale of such milk would still have been agricultural income. That the sale of that milk was organised on business lines would not affect the real question at issue, was that milk, agricultural produce? In this case, there was the additional claim of the assessee that he maintained cows primarily for the manure he could get out of them, a claim not established to be false. It is rather futile to expect the assessee to maintain a stock book of the manure collected and later expended on his lands. We are unable to see anything inherently suspicious in the claim of the assessee, that he maintained 65 cows in addition to the ploughing bulls for manuring 70 acres of agricultural lands.

11. Grounds 3 and 5 of the grounds set out by the Tribunal may be considered together. With reference to ground 5 we have to observe that it was not the sale price of the milk but the quantum of yield of milk that the Tribunal should have considered. The primary question that they should have considered was whether-the cows were stall-fed or whether they were primarily fed on the produce of the land; and to that question neither the taxing authorities nor the Tribunal ever really addressed themselves. The assessee's failure to produce his accounts was no doubt a relevant factor in deciding whether the cows were primarily fed on the produce of the land. If accounts had been maintained the failure to produce them would justify, in the absence of any other relevant factor, an inference of facts adverse to the assessee. But there was no proof that the assessee maintained any accounts for feeding his cattle. There was for instance no evidence that all the produce of the land, the 70 acres of agricultural lands, was sold by the assessee and none was retained for feeding the cattle.

12. Even a prima facie view based upon the ownership of such an extent of land, taken in conjunction with the number of cattle maintained, would certainly justify an inference, that cows were primarily fed on the produce of the soil, the produce of those 70 acres of agricultural lands'. Investigation by the taxing authorities and by the Appellate Tribunal did not run on those lines at all. The authorities were obsessed with what was really an irrelevant factor, the organised sales of 'milk on a commercial scale. As we have already pointed out, ground No. 5 was not correlated to the yield of milk but was correlated to the money yield of the sale of milk. There were obviously no data furnished by any comparable case to show how much milk any given cow or herd of cows yielded when they were pasture-fed and how much they yielded when they were primarily stall-fed. On an examination of the grounds furnished by the Tribunal we have to hold that there was no material on record on which they could come to the conclusion that the milk sold by the assessee in the accounting year was not agricultural produce, i.e., the produce of 'husbandry', with its implication, that the cows were reared on the agricultural lands of the assessee and were primarily fed on the produce of those lands. There was no material to show that the profits of the sale of such milk constituted anything but agricultural income in the hands of the assessee.

12. Our answer to the question referred to us for decision is that there was no material available to the Tribunal to hold that the income received from the sale of milk by the assessee during the accounting year was not 'agricultural income' within the meaning of the Income-tax Act.

13. As the assessee has succeeded in thiscourt, he should get the costs of this referencefrom the respondent the Commissioner ofIncome-tax - Rs. 250.


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