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K.S. Balakrishnan Vs. Commissioner of Agricultural Income-tax - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petition No. 271 of 1970
Judge
Reported in[1972]86ITR263(Mad)
ActsMadras Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1955 - Sections 2 and 10(1); Madras Land Reforms Act, 1961 - Sections 3(19) and 7
AppellantK.S. Balakrishnan
RespondentCommissioner of Agricultural Income-tax
Appellant AdvocateK. Raman, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateK. Venkataswami, First Asstt. Govt. Pleader
Excerpt:
- - it is common ground that this excess extent was taken over by the government under the land reforms act only on may 23, 1966, which is well after the commencement of the assessment year 1966-67. the commissioner, therefore, was of the view that the income-tax officer rightly rejected the claim for pro rata reduction of the amount of tax since the proviso to section 10(1) of the agricultural income-tax act was a bar. the said article provides that the state should direct its policy towards securing that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good. this definition of the expression 'to hold' is repeated in the agricultural income-tax act as well. section 2(nn) of the income-tax act provides that the..........an extent of 29.37 acres of land taken over by the government under provisions of the madras land reforms act of 1961, when he passed an order of composition under section 65 of the madras agricultural income-tax act of 1955. it is no doubt true that when the petitioner filed an application for composition on june 16, 1966, he included in his return the total extent of his land including the above extent of 29.37 acres of land, which was admittedly in excess of the ceiling limit of the holding which the petitioner could possess or own. but as the lands were included in the returns made by the petitioner, the agricultural income-tax officer passed an order of composition as above on july 28, 1966. thus he included in the said order the extent of, 29.37 acres of land also for.....
Judgment:

Ramaprasada Rao, J.

1. The petitioner is an assessee in the books of the Agricultural Income-tax Officer, Nannilam. The Agricultural Income-tax Officer, while quantifying the income-tax, did not exempt an extent of 29.37 acres of land taken over by the Government under provisions of the Madras Land Reforms Act of 1961, when he passed an order of composition under Section 65 of the Madras Agricultural Income-tax Act of 1955. It is no doubt true that when the petitioner filed an application for composition on June 16, 1966, he included in his return the total extent of his land including the above extent of 29.37 acres of land, which was admittedly in excess of the ceiling limit of the holding which the petitioner could possess or own. But as the lands were included in the returns made by the petitioner, the Agricultural Income-tax Officer passed an order of composition as above on July 28, 1966. Thus he included in the said order the extent of, 29.37 acres of land also for computing the amount of tax payable by the petitioner under the process of composition available under Section 65 of the Act. On July 12, 1967, the petitioner informed the Agricultural Income-tax Officer that there is a reduction in the extent of the land held by him and requested the officer to reduce the amount specified in the order of composition. This application was made on the only ground that the above extent of 29.37 acres cannot be deemed to be held by the petitioner either under the provisions of the Agricultural Income-tax Act of 1955 or under the Madras Land Reforms Act of 1961. The Income-tax Officer, however, rejected the application. Thereafter, the petitioner filed a revision petition to the Commissioner of Agricultural Income-tax and reiterated that he was not liable to pay income-tax for 29.37 acres of land which was held by him in excess of the ceiling limit under the Land Reforms Act and that the holding, if any, of the petitioner was referable to the entire extent of his land prior to the Land Reforms Act minus 29.37 acres. It is common ground that this excess extent was taken over by the Government under the Land Reforms Act only on May 23, 1966, which is well after the commencement of the assessment year 1966-67. The Commissioner, therefore, was of the view that the Income-tax Officer rightly rejected the claim for pro rata reduction of the amount of tax since the proviso to Section 10(1) of the Agricultural Income-tax Act was a bar. Factually, it is not in dispute that on the date when the assessment year commenced, the petitioner was in possession of the land. But the question is whether such possession would disentitle the petitionerfrom claiming relief under Section 65, Clause (9) of the Agricultural Income-tax Act.

2. The Madras Land Reforms Act is intended to provide for the fixation of ceiling on agricultural land holdings, which was one of the agrarian reforms brought to subserve the principles in Article 39 of the Constitution of India. The said article provides that the State should direct its policy towards securing that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good. Section 7 of the Land Reforms Act provides that on and from the date of the commencement of that Act, no person shall be entitled to hold land in excess of the ceiling area. The expression 'to hold land' is defined in Section 3, Clause (19) of the Land Reforms Act as meaning owning land as 'owner'. We are not concerned with the other part of the definition. This definition of the expression 'to hold' is repeated in the Agricultural Income-tax Act as well. Section 2(nn) of the Income-tax Act provides that the expression 'to hold' means to possess and enjoy either as owner or tenant, etc. Therefore, the conspicuous element which is common to both the enactments in so far as it refers to the definition of the expression 'to hold' is that such holding is referable to ownership of the land in question. Ownership is a concept in jurisprudence which has a special signification and universally understood in one way. If, therefore, certain circumstances project a situation wherein the land is possessed by a person and if such possession is not referable to his ownership, then it falls short of the elements which go to explain the expression 'to hold' under either of the Acts.

3. Therefore, on and after April 6, 1960, when the Land Reforms Act of 1961 commenced, the petitioner is not entitled to hold 29.37 acres of land. If he is not entitled to hold such land, then, notwithstanding the fact that he is corporeally in possession of the same, he cannot be said to be the owner of that land.

4. It is with this background that the regularity of the order impugned has to be considered. The contention is that if on and after April 6, 1960, he was holding the relative land not as owner, then is he liable to pay income-tax because he continued to possess them as an individual, may be for the State, but not as its owner The learned Government Pleader sustains the order under the proviso to Section 10(1) of the Agricultural Income-tax Act. Section 10(1) dealing with exemption from assessment of (SIC) which prescribes the ceiling limit, runs as follows :

'10. (1) Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to a person who holds land not exceeding twelve and a half standard acres:

Provided that no person who held or holds land during any part of a financial year in excess of the exempted extent shall be entitled to the exemption under this sub-section even though the extent of land held by him during the rest of that financial year may not be in excess of the exempted extent.'

5. The proviso as above no doubt leads to the prima facie impression that no person who held or holds land during any part of a financial year in excess of the ceiling limit shall be entitled to the exemption under Sub-section (1) of Section 10. But the point is whether a person, who holds the excess land after the commencement of the Land Reforms Act, but which he cannot hold as owner, is a person who can be said to be holding such land during any part of the financial year in case the Government does not take over the said land on or before the commencement of the financial year. It is not in dispute that the lands were taken over by the Government, in the instant case, on May 23, 1966. This is certainly after the commencement of the financial year relating to the assessment year 1966-67. But the point is whether the petitioner was holding these lands between April 1, 1966, and May 23, 1966, as owner. Section 7 of the Land Reforms Act and the definition of the expression 'to hold' as also the text of the proviso to Sub-section (1) of Section 10 of the Agricultural Income-tax Act read in conjunction, one with the other, leads to a reasonable impression that the excess lands ' held ' by a person after the commencement of the Lands Reforms Act can be brought to tax under the Agricultural Income-tax Act only if he held the same as owner and not otherwise. But in view of the language of Section 7 of the Land Reforms Act, he cannot hold the same as owner because such excess lands are earmarked as State lands for common purposes. Such being the case, the element of possession, which is the only feature which is conspicuous in the instant case cannot convert such possession into ownership as is ordinarily understood in jurisprudence; and if the circumstances disclose that the petitioner cannot, in the eye of law, be said to be owner of such excess land then he cannot be said to be a person who held or holds the land during any part of the financial year in excess of the exempted extent, as contemplated in the proviso to Sub-section (1) of Section 10 of the Agricultural Income-tax Act. The Commissioner of Income-tax applied the proviso apparently viewing possession as equivalent to ownership. These are distinct judicial concepts. Thus understood, the petitioner cannot be deemed to be in possession of this land during the period between April l, J966, and May 23, 1966, as owner thereof If he was not possessing the land as owner, which is the essential sine qua non for the incidence of tax, then the levy of tax on the presumption that he is the owner, when he is not, suffers from an error apparent, besides being one passed without jurisdiction. The respondent erred in not having considered the application or information furnished by the petitioner under Section 65(9) of theAgricultural Income-tax Act, and dealt with such information in accordance with law. The order impugned, therefore, has to be set aside. The rule nisi is made absolute. The Agricultural Income-tax Officer is directed to deal with the application dated July 12, 1967, filed by the petitioner for the reduction of the quantum of tax in accordance with law and, in so doing, shall apply the principles laid down above. The petition is allowed. There will be no order as to costs.


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