1. The appellants raised certain points before the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal and asked it to refer under Section 66, Income-tax Act, certain questions to the High Court for decision. The tribunal has referred certain questions; but, it considered that the other proposed questions either did not arise or were in the nature of arguments. The appellants thereupon filed an application in the Original Side under Section 45, Specific Relief Act, for a writ of Mandamus requiring the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal to refer also the other questions of law raised by the appellants before the tribunal. Yahya Ali J. held that Section 45, Specific Relief Act, had no application; because the appellants had an appropriate remedy under the Income-tax Act.
2. It is not denied in this Court that if a remedy is open to the appellants under Section 66, Income-tax Act, an application under Section 45, Specific Relief Act, would not lie. So the short point argued here is whether under Section 66 (2), Income-tax Act, the High Court can require the Appellate Tribunal to state the case further and refer to this Court the other points of law raised by the appellants.
3. The learned Judge in the course of his judgment has set out the history of the provisions to be found in Section 66 (2) which give a right to the assessee to move the High Court to require the Appellate Tribunal to state a case. It is conceded that if the Appellate Tribunal refuses to state any case at all, or refer any question of law, then the High Court has power to require the Appellate Tribunal to state a case and refer the question of law; because the sub section says so specifically in so many words. The question is whether when a case is stated and one or more points of law are raised, the High Court can require the Appellate Tribunal to refer further questions of law. It would indeed be a strange omission from this section if the High Court should require the Appellate Tribunal to refer a question of law when none had been referred and yet was unable to require the Appellate Tribunal to state further questions of law where only one or more had been referred. The difficulty arises out of the use of the singular in Sub-section (2) and in other parts of the section in referring to 'the question of law', thus making it appear that the section applies only to one question of law referred or not referred by the Tribunal. Clearly, Section 66 was not intended to have that limitation; and we must apply the general principle of interpretation of statutes that the singular includes the plural. When the section therefore refers to the question of law and question raised, it means also the questions of law and the questions raised. Where Section 66 (2), Income-tax Act, refers to the refusal of the tribunal to state a case on the ground that no question of law arises, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the Legislature had in mind he finding that no question of law arose on the point on which the assessee or the Commissioner had asked the tribunal to refer and not to have reference only to a case where a single question of law is raised and not referred.
4. This particular question seems not to have been raised and decided in any previous case to which our attention has been drawn; but there must have been innumerable cases in which a number of points of law have been raised by assesses or the Commissioner and only some of them have been referred to the High Court. Very many cases must also have arisen in which High Courts have been invited to require the Appellate Tribunal to refer further questions of law; and one of such is N. V. Khandvala & Co. v. Commissioner of Income-tax, : 14ITR635(Bom) . The learned Judges appear to have considered meticulously all the provisions of Section 66, although the detailed discussion of that section has not been set out in the judgment; but the learned Judges clearly came to the conclusion that Section 66 (2) of the Act could be invoked where the Income-tax Tribunal had refused to refer all the questions of law that were properly raised in the case. The only question that the learned Judges felt called upon to decide was the stage at which the objections of the assessee that other questions of law should have been referred ought to be heard and determined; and they held that the proper stage was when the main reference came up for hearing. The relevant passage that has some bearing on the question before us is this:
'When a statement of case with the question of law framed by the Tribunal, is filed in Court for disposal, if a party is aggrieved and wants to contend that certain further facts ought to be stated, or certain questions of Jaw should be raised, he can make an application by way of notice of motion. That should be heard along with the case stated by the Tribunal for the Court's opinion. At that time the Court will consider whether the statement of case is complete for the question of law raised by the Tribunal. The Court can also consider whether on the case stated by the Tribunal the proper question is raised or not. That is the proper time for an aggrieved party to bring to the notice of the Court that certain further and other facts are necessary to be stated or certain further or other questions of law arise and should be brought for decision by the Court.'
There are certain objections to the adoption of the course suggested by the learned Judges that the objections of the assessee should be raised only at that stage; for Section 66 (2) which is the only provision for the raising of an objection that a question of law referred has not been referred, requires the application to be made within six months of the Appellate Tribunal's refusal to state a case on the ground that no question of law arises. Moreover, though it may in some ways be convenient to hear the application at the time of the disposing of the main reference, the learned advocate for the appellants has pointed out that the postponement of the consideration of the assessee application to that stage would necessitate an undue delay in the disposal of the whole reference. Whatever may be said as to the stage at which an application under Section 66 (2) should be heard, we are clearly of the opinion that Section 66 is self-contained with regard to the procedure to be adopted when an assessee or Commissioner is dissatisfied with the order of reference and that it does provide for the contingency when the statement of the case is incomplete, as well as for that when no reference has been made at all. Section 45, Specific Relief Act, has, therefore, no application.
5. The appeals are dismissed with costs. One Advocate's fee.