PATANJALI SASTRI, J. - One of the questions raised in this appeal is whether the defendants were agriculturists within the meaning of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act, 1938. The plaintiffs who are the appellants here claimed that the defendants were disqualified from claiming the status of an agriculturist under the Act by reason of their having been assessed to income-tax during the period specified in proviso A to Section 3, clause (ii), of the Act, that is to say, in either of the two financial years ending 31st March, 1938. It has been held by this Court in Rajoo v. Palaniappa Chettiar, that the disqualifying assessments must have been made not for the two financial years mentioned in the proviso, but must have been made in either of those years, as the assessments for any year need not necessarily be made in that year under the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922. In order to establish the disqualification the plaintiffs filed Ex. P-6, a memorandum granted by the Collector of Kistna under Section 26 of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act to one Rattayya who was also a creditor of the defendants. This memorandum discloses that Chapalamadugu Rangayya who is admitted to be the manger of the joint family of the defendants was assessed to income-tax for 1936-37 as representing a Hindu undivided family and was not assessed for 1937-38. The memorandum thus throws no light on the point to be determined in the case, for as we have pointed out above what is relevant is not assessment to income-tax for the year 1936-37 and 1937-38 but assessment made in 1936-37 and 1937-38. Ex. P-18 is another memorandum granted by the same officer on the application of the plaintiffs. It states that Rangayya was not assessed to income-tax for the two financial years ending 31st March, 1937, and 31st March, 1938. So far as the financial year ending 31st March, 1937, is concerned, this memorandum flatly contradicts the statement in Ex. P-6 that Rangayya was assessed to income-tax for that year. Other similar memoranda granted to the defendants and other have been produced on the defendants side, Exs. D-5, D-6 and D-14 stating that no assessment in 1936-37 and 1937-38 was made on the said person.
It is suggested by Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Aiyar appearing for the appellants-plaintiffs that in view of the doubt and confusion in which the question relating to the assessment for 1936-37 is involved, we should in the exercise of the powers under Order 41, Rule 27, of the civil Procedure Code send for the records of the income-tax office concerned to clear up the matter. He relies upon the newly introduced clause (m) of Section 54(3) of the Indian Income-tax Act as empowering us to call upon the Income-tax department for the production of the records relating to the assessments to income-tax made on Rangayya in the year 1936-37 and 1937-38, the two relevant years for the purposes of the proviso A. It is, however, urged by Mr. Govindarajachari for the respondents that the expression 'to the appropriate authority' in clause (m) covers only the Collector acting under Section 26 of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act or such other officer as may have occasion to ascertain the particulars referred to in the clause for the purpose of discharging his official duties but not a Civil Court, as a 'Civil Court' is referred to as such in clause (d) of Section 54(3) and not as an 'authority.' We are unable to accept this narrow construction of the clause. Obviously the clause contemplates the authority concerned calling for such particulars in order to enable it to determine whether a person has or has not been assessed to income-tax in any particular year. Such an issue arises in the present case and the Court has to determine it one way or the other. The wider term 'authority' was presumably used with a view to bring also officers such as a Collector acting under Section 26 of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act within the purview of the clause. We cannot agree that the term excludes the Civil Court where it is called upon to determine judicially whether a person has or has not been assessed to income-tax in a given year. We are satisfied that the Court below having the duty of determining whether the defendants were assessed to income-tax in either of the two relevant years had the power to call upon the income-tax department to disclose the particulars necessary for determining that issue, and that we, sitting here in appeal, have also such power.
Mr. Govindarajachari further submitted that, in view of the careless conduct of the appellants, the Court should not call for additional evidence from the income-tax department at this stage in order to assist them to establish their case. As, however, we think that it is not satisfactory to decide the question arising under proviso A in the present state of the record with the two contradictory memoranda Exs. P-6 and P-18 granted by the same public officer with reference to the same matter, and require the additional material which we propose to call for under clause (b) of Rule 27(1) of Order 41 of the Code of Civil Procedure in order to clear the doubt in our minds, no question of the parties delay or negligence arises. We accordingly call upon the Income-tax Officer, Masulipatam, to produce the original records relating to the assessment to income-tax, if any, made in 1936-37 and 1937-38 on the defendants family of which Chapalamadugu Rangayya was the manager. The further hearing of this appeal will await the production of those records.