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Commissioner of Gift-tax, Madras Vs. M. K. K. R. Muthukaruppan Chettiar. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberTax Case No. 52 of 1965 (Reference No. 16 of 1965)
Reported in[1969]72ITR1(Mad)
AppellantCommissioner of Gift-tax, Madras
RespondentM. K. K. R. Muthukaruppan Chettiar.
Cases ReferredA. Narayanappa v. B. Krishnappa
Excerpt:
- .....assistant commissioner was against the department. on this behalf the contention was that the share gifted to muthukaruppan chettiar did not by itself constitute or consist of immovable properties. that point was reiterated before the tribunal in different ways, but, in substance, the contention for the revenue was that the share of the family as a partner in the foreign firm could not be regarded as, by itself, immovable property within the meaning of section 5(1). the tribunal declined to accept that view with the result the departments appeal failed. though that conclusion of the tribunal would have sufficed to dispose of the appeal before it, it went further and said, in effect, that on the facts it could not be held the transaction was one without consideration inasmuch as the.....
Judgment:

VEERASWAMI J. - This reference arises under section 26(1) of the Gift-tax Act, 1958. The assessee and his minor son, Karuppan Chettiar, constituted a Hindu undivided family. The family owned shares in house properties and business assets and outstanding due in this country and also shares in partnership business in Burma and Penang, the total of which was valued at Rs. 9,08,000 as on September 2, 1958. On that date, there was a partition, the terms of which are found in the partition deed. The assessee retained Rs. 70,000 in cash with him and the balance of the family assets was allotted to the share of the minor son. The responsibility for bringing up the assessees four daughters and performing their marriages in accordance with the custom of the community and the status of the family was left with the minor son. Though the assessee retained for himself the sum of Rs. 70,000, he undertook to discharge a registered mortgage due from the family, a sum of Rs. 20,000. The partition appears to have been recognised for purposes of income-tax under section 25A of the Income-tax Act, 1922. For the assessment year 1959-60, the assessee filed a 'nil return' for purposes of the Gift-tax Act. But, on the view that the half share of the father, deducting Rs. 70,000 retained with him, had been transferred to the minor son without consideration in money or moneys worth, the Gift-tax officer brought the value of the residue, a sum of Rs. 3,84,000 to tax. On appeal by the assessee, the Appellate Assistant Commissioner agreed with the Gift-tax Officer that the transaction amounted to a gift, but considered that, as the immovable properties worth Rs. 3,61,300 were situated outside the territories of India, they were exempt under section 5(1) of the Gift-tax Act from charge. On that view, he directed the Gift-tax officer to make due allowance for it and amended the assessment accordingly. The Gift-tax officer appealed in so far as the order of the Appellate Assistant Commissioner was against the department. On this behalf the contention was that the share gifted to Muthukaruppan Chettiar did not by itself constitute or consist of immovable properties. That point was reiterated before the Tribunal in different ways, but, in substance, the contention for the revenue was that the share of the family as a partner in the foreign firm could not be regarded as, by itself, immovable property within the meaning of section 5(1). The Tribunal declined to accept that view with the result the departments appeal failed. Though that conclusion of the Tribunal would have sufficed to dispose of the appeal before it, it went further and said, in effect, that on the facts it could not be held the transaction was one without consideration inasmuch as the responsibility for maintaining and performing the marriages of his sisters lay on the minor under the terms of the partition. In the circumstances, at the instance of the commissioner, the reference comes before us, the question for our consideration being :

'(1) Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the assessee was liable to gift-tax ?

(2) If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, whether the sum of Rs. 3,61,300 representing the value of the immovable properties in Malaya is exempt from taxation under section 5(1) of the Gift-tax Act ?'

On the strength of A. Narayanappa v. Krishnappa, the department contends that the Tribunals should have accepted the position that the exemption of the immovable properties under section 5(1) was not well-founded. It seems to us that the department is right. Neither the Appellate Assistant Commissioner, nor the Tribunal, examined critically whether because a partner had a share in a firm which owned immovable properties among other assets, therefore, when such a share was transferred it can assume that there has been a transfer of immovable properties which are exempt from charge under section 5(1). They seemed to have approached the question from the factual situation of the immovable properties outside the territories of India and applied section 5(1) A. Narayanappa v. B. Krishnappa held that whatever be the character of the property brought in by the partners, or acquired in the course of the business, it became the property or trading assets of the firm and that a partner was entitled only to his share of profits, if any, accruing and, upon dissolution, to a share in the moneys realised, which represented the value of the property. In that case, a karar was executed by one of the of the partners, which recorded the fact that the partnership had come to an end and he had given his share in the assets consisting of machine, etc., of the business in the firm and made over the same to the other partner by way of adjustment. The karar also contained a recital that the partner who executed the document had been given certain immovable property that formed part of the trading assets of the business by other partner. The document was not registered and the question before the Supreme Court retained to the validity of the document. It was held that the document did not require registration. The court observed (at page 495) :

'The whole concept of partnership is to embark upon a joint venture and for that purpose to bring in as capital money or even property including immovable property. Once that is done, whatever is brought in would cease to be the exclusive property of the person who brought it in. It would be trading asset of the partnership in which all the partners would have interest in proportion to their share in the joint venture of the business of partnership. The person who brought it in would, therefore, not be able to claim or exercise any exclusive right over any property which he has brought in, much less over any other partnership property. He would not able to exercise his right even to the extent of his share in the business of the partnership. As already stated his right during the subsistence of the partnership is to get his share of profits from time to time as may be agreed upon among the partners and after the dissolution of the partnership or with his retirement from the partnership of the value of his share in the net partnership assets as on the date of dissolution or retirement after a deduction of liabilities and prior charges. It is true that even during the subsistence of the partnership a partner may assign his share to another. In that case what the assignee would get would be only that which is permitted by section 29(1), that is to say, the right to receive the share of profits of the assignor and accept the account of profits agreed to by the partners.'

It was on that view the Supreme Court held in that case that the document there did not involve any transfer of immovable property and it did not, therefore, require registration. It seems to us, the principal of this decision has direct application to the facts before us. The joint family of the assessee only owned a share, and that is not in dispute, in the foreign firms, which owned immovable properties as part of trading assets. The subject-matter at the family division was, therefore, that share owned by family in the foreign firms, and not the immovable properties per se which constituted the business assets of those firms. We are of opinion, therefore, that section 5(1) had no application and the allowance granted in respect of the immovable properties of the value of Rs. 3,61,300 cannot be sustained.

That, by itself, may not conclude in favour of the revenue which has got to get over another hurdle. The next question will be whether the partition deed, having regard to its entire tenor and effect, amounted to a transfer of the assessees half share, related question was considered by Commissioner Of Income-tax v. Getti Chettiar, to which one of us was a party. That was a case of a joint Hindu family consisting of a father, his son and six grandsons by that son. There was a partition at which the father took for himself Rs. 1,78,343 and the residue out of the total assets of the family valued at Rs. 8,51,440 was allotted to the sons share. The father was charged to gift-tax on Rs. 2,36,377 on the view that allotment of the fathers half share less Rs. 1,78,343 amounted to a gift without consideration in money or moneys worth. This court held that transaction did not amount to a gift. This was on the view that the allotment of the fathers half share did not involve a transfer of property by him to his son and grandsons. The principal of this decision has undoubted application to his case. But Mr. Balasubrahmanyan, for the revenue, resting himself on the terms of the deed of partition, attempted to distinguish Commissioner of Income-tax v. Getti Chettiar. According to learned counsel, if regarded is had to the terms of the partition, it will not clear that there was a first division in status between the assessee and his son, thereafter, after retaining with him a sum of Rs. 70,000, the father made over the residue of the family assets to his son. On this basis it is pressed on us that this was not a case of an unequal partition simpliciter, but an outright transfer of the fathers share after a division in status had been effected. We did not think that partition deed lends itself to the construction which learned counsel for the revenue sought to place. There is nothing in partition deed to show that there has been a division first, later on a kind of notional division by metes and bounds and thereafter. The father transferring his half share after retention of a portion. As a matter of fact, the partition deed itself says :

'Having valued my share and obtained in cash and having partitioned the entire assets to my minor son, Karuppan Chettiar, myself and my minor son, Karuppan Chettiar, have become divided in status'.

The division in status is, therefore, contemporaneous with the division of the family assets. It seems to us, therefore, that there is hardly any room for holding that Commissioner of Income-tax v. Getti Chettiar is inapplicable.

We answer the first question against the revenue and the second question in its favour. Before leaving this case, we have to make one more observation. The Appellate Assistant Commissioner did not set aside the assessee would be entitled to an allowance under section 5(1), directed him to amend the assessment accordingly. The assessee did not prefer an appeal against the Gift-tax officers order in so far as it held that there was a gift; nor did he prefer an appeal against the order of the Appellate Assistant Commissioner on that question. What the tax effect of this would be we are not called upon to consider in this reference. But we have considered the first question in this reference only in so far as it has a bearing upon the answer to the second question.

In the circumstances, we make no order as to costs.


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