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The Honorary Secretary, Sourashtra Sabha Vs. the Presiding Officer of the Special Tribunal of the Urban Land Tax Appeal and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectOther Taxes
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1979)2MLJ506
AppellantThe Honorary Secretary, Sourashtra Sabha
RespondentThe Presiding Officer of the Special Tribunal of the Urban Land Tax Appeal and anr.
Cases ReferredMariam Aysha v. Commissioner of Agricultural Income
Excerpt:
- securitisation & reconstruction of financial assets & enforcement of security interest act, 2002 [c.a. no. 54/2002]section 17; power of tribunal to impose condition relating to deposit for grant of stay of auction held, there is no specific provision made under section 17 of securitisation act or under any other provisions of the said act empowering the tribunal to pass any interim order. but under sub-section (12) of section 19 of the recovery of debts due to banks and financial institutions act, 1993, the tribunal has been empowered to pass various interim orders. if sub-section (7) of section 17 of securitisation act is read along with sub-section (12) of section 19 of recovery of debts due to bank is and financial institutions act, it would be clear that the tribunal also has..........west and confirmed by the. presiding officer (subordinate judge) of the special tribunal of the urban land tax appeals, madurai. the matter arises under the tamil nadu urban land tax act, 1966.2. it is stated in the affidavit filed in support of the writ petition that the sourashtra sabha, hereinafter referred to as the sabha, has under its control and management a denominational temple known as sri prasanna venkatesa perumal temple at madurai. several members of the sourashtra community have created kattalais or specific endowments for the performance of some specific religious charities connected with the said temple and the kattalais are evidenced by registered documents. by these documents, the various settlors have nominated the sabha to be in management of the properties endowed.....
Judgment:
ORDER

S. Padmanabhan, J.

1. The Honorary Secretary, Sourashtra Sabha, Madurai has filed this writ petition for the issue of a writ of a certiorari to quash the order, date 15th November, 1973, passed by the Assistant Commissioner, Madurai West and confirmed by the. Presiding Officer (Subordinate Judge) of the Special Tribunal of the Urban Land Tax Appeals, Madurai. The matter arises under the Tamil Nadu Urban Land Tax Act, 1966.

2. It is stated in the affidavit filed in support of the writ petition that the Sourashtra Sabha, hereinafter referred to as the Sabha, has under its control and management a denominational temple known as Sri Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple at Madurai. Several members of the Sourashtra community have created Kattalais or specific endowments for the performance of some specific religious charities connected with the said temple and the Kattalais are evidenced by registered documents. By these documents, the various settlors have nominated the Sabha to be in management of the properties endowed to the kattalais.

3. While so, the Secretary of the Sabha submitted returns in terms of the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Urban Land Tax Act, 1966. The returns contained particulars regarding 32 items. Out of these 32 items, item Nos. 1, 2, 4, and 10 belonged to the Sri Prasanna Venkatesa Perumal Temple. Items 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12 belonged to the Sabha. Items 13 to 32 in the return, dated 28th February, 1972 belonged to the Kattalais. Subsequently, in response to notice received under Section 11(1) of the Act, the then Secretary of the Sabha appeared before the Assistant Commissioner, Urban Land Tax, Madurai through an advocate. It was pleaded before the second respondent that while assessing the properties to Urban Land Tax, items 13 to 32 in the return cannot be clubbed together for the purpose of arriving at the rate of Urban Land Tax. This contention was advanced on the basis that each of the kattalais is the separate owner of its own property. The Sabha must be deemed to be only a trustee in respect of each of the kattalais. Consequently, it would not be open to the Assistant Commissioner to treat the Sabha as the owner of the Kattalai properties, namely, items 13 to 32 and levy urban land tax on that basis.

4. By his order, dated 15th November, 1973, which order is challenged in these proceedings, the second respondent rejected the contention of the petitioner and treated the Kattalai properties as the properties of the Sabha and determined the rate of tax payable accordingly. Aggrieved by the said order of the second respondent, the Sabha preferred U.L.T.A. No. 142 of 1974 before the statutory Appellate Authority, the Special Tribunal for Urban Land Tax Appeal, Madurai. The Sabha had preferred two other appeals, U.L.T.A. Nos. 375 of 1973 and 72 of 1976. The appeals were heard together. The first respondent by a common order, dated 24th September, 1976, set aside the valuations fixed by the Assistant Commissioner, namely the second respondent, for certain irregularities apparent on the face of the order and remanded the matter for disposal on certain limited points. But the Special Tribunal, however, rejected the contention advanced on the side of the Sabha that items 13 to 32 which are Kattalai properties in the hands of the Sabha should not be clubbed together for the purpose of determining the rate of tax. Consequently, the Sabha has filed this writ petition. As already stated, the compass of this writ petition is confined only to the contention which was not upheld by the respondents, namely, items 13 to 32 included in the return, dated 28th February, 1972, which are admitted kattalai properties in the hands of the Sabha should not be clubbed together for the purpose of determining the rate of urban land tax.

5. There is no discussion about this question in the order of the second respondent. Presumably it does not appear to have been raised so specifically before the second respondent. However, the point No. 2 was raised specifically before the Special Tribunal, namely, whether the claim for separate assessment could be sustained. The Special Tribunal took the view that under the trust deed the settlors had completely settled the properties for implementing the objects described in the deed and there is a complete-cessation of ownership on the part of the founder by vesting the properties in the Sabha. In the language of the Special Tribunal, it is difficult to maintain the claim of the Sabha in the face of the manifest terms; of the deeds which unmistakably pointed out that the corpus itself had been dedicated to the Sabha for the object described in the deeds.

6. Mr. O. V. Baluswami with his characteristic precision points out that on the face of it the reasoning of the Special Tribunal cannot stand scrutiny in the eye of law. The learned Counsel points out that the endowment is in favour of the Kattalai which is. entitled to hold the properties. The endowment is for the purpose of performance of certain religious charities. The Sabha is only the human agency or the ministrant through which the aims and objects of the kattalai are to be carried out. In this connection, the learned Counsel drew my attention to the leading case reported in Sri Vidya Varuthi Thirtha Swamigal v. Baluswami Ayyar and Ors. (1921) 48 I.A. 302: I.L.R. (1921) Mad. 831: (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346: 15 L.W. 78: A.I.R. 1922 P.C. 123. where the legal position of a trustee understood in Hindu Law has been laid down by the Privy Council. It will suffice to quote the head-note which is to the following effect:

It is to be remembered that a 'trust' in the sense in which the expression is used in English Law, is unknown in the Hindu system, pure and simple, J. C. Ghosh 'Hindu Law', 276. Hindu piety found expression in gifts to idols and images consecrated and installed in temples, to religious institutions of every kind, and for all purposes considered meritorious; in the Hindu social and religious system; to Brahmins, Goswamis, Sanyasis, etc. Under the Hindu Law, the image of a deity of the Hindu pantheon is, as has been aptly called, a 'juristic entity', vested with the capacity of receiving gifts and holding property. When the gift is directly to an idol or a temple, the seizin to complete the gift is necessarity effected by human agency. Called by whatever name he is only the manager and custodian of the idol or the institution. In no case is the property conveyed to or vested in him; nor is he a 'trustee' in the English sense of the term, although in view of the obligations and duties vesting in him, is answerable as a trustee in the general sense for maladministration. The Law of Trusts owes its origin to a rule laid down by the Prophet of Islam, and means, 'the tying up of property in the ownership of God the Almighty and the devotion of the profits for the benefit of human beings'.

Drawing inspiration from this decision, the learned Counsel submits that the view of the Special Tribunal that the property is absolutely vested in the Sabha is erroneous. Therefore, argued the learned Counsel, the Sabha must be considered to be a trustee in respect of as many kattalais as there are created by documents. If this position is conceded, the properties of one kattalai in the hands of the Sabha as its trustee or manager cannot be tacked on together with the properties of another kattalai, merely because the trustee or manager of both the Kattalais happens to be the same individual and the same institution, namely the Sabha.

7. The learned Counsel is perfectly right in his submission. Section 6(17) of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959 defines a religious endowment or endowment as:

'Religious endowment' or 'endowment' means all property belonging to or given or endowed for the support of Maths or temples, or given or endowed for the performance of any charity of a public nature connected therewith or of any other religious charity; and includes the institution concerned and also the premises thereof; but does not include gifts of property made as personal gifts to the archaka, service-holder or other employee of a religious institution.

Section 6(19) defines a specific endowment as:

any property or money endowed for the performance of any specific service or charity in a math or temple, or for the performance of any other religious charity, but does not include an inam of the nature described in Explanation (1) to Clause (17).

Section 6(18) defines a 'religious institution' as meaning a math, temple or specified endowment, and Section 6(22) defines a 'trustee' thus:

'trustee' means any person or body by whatever designation known in whom or in which the administration of a religious institution is vested, and includes any person or body who or which is liable as if such person or body were a trustee.

This is only a codification of the general law of religious endowments to the extent it defined a trustee as well as religious institution. From this it is clear that a trustee is. only a person in whom the administration oft a particular religious institution or a special endowment vests. It is not correct to call a trustee as the owner of the property.

8. What exactly is the nature of a Kattalai came up for consideration recently before a Bench of this Court in R. M. AR. AR. RM. AR. Ramanathan Chettiar v. Commissioner for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment, Madras (1978) 91 L.W. 237. Ratnavel Pandian, J., in disposing of A.S. Nos. 341 of 1972 and 378 of 1974 has observed as follows:

As laid down in President, Board of Commissioners for Hindu Religious Endowments v. Nagarathina Mudaliar : AIR1935Mad417 a kattalai is a religious endowment within the meaning of Section 9(11) of the 1927 Act. Similarly, another Bench of this Court, consisting of Ramesam, O.C.J., and Venkatasubba Rao, J. in Vaidyalinga Pandara Sannadhi v. Ramalinga Mudaliar : AIR1934Mad126 . took such a view. In a separate judgment, Ramtsam, O.C.J., held that the word kattalai' wts used in two senses. In the strict sense it was a religious endowment, the subject in which is the performance of such kind of religious duty in the temple for the spiritual benefit of some other individual. In the lesser sense, the temple itself was the beneficiary and the Kattalais are only a number of separate trusts. If the kattalai in question was a kattalai in the strict sense, the suit would not be maintainable....

Therefore, from this also it is clear that each one of the kattalais is a separate specific endowment and in respect of each of the kattalais, the Sabha stands in the position of a trustee or the manager. When once this position is accepted, the Sabha must be deemed to be holding as trustee separately and distinctly, the properties of each of the kattalais.

9. Section 5 of Act XII of 1966 is the charging section which reads--

Subject to the other provisions contained in this Act, there shall be levied and collected for every fasli year commencing from the date of the commencement of this Act, a tax on each urban land (hereinafter referred to as the Urban Land Tax) from the owner of such urban land at the rate of 0.4 per centum of the market value of such urban land.

10. 'Owner' is defined in Section 2(10) 'thus:

'owner' includes--

(i) any person including a mortgagee in possession for the time being receiving or entitled to receive, whether on his own account or as agent, trustee, guardian, manager or receiver for another person or for any religious or charitable purpose, the rent or. profits of the urban land or of the building constructed on the urban land in respect of which the word is used;

(ii) ....

11. Considering Sections 5 and 2(10), the person in whose hands the Urban Land can be charged to Urban Land Tax is the owner. The owner in the case of a religious or charitable institution must necessarily be a trustee thereof. But, when the same person is a trustee for different religious or charitable endowments, it cannot be said that he will be the owner in respect of the urban land owned by all the endowments together. It can only mean that he will be the owner in respect of a land owned by the particular religious endowment. Viewed in this sense, the Sabha cannot be deemed to be the owner of all the properties of the various kattalais clubbed together. It must be considered to be the owner in respect of the urban land owned by each of the kattalais and it will be liable to be taxed separately on the urban land owned by each of the kattalais.

12. Merely because the Sabha manages the properties of the various Kattalais, all the properties cannot be clubbed together in its hands and assessed as such to Urban Land Tax. A similar situation arose under the Madras Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1955 for consideration by a Bench of this Court in State of Madras v. Pattammal (1966) 62 I.T.R. 185. A person owning extensive properties executed, five settlements settling different properties on five different persons. Even after the settlement all the lands continued to be managed and cultivated as usual with the same agents by the settlor, some lands under pannai cultivation and some on waram. The waram was received in common from all the lands and the income was pooled together and brought to a common day-book and ledger. It was not possible to find out from the accounts the income from the lands given to each of the beneficiaries. All the income arising as per the account books was deposited in a bank in the joint names of the settlor and another person as the trustees fod the beneficiaries or deposited in a bank in the names of trustees. From these circumstances, the Assessing Officer as well as the Assistant Commissioner of Agricultural income-tax came to the conclusion that the several beneficiaries under the five documents were liable to be assessed as an association of individuals on their agricultural income. In the opinion of the Tribunal, there was nothing to show that the documents were not genuine or that they had not been acted upon and the Tribunal held that there could not be any inference about an association of individuals through the mere fact of common management, that the documentary evidence showed that the settlements enured to the benefit of the beneficiaries inescapably and there was nothing to show that the beneficiaries engaged themselves in a joint enterprise for the purpose of producing income for the lands; and that the beneficiaries could not be assessed as an association of individuals. It was held:

The fact that different owners of properties, for their own convenience, secured the help of the same person for looking after their lands and cultivating them would not ipso facto constitute them as an association of individuals within the special meaning given to that term for the purpose of assessment under the Agricultural Income-tax Act, and, on the facts, the Tribunal was right in holding that the beneficiaries could not be assessed as 'an association of individuals'.

Though the aforesaid case, on it's facts as well as the statutory provision which it contained, may not be strictly applicable to the present case on all fours, the principle is applicable, namely merely because the Sabha happens to manage the urban land belonging to various kattalais, it cannot be held that the Sabha is the owner of all the properties of the kattalais put together.

13. One other case referred to by Mr. O. V. Baluswami is the one reported in Mariam Aysha v. Commissioner of Agricultural Income-tax : [1976]104ITR381(Mad) . That also arose under the Madras Agricultural Income-tax Act, 1955.

The assessee, after settlement of certain properties on her and her minor children by her husband filed separate applications for composition in respect of lands held by her as well as her minor children. But the Officer clubbed all the lands into one unit and passed a consolidated order purporting to act on the consent therefor, given by the petitioner's husband. This was confirmed in revision by the Commissioner. She filed a writ petition in this Court seeking to quash the order of the Commissioner. Ramaprasada Rao, J., as he then was, allowed the writ petition holding that the clubbing by the authorities below which was accepted by the Commissioner was against law and not justified. The learned Judge observed thus:

The process of reckoning the tax is prescribed under the Act. No doubt, a person has been defined as an individual or association of individuals, owning or holding property for himself or for any other or partly for his own benefit and partly for another, either as owner, trustee, receiver, common manager, administrator, executor in any capacity recognised by law, and.... But the point is whether such a person holds the land in question as an owner or in any other capacity which is otherwise than, individualistic. If. a person satisfies the characteristics of an owner and that of a trustee, receiver, etc..., then he would be fulfilling a double capacity and effectively he would be considered as indicating a dual personality in him. In a case where such a dual personality is projected, Section 8 enjoins the revenue to levy such tax upon such an individual in his capacity as receiver, administrator, executor, trustee, etc. Thus, therefore, if there is dual personalty in one individual or person and if such a person holds, then a severability is contemplated if such a person holding such a dual personality comes up with an application for composition. The lands held by him in his capacity as a normal person would be severed from the lands held by him in his capacity as receiver, administrator, etc., and would be dealt with accordingly. I am only illustrating this for the purpose of pointing out that the Assessing Officer normally has no jurisdiction to club holdings of persons who have a different status in the eye of law and who fill in different legal personalities in any one individual.

The same principle applies to the facts of this case. The Sabha fills the capacity of as many trustees there ahe kattalais. Therefore, the lands of all the kattalais cannot be clubbed together and assessed to urban land tax as one unit.

14. I therefore, allow this writ petition and quash the order of the Special Tribunal which in turn confirmed the order of the Assistant Commissioner to the extent that the Tribunal has found that the second respondent can club together the properties of the various Kattalais which are itemised as items 13 to 32 in the return, dated 28th February, 1972. I further direct that the second respondent will treat the lands of each kattalai of which the Sabha is a trustee severally and distinctly and proceed to assess the same on that basis. As already referred to by me, the matter has been remanded to the second respondent by the Special Tribunal to determine the market value of the land. I therefore remit the entire matter for consideration to the second respondent, who will proceed to pass a fresh assessment order in the light of the directions contained herein. It is needless to add that the basis referred to here, namely that the lands of each of the Kattalais should be severally and distinctly treated, applies to all future assessments also. There will be no order as to costs.


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