1. Respondents Nos. 1 to 9 are the partners of the firm in respondent No. 10, M/s. Rama Nand & Co., which is an assessee under the Income-tax Act (hereinafter called 'the Act'). The petitioner, Income-tax Officer, Central Circle, Chandigarh, filed nine different complaints under Section 276B read with Section 194C of the Act against the respondents in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Shimla, pertaining to different assessment years alleging therein that the respondents had violated the provisions of Section 194C of the Act by' failing to deduct tax at source out of the payments made by them to certain sub-contractors named in the complaints and had thus rendered themselves liable for punishment under Section 276B of the Act.
2. The learned Chief Judicial Magistrate observed that the respondents were not 'contractors' nor the persons to whom payments are alleged to have been made by them 'sub-contractors' within the meaning of Section 194C of the Act and as such they were not required to deduct the amount of tax under Section 194C(2) while making such payments. According to the material brought on the record by the complainant-Income-tax Officer, the respondent firm were only the purchasers of certain quantity of scants of timber and they could not be called contractors. Similarly, the persons to whom they are alleged to have made payments were not their, 'sub-contractors'. Taking this view of the matter, the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate discharged the respondents in all the complaints.
3. The petitioner, Income-tax Officer, has now filed separate revision petitions challenging all the nine orders passed by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, discharging the respondents as stated above. These petitions have been registered as Criminal Revision No. 22 to Criminal Revision No. 30. Since all of these petitions involved a common point of law, they are being disposed of by this common order.
4. The respondents are alleged to have violated the provisions of Section 194C(2) of the Act. This provision has to be read along with Sub-section (1) of Section 194C. Both these sub-sections are, therefore, extracted for ready reference :
'194C. Payments to contractors and sub-contractors.--(1) Any person responsible for paying any sum to any resident (hereafter in this section referred to as the contractor) for carrying out any work (including supply oflabour for carrying out any work) in pursuance of a contract between the contractor and-
(a) the Central Government or any State Government ; or
(b) any local authority, or
(c) any corporation established by or under a Central, State or Provincial Act ; or
(d) any company ; or
(e) any co-operative society,
shall, at the time of credit of such sum to the account of the contractor or at the time of payment thereof in cash or by issue of a cheque or draft or by any other mode, whichever is earlier, deduct an amount equal to two per cent. of such sum as income-tax on income comprised therein.
(2) Any person (being a contractor and not being an individual or a Hindu undivided family), responsible for paying any sum to any resident (hereafter in this section referred to as the sub-contractor) in pursuance of a contract with the sub-contractor for carrying out, or for the supply of labour for carrying out, the whole or any part of the work undertaken by the contractor or for supplying whether wholly or partly any labour which the contractor has undertaken to supply shall, at the time of credit of such sum to the account of the sub-contractor or at the time of payment thereof in cash or by issue of a cheque or draft or by any other mode, whichever is earlier, deduct an amount equal to one per cent. of such sum as income-tax on income comprised therein.'
3. It is obvious from the above extracted provisions that a 'contractor' for the purpose of these provisions would be any person who enters into a contract with the Central or any State Government, any local authority, any corporation established by or under a Central, State or Provincial Act, any company or any co-operative society for carrying out any work including the supply of labour for carrying out any work and a 'sub-contractor' would mean any person who enters into a contract with the contractor for carrying out, or for the supply of labour for carrying out, the whole or part of the work undertaken by the contractor under a contract with any of the authorities named above or for supply whether wholly or partly any labour which the contractor has undertaken to supply in terms of his contract with any of the aforesaid authorities. Now, in the instant cases, admittedly, the respondent firm had not entered into any contract for carrying out any work or for supply of labour for carrying out any work with any Government, local authority, corporation, company or co-operative society. The respondent thus not being a contractor, the payments made by this firm to any person cannot be treated as payments made by a contractor to a sub-contractor so as to attract the provisions of Section 194C(2) of the Act.
4. The learned Chief Judicial Magistrate was thus perfectly right in his view that the allegations made in the complaint and the evidence led in support thereof did not disclose the commission of any offence the part of the respondentsand was, therefore, justified in discharging them. All these revision petitions are thus without merit and are dismissed.