1. This is an application by the assessee under Section 256(2) of the Income-tax Act, 1961, for an order requiring the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Chandigarh, to state the case and refer the questions of law arising from its order dated June 25, 1971, to this court. By its order dated February 19, 1972, the Appellate Tribunal rejected the assessee's application to make such reference. The assessee claimed reference on, what were described as, five questions of law. These questions are overlapping and also not well-stated. To me it appears, considering the material on record and arguments advanced before us, that there are really three qnestions which arose from the order of the Appellate Tribunal upon which the assessee desired a reference to be made to this court. These three questions may be put as follows:
'(1) Whether, on the facts and circumstances of the case, there has been no proper and valid service of the notice under Section 148 on the assessee ; and if not, whether the assessments in question are, therefore, bad in law ?
(2) Whether, on the facts and circumstances of the case, the assessee has waived the objection as regards the service of notice and the assess^ ments in question are, therefore, valid in law ?
(3) Whether the Tribunal was justified in holding that the assessmentsin question were not barred by limitation ?' '
2. The Appellate Tribunal was of the view that the questions raised were concluded by findings of fact and did not give rise to any question of law adding that the legal issues were merely academic. In this the Tribunal does not appear to have appreciated the matter correctly nor even the distinction between a pure question of fact and a mixed question of fact and law. Where any question is dependent for its determination on the facts alone, proved or admitted or both, it is a pure question of fact. Where, however, the question depends for its decision on the facts coupled with law, it is a mixed question of fact and law. In the one case the inference has to be drawn from the facts alone while in the other case the inference has to be drawn from the facts by their co-relation with the relevant principles of law. The determination in the first case involves appreciation of the facts alone whereas the determination in the second case involves the appreciation of the facts and the law both.
3. Herein lies the distinction which has been succinctly brought out by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Shree Meenakshi Mills Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income-tax : 31ITR28(SC) holding:
'Where an ultimate finding on an issue is an inference to be drawn from the facts found, on the application of any principles of law, there is a mixed question of law and fact, and the inference from the facts found is, in such a case, a question of law. But where the final determination of the issue equally with the finding or ascertainment of the basic facts does not involve the application of any principle of law, an inference from the facts cannot be regarded as one of law. The proposition that an inference from facts is one of law is, therefore, correct in its application to mixed questions of law and fact, but not to pure questions of fact. In the case of pure questions of fact an inference from the facts is as much a question of fact as the evidence of the facts. The observations contained in some judgments of the English courts that what inference is to be drawn from the proved facts is a question of law refers to this distinction.'
4. As also held by the Supreme Court in the above-mentioned case, where the point for determination is a mixed question of law and fact, while the finding of the Tribunal on the facts found is final, its decision as to the legal effect of those findings is a question of law which can be reviewed by the court.
5. Viewed thus, the Appellate Tribunal was not justified in holding that the questions concerning the service of notice or the waiver thereof did not raise any question of law. That the service of the notice on behalf of the assessee in the instant case was accepted by Shri Rajinder Kumar may not be open to review by this court, being purely a question of fact, but the question whether the acceptance of such service was valid, considering the principles of law governing service, raises a question of law which is clearly subject to review by this court, being a question of law. Likewise, it may not be open to this court to review the finding of the Tribunal that Shri Nanak Chand filed returns on behalf of the assessee as his attorney, being a question of fact, but whether such finding has the effect of the objection as regards notice having been waived raises a question of law which is equally subject to review by this court. That being so, the judgment of the Appellate Tribunal refusing to refer to this court the first two questions, or rather the set of questions to which these amount, on the ground that they were concluded by findings of fact, was clearly erroneous and misconceived. Equally so, its decision refusing to refer the question of limitation to this court. It was a pure question of law involving, as it did, the interpretation of Section 149 of the Income-tax Act. That this section has relevance in the matter cannot be disputed and then how does the issue become merely academic, as stated by the Tribunal, is not easily understandable. In my opinion, therefore, this application must be allowed and the Tribunal required to state a case on the questions I have set out above and refer it to this court for decision. I make an order accordingly. The petitioner shall be entitled to his costs in this application.
Mian Jalal-Ud-Din, J.