1. These two references have been made by the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Chandigarh Bench (Camp Srinagar), and arises in the following circumstances.
2. Reference No. 3 of 1972 relates to the assessment of Maharajkumar Vikramaditya Singh, the minor son of Dr. Karan Singh. Reference No, 6 of 1972 relates to the assessment of the income of Maharani Yashorajya Lakshmi, wife of Dr. Karan Singh. Both the assessees are individuals having their separate income from properties and other sources and their incomes have been assessed separate from that of Dr. Karan Singh.
3. The assessment which is the subject-matter of the two references pertained to the assessment years 1968-69 and 1969-70, for which the accounting years ended on March 31, 1968, and March 31, 1969. The assessee, Maharani Yashorajya Lakshrai, filed her returns for both these years declaring incomes from property and interest at Rs. 71,919 and Rs. 89,420, respectively. In her return the assessee claimed collection charges of Rs. 4,529 and Rs. 4,404 against income from property known as Bangalore House Ranbir Mahal and Bombay flat for the assessment years 1968-69 and 1969-70, respectively. Similarly, the assessee, Maharaj Kumar Vikramaditya Singh, filed a return of his income for the assessment years 1968-69 and 1969-70 declaring his income from property and interest at Rs. 59,945 and Rs. 47,670, respectively. Here also the assessee claimed collection charges of Rs. 4,135 against income from property known as Usha Kiron at Bombay and Ghulab Bhawan at Srinagar, for the assessment year 1968-69. He further claimed collection charges of Rs. 4,032 for the assessment year 1969-70. The Income-tax Officer disallowed the deductions of both the assessees who went up in appeal to the Appellant Assistant Commissioner who also affirmed the order of the Income-tax Officer. Thereafter, the assessees filed an appeal before the Tribunal. The Tribunal appears to have taken a different view and came to the conclusion that in view of the fact that the expenditure was actually incurred for the purpose of collection of rent, the assessees were entitled to the deductions as claimed. The Tribunal, accordingly, allowed the appeals as also the deductions. In passing this order the Tribunal gave the following findings in both the cases :
'(1) That the expenditure was incurred,
(2) That the expenditure was incurred for collection.
(3) That the expenditure was incurred not by the assessee herself but by her husband, who is a separate assessee.'
(In other words the Tribunal found that in the case of the assessee, Maharajkumar Vikramaditya Singh, the expenditure was incurred not by the assessee himself, but by his father, who is a separate assessee).
4. The department then filed an application before the Tribunal for making a reference to this court and hence the following point of law has been referred to this court for decision:
5. In the case of Maharaj Kumar;
'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was right in law in allowing Rs. 4,135 and Rs. 4,032 as collection charges in respect of the assessee's income from house property for the assessment years 1968*69 and 1969-70 respectively '
6. In the case of the Maharani:--
'Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was right in law in allowing Rs. 4,529 and Rs. 4,404 as collection charges in respect of the assessee's income from house property for the assessment years 1968-69 and 1969-70, respectively? '
7. The learned Tribunal took great pains in tracing the history of the rules of interpretation of fiscal statutes with reference to original text books as also a number of authorities, and came to the conclusion that fiscal statutes should be strictly interpreted giving every benefit of doubt to the subject. The Tribunal further found that as the words 'by the assessee' are not mentioned in Section 24(1)(viii) of the Income-tax Act, therefore, once it is proved that expenses had been incurred by anybody for collection of rent, the assessees were entitled to the benefit of the deductions claimed by them. There can be no dispute with the proposition that a fiscal statute must be interpreted strictly, and if a particular provision is susceptible of two interpretations, the court should accept the interpretation which goes in favour of the subject. But at the same time in our opinion it is equally well-settled that the interpretation must be a reasonable one and the strict rule of interpretation would apply only where the provision is vague or ambiguous. This principle would not apply to a case where the provision is absolutely clear and unambiguous and admits of no other interpretation than the one which goes against the assessee. Similarly, it is the duty of the courts to interpret the provisions of any statute--a fiscal statute being no exception--in such a way as to advance the object of the Act and to achieve the object which the legislature has in view. We are fortified in our view by a recent decision of the Supreme Court inCommissioner of Wealth-tax v. Kripashankar Dayashanker Worah,  81 I.T.R. 763(S.C.)wherein their Lordships observed as follows :
'It is true that a taxing provision must receive a strict construction at the hands of the courts and if there is any ambiguity, the benefit of that ambiguity must go to the assessee. But that is not the same thing as saying that a taxing provision should not receive a reasonable construction. If the intention of the legislature is clear and beyond doubt then the fact that the provision could have been more artistically drafted cannot be a ground to treat any part of a provision as otiose. So long as the intention of the legislature is clear and beyond doubt, the courts have to carry out that intention.'
8. In the light of the principles mentioned above, let us now see whether or not the view taken by the Tribunal is correct. Section 24(1) runs thus :
'Income chargeable under the head 'Income from house property' shall, subject to the provisions of Sub-section (2), be computed after making the following deductions, namely :--'
9. Clause (viii) runs thus :
'any sums spent to collect the rent from the property, not exceeding six per cent. of the annual value of the property.'
10. In order to understand the exact relevance of Clause (viii) it will be necessary to refer to Section 22 which actually defines the nature of the income from house property. Section 22 runs thus :
'The annual value of property consisting of any buildings or lands appurtenant thereto of which the assessee is the owner, other than such portions of such property as he may occupy for the purposes of any business or profession carried on by him the profits of which are chargeable to income-tax, shall be chargeable to income-tax under the head 'Income from house property '.'
11. Section 22 clearly provides that it would apply to cases where the assessee is the owner of the property concerned and any income from such property would be deemed to be income from house property as mentioned in Section 24(1). It is true that Clause (viii) of Section 24(1) of the Act does not mention that the sums spent to collect the rent should be spent by the assessee himself, but since these are deductions claimed by a person who is the owner of the property on the basis that he has incurred certain expenses for collecting rent of that property, he is entitled to a deduction thereof. Indeed if an owner of the property is allowed to claim deduction with respect to the expenses incurred on his property by somebody else gratuitously, then there is no reason why the owner should get the benefit of such a deduction. The deduction is given by the statute to the assessedbecause he spends an amount of money for the purpose of preserving his property or deriving income from it. In these circumstances the deduction is purely personal to the assessee, and has a clear relation to the expenses incurred by the assessee and not by any other person. Thus having regard to the context of Section 24(1)(viii) and to the nature of the language employed in the said provision, we are clearly of the opinion that before the deduction can be allowed it must be incurred or spent by the assessee. We, however, should not be understood as laying down a rule that even if the expenses are not physically incurred by the assessee but are spent on behalf of an assessee, they will not fall within the purview of Section 24(1)(viii). The real test in such cases is to locate the source from which the money for incurring expenses ultimately conies. It may not be possible for an assessee in some cases to spend the money personally; he may give the money either to his agents, his relations or his friends to be spent as collection charges, but in such cases the fact remains that the money belongs to the assessee and it is the assessee who incurs the burden of the expenditure.
12. In the instant cases, on the findings of fact arrived at by the Tribunal in both the cases, it is clear that the money was not spent by the assessee on his or her behalf, but it was spent by Dr. Karan Singh who was a separate assessee. In these circumstances, it cannot be said that the expenses flowed from the pocket of the assessees but were incurred gratuitously by Dr. Karan Singh himself.
13. It was, however, submitted by Mr. Dhawan that the Income-tax Act has made a specific provision for amounts to be paid by the assessee, where the intention is that the assessee should incur the expenditure personally. Our attention was drawn to Sections 16 and 19 of the Act. Section 16 deals with income from salaries and refers to certain statutory deductions which are allowed on the actual expenditure incurred by the assessee. Section 19, which runs thus :
'Subject to the provisions of Section 21, the income chargeable under the head 'Interest on' securities' shall be computed after making the following deductions:
(i) any reasonable sum expended by the assessee for the purpose of realizing such interest;
(ii) any interest payable on moneys borrowed for the purpose of investment in the securities by the assessee.'
deals with income chargeable under the head 'Interest on securities', and, for this reason the word 'assessee' occurs after the words 'any reasonable sum expended'. Thus the Income-tax Act deals witk various categories of income for which different provisions have been made and it is slot reasonable to interpret one provision with reference to the other,when the object sought to be achieved by the two provisions are entirely different. Moreover, even Section 24 deals with two categories of cases: (1) where deduction is allowed on a statutory basis on the basis of notional valuation. These are cases covered by Section 24(1)(i)(a) and (b), Clauses (iv), (v) and (vi), which have no relation to the actual amount but where the deduction is allowed on a notional basis either by fixing the maximum amount or a particular percentage; (2) where the deduction is based on the actual amount spent, as for instance, Clauses (vii) and (viii)
14. In such cases the amounts spent by the assessees are proved to have been spent by them as collection charges on account of land revenue or any other tax and are allowed to be deducted from the total income of the assessee.
15. For these reasons we are satisfied that the interpretation put by the learned Tribunal on Section 24(1)(viii) was legally erroneous and cannot be accepted. We, therefore, think that in both the cases since the assessees did not spend the amount themselves nor was the amount spent on their behalf through their agents but the expenses were incurred by a different assessee, the assessees are not entitled to claim deduction under the aforesaid section. For these reasons we answer the references in the negative. The Tribunal shall now proceed to pass orders in accordance with our judgment. In the peculiar circumstances of these cases, we make no order as to costs.
D.D. Thakur, J.
16. I agree.