WEALTH TAX OFFICER Vs. UMA RANI CHOUDHURANI
INCOME TAX APPELLATE TRIBUNAL
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A.R. Halder, Judicial Member -
(1.) THESE 14 appeals by the revenue are directed on the common ground that the AAC erred in facts as well as in law in excluding the value of compensation, amounting to Rs. 2,52,200, receivable by the assessee from her total net wealth.
(2.) Before partition of India in 1947 the assessee was residing in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and owning certain immovable properties. After the partition, the assessee left Bangladesh for good, came to India and since then she has been residing in West Bengal. The properties left by her in Bangladesh were seized by the Government of that country and were declared as enemy property. Subsequently, the Government of India invited from the persons leaving their properties in Bangladesh the details of such properties and the quantum of such losses suffered in respect of seizure of their properties with their respective claim for compensation. Accordingly, the assessee furnished details required in the proforma prescribed for the purpose and claimed compensation. On 18-6-1976 the assessee received a sum of Rs. 63,050 from the Government of India, through the custodian of enemy property for India, as an ad hoc compensation, with a condition that she should have to reimburse the compensation to the Government of India in case she would be paid any compensation by the Bangladesh Government at any future date. The assessee claimed before the WTO that during the assessment years under consideration the amount she received as compensation on 18-6-1976 could not be said to be her asset as she had no right to receive the same prior to 18-6-1976. This submission of the assessee did not find favour with the WTO. He found that the amount of compensation received by the assessee was an ad hoc payment which represented 25 per cent of the total claim. He, therefore, came to hold that the assessee was entitled to receive a total compensation of Rs. 2,52,200 (Rs. 63,050 X 4) at an early date when her immovable properties were seized by the Bangladesh Government. Accordingly, the WTO included the sum of Rs. 2,52,200 in the net wealth of the assessee for each of the years under appeal.
The assessee appealed to the AAC and contended that when the properties were taken over by the custodian of the enemy property, she could not exercise the right of ownership on the said properties. Therefore, it was urged that the WTO was not justified in assessing the value of a non-existent asset. It was claimed that it was only when the compensation was actually received by the assessee, the question of assessability arose. Reliance was placed on the decision of the Calcutta High Court in the case of CWT v. U.C. Mahatab  78 ITR 214 for the said proposition. The AAC, after considering the submissions made before him as also following the decision of the Calcutta High Court in the case of U.C. Mahatab (supra), held that since the compensation was received by the assessee only on 18-6-1976, the WTO was not justified in including the amount of Rs. 2,52,200 in the net wealth of the assessee for each of the years under appeal.
(3.) AGAINST the said order of the AAC, the department has preferred the present appeals before us. It was contended by the learned departmental representative that the word "property" is a term of widest import and, subject to any limitation which the context may require, it signifies every possible interest which a person can clearly hold and enjoy. He urged that the fact that the assessee was paid compensation in respect of her properties seized by the Bangladesh Government went to suggest that she had the right to receive compensation on and from the date when her property was taken over by the Government of Bangladesh. He, therefore, submitted that the right to receive compensation being an asset, the WTO was justified in including the value of the total compensation in the net wealth of the assessee. The learned counsel for the assessee, on the other hand, strongly supporting the order of the AAC and relying on the decision of the Calcutta High Court in the case of U.C. Mahatab (supra), urged that the assessee had no legal right to the compensation before 18-6-1976 which could be regarded as an asset. He next urged that such a right would arise from the date on which the assessee received the compensation. According to him, the mere fact that the assessee had applied for the compensation could not be a reason for coming to the conclusion that the assessee had a right to receive such compensation on the date of claiming the same.
Reliance was placed on the decision of the Tribunal in the case of Ashoka Walamji Parmar WT Appeal Nos. 432 to 434, Calcutta Bench E, dated 22-10-1979 in support of his aforesaid contention.;
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