Decided on March 22,1952



SATYANARAYANA RAO, J. - (1.) THE three questions that were referred to us for decision under Section 66(1) of the Income Tax Act, 1922 by the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal are (1) Whether the payment of Rs. 23,894, cost of railway siding, paid by the assessee to the M.L.M. Estate was revenue expenditure which the assessee was entitled to deduct under Section 10(2) of the Act (2) Whether the sum of Rs. 7,000 spent in connection with the new salt pans was capital expenditure and not allowable as a deduction under Section 10(2) of the Act (3) Whether the sum of Rs. 36,680 paid to Messrs. A. R. Ramier & Co., under the compromise decree was an admissible expenditure under Section 10(2)(xv) of the Act
(2.) THE three questions may be considered under two groups as questions Nos. (1) and (2) are closely connected and raise the same questions of law. THE third question will be dealt with separately The facts relevant for consideration of the first two questions are as follows as appear from the statement of the case : The assessee is a manufacturer of salt in Livingipuram in Tuticorin. The salt pans originally belonged to one M.L.L. Ramanathan Chettiar. He died and was succeeded by his son Mahalingam Chettiar who was then a minor. In O.P. No. 30 of 1932, District Court, Ramnad, one Rao Sahib R. Krishna Aiyar was appointed interim property guardian by the District Court and he was in management of the M.L.M. Estate. Under the orders of the District Court and with its sanction, the pans were sub-leased under a document dated 28th March, 1934, to the assessee, Subbiah Nadar, for a period of seven years commencing from 1st January, 1934, and ending with 31st December, 1940. Under the sub-lease the assessee had to pay a sum of Rs. 36,969 to the Government on behalf of his lessor in three instalments. One instalment on 12th March, 1933, was paid even before the lease was executed on 2nd November, 1933, under an agreement. The other instalment had to be paid on the 1st April, 1934, and 1st October, 1934. This amount represents the amount payable by the lessor to the Government under the lease granted by the Government to the estate of M.L.M. Besides this, he had also to pay a sum of Rs. 500 per annum or Rs. 3,500 for seven years as rent. Those two amounts namely Rs. 36,969 payable to the Government on behalf of the lessor and the total rent for the seven years, namely Rs. 3,500, in all Rs. 40,469 was treated under the lease as a consolidated lease amount for seven years. There were also further obligations imposed upon the lessee under this document. The lessee undertook to spend a sum of Rs. 18,000 for constructing a railway siding, though in the sub-lease it was stated that it would include also repair of the pans then in existence but it was assumed throughout and was conceded before us that that sum really represented the estimated cost of constructing the railway siding. The railway siding had to be constructed, according to the terms of the lease, before the month of December, 1935, in default it was provided that the lessee should forfeit the lease in respect of the seventh year and shall put the lessor in possession of the pans on 31st December, 1939. There was yet another term in the lease that the lessee was at liberty to spend a sum of Rs. 4,000 in putting up new beds and for carrying out other works in connection with new beds but he was allowed to enjoy the income from such new beds until the expiry of the period of the lease without any addition to the rents stipulatedBefore the expiry of the term of this lease, on 13th December, 1937, the period of the lease was further extended under a document for a period of three years from 1st January, 1941, to 31st December, 1943. The assessee did not carry out the construction of the railway siding as stipulated in the previous lease and, therefore, when the extension of the term was granted under this document, time for constructing the railway siding was extended till December, 1942, failing which it was provided that the assessee should deliver possession of the salt parts in good condition on 30th December, 1942. The rent payable was increased from Rs. 500 to Rs. 3,000 payable in two instalments of Rs. 1,500 each on 30th April and 31st August of each year. There was a second extension under a document dated 10th July, 1942, of the term for a further period of two years from 1st January, 1944, to 31st December, 1945. This document also makes reference to the construction of a railway siding. As this came into existence before the expiry of the period fixed under the earlier document, namely 31st December, 1942, it is stated in the document that by that time assessee had already applied to the railway department for constructing the railway siding and even submitted plan. If however there should be delay on the part of the railway department in constructing the railway siding by 31st December, 1942, the assessee should pay on or before the 31st December, 1942, the amount required for the construction of the siding. It is found that, in fact, by 31st December, 1942, the assessee deposited a sum of Rs. 23,894 for the construction of the railway siding as per the revised estimate. It is also found that a sum of Rs. 7,000 was paid by the assessee in constructing new salt pans. These two amounts, it was claimed on behalf of the assessee, should be deducted from the income during the assessment year 1944-45 either as rent under Section 10(2)(i) or as revenue expenditure under Section 10(2)(xv). This claim was rejected by the department and also by the Appellate Tribunal. Hence this referenceIt was argued on behalf of the assessee that these two amounts really formed part of the rents that were stipulated under the lease though it is not so expressly stated or in any event these amounts must be treated as expenditure wholly or exclusively incurred for the purposes of the assessee's business in the manufacture of salt. The Appellate Tribunal was of opinion that the sum of Rs. 23,894, the amount deposited by the assessee for the construction of the railway siding, was in the nature of a premium as it was paid in order to obtain renewal of the term under the lease
(3.) UNDER the provisions of the Transfer of Property Act, Section 105, the consideration for a lease may be a price paid or promised, or of money, a share of crops, service, or any other thing of value, to be rendered periodically or on specified occasions to the transferor by the transferee, who accepts the transfer on such terms. Normally the amount paid for the purchase of the term is a premium. The periodical payment paid, if it is in money, for the use and occupation of the premises demised is called rent. This definition of course is not exhaustive for the rent may be something other than money and need not necessarily always be a periodical payment as it may even be received in advance. What distinguishes rent from premium is the latter represents money paid as price for the purchase of the term secured by the lease and is not part of the rent. If, on the other hand, the consideration paid is a return for the use and occupation of the land or premises demised it generally is known as rent. Taking all the three documents into consideration can it be said that the amount deposited for the construction of the railway siding is rent or even premium " The most important feature that emerges from a reading of the documents is that this is not an amount which the assessee was under an obligation to pay to the lessor. It is an amount which is intended to bring an enduring advantage which could be profitably employed for the quick transport of the manufactured product. If the assessee does not fulfil the obligation, there is no means of enforcing that obligation by the lessor against the lessee and all that the lessor is entitled to insist is that the lessee should deliver possession of the land before the lapse of the full period of the term that was fixed in the document it is cut down by one year. Further, the result of constructing a railway siding is to add to the premises demised something in the nature of more or less of a permanent advantage. There is no covenant to pay, there is no means of enforcing such payment, the only obligation cast being to effect an improvement to the property leased. To describe an expenditure of that description as " rent " as understood in the Property Law seems to us would be a misnomer. It has none of the elements of " rent " nor even of " Premium ". It is an obligation cast upon the assessee to effect an improvement, of course to the advantage of both himself and his lessor, and to enjoy that improvement during the term of the lease and if there was failure to carry out that improvement the only effect is to cut down the term of the lease. As the improvement is in the nature of an enduring advantage to the business, it can only be treated as capital expenditure and not as expenditure debitable to revenue. The sum of Rs. 7,000 expended in bringing into existence new pans for getting more income in the light of the foregoing can never be treated either as rent or as revenue expenditure. So long as the period of the lease continues, the lessee alone is entitled to the advantage of the new pans and their yield with no further obligation to pay any additional rent to his lessor. It is, in other words, an income producing asset which at the expense of the lessee was brought into being the profits of which he is entitled to enjoy so long as the lease lasts. The advantage no doubt goes to the benefit of the lessor after the termination of the lease as an accretion to the property. There is of course no obligation cast upon the lessor to pay any compensation to the lessee for the improvement effected by the latter on the premisesMr. P. Somasundaram, the learned advocate for the assessee, relied on two decisions in support of his contention. The first is the decision in Race Course Betting Control Board v. Wild. The Race Course Betting Control Board obtained a licence from the owner of certain buildings erected on the Manchester Race Course under a deed whereby the Board bound itself to pay 12 1/2% of the cost of construction of the buildings annually and the deed also contained a declaration that this annual sum was payable not only in respect of the enjoyment and exercise of the right of user but also by way of repayment by yearly instalments of the capital value of the cost of construction. The question that came up for consideration was whether such an annual payment was a revenue payment either in whole or in part or was capital payment. Notwithstanding the express declaration contained in the deed, it was held by Macnaghten, J., that it was a revenue payment and not capital payment and therefore deductible from the income. But for the complication introduced by the declaration in the deed, one would have thought that the question would not present any difficulty in the matter. As the payment of 12 1/2 per cent. of the cost price was really rent, though rent was fixed at a certain proportion of the cost price, it was fixing it in a different manner. Macnaghten, J., considered that the form in the deed should not be given any preference to substance and that looked at from that point of view there can be no doubt that the payment was a revenue payment. At page 490 the learned Judge observed :--- "Except for that declaration (referring to the declaration in the deed) it seems clear that the annual sum must, for the purpose of income-tax assessment, be regarded as a revenue payment. Mr. Latter, arguing for the board, said that but for the insertion of the declaration in the deed, the Crown would not have a leg to stand on. The Solicitor-General would not go quite so far as that, but he did say that it would be a crutch rather than a leg upon which he would have to support himself.";

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