KOMANDURI SESHAMMA SMT Vs. CONTROLLER OF ESTATE DUTY APPELLATE
HIGH COURT OF ANDHRA PRADESH
APPELLATE CONTROLLER OF ESTATE DUTY
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Sriramulu, J. -
(1.) THE legality and the Validity of the estate duty assessment are challenged in this writ petition.
(2.) ONE K.V.L.N. Anantha Narayana Deekshitulu, who was the karta of the Mitakashara Hindu undivided family consisting of himself, his wife, two sons and daughter, died on 23rd October, 1968. The writ petitioners, who are the legal representatives of the deceased, are accountable for the payment of estate duty in respect of the property that passed on the death of the deceased. They filed a statement of account of the property in respect of which estate duty was payable as required by Section 53 of the Estate Duty Act (hereinafter called "the Act"). The value of the properties of the Hindu undivided family was determined by the Assistant Controller of Estate Duty at Rs. 2,83,209 and the value of 1/3rd interest of the deceased in those properties at Rs. 94,403. For the purpose of determining the rate at which the property that passed on the death of the deceased was to be taxed, the Assistant Controller of Estate Duty, under Section 34(1)(c) of the Act, aggregated with it the interests of the lineal descendants of the deceased and as per the rate so determined, the estate duty payable on the property that passed on the death of the deceased was determined. Appeal was filed against the estate duty assessment before the Appellate Controller. ONE of the grounds urged by the accountable persons was that Section 34(1)(c) of the Act, under which the aggregation of the lineal descendents" share was made for rate purposes was ultra vires of the Constitution of India. That contention was rejected and the appeal was dismissed by the Appellate Controller.
This writ petition has been filed for quashing the order of the Appellate Controller of Estate Duty.
The petitioners contended that :
(1) Entry 87 of List 1 of the 7th Schedule to the Constitution of India read with Article 366(9), permits only the estate of the deceased to be taken into consideration for the purpose of assessment, including the levy of estate duty, ascertainment of the rate and also for the collection of the estate duty. It did not permit the estate of the lineal descendants to be aggregated for rate purposes. The power to aggregate the lineal descendants ' share with the property that passed on the death of the deceased was neither incidental nor ancillary to the power to legislate in respect of levy of estate duty. Hence, Section 34(1)(c) of the Act is ultra vires of the Constitution of India.
(2) Even assuming that Section 34(1)(c) of the Act is ultra vires of the Constitution, still it violates Articles 14 and 19(1)(f) of the Constitution of India and is, therefore, invalid.
(3) The Government could not levy any duty on the estate of the lineal descendants of the deceased under the Act. What the Government could not achieve directly by making a law levying estate duty on the lineal descendants' share it wanted to achieve by an indirect method by aggregating the lineal decendants' share with the share of the deceased in the joint family properties, for the purposes of rate. Parliament was not competent to do so.
(4) Section 34(1)(c) of the Act makes an invidious classification amongst the members of the Mitakshara Hindu undivided family into a member of the Hindu undivided family dying leaving a lineal descendant and a member of a Hindu undivided family dying without leaving a lineal descendant. This is an unreasonable classification which is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
(5) The right of the heirs of the deceased to get the properties of the deceased is unreasonably curtailed by Section 34(1)(c) of the Act. Therefore, Section 34(1)(c) offends the fundamental right guaranteed to a person under Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution of India.
(6) Even assuming that Section 34(1)(c) of the Act is intra vires of the Constitution of India, and does not offend either Article 14 or 19(1)(f) of the Constitution of India still the decision of a Division Bench of this court in Gunda Bhaskara Rao v. Controller of Estate Duty, 1968 67 ITR 309 (A.P.) is binding on this court and therefore aggregation under Section 34(1)(c) of the Act could not be made.
(3.) THE questions whether Section 34(1)(c) of the Act was ultra vires of the Constitution and whether it violated Article 14 or 19(1)(f) of the Constitution of India were duly considered by this very Bench in Writ Petition No. 4038 of 1969. After considering all the contentions raised before it and after a full discussion, this court in the above writ petition held that Section 34(1)(c) of the Act is intra vires of the Constitution and that it neither violated Article 14 nor Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution of India.
The arguments that were addressed in that writ petition have almost been repeated in this writ petition, though in a different or slightly altered form.;
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