COMMISSIONER OF WEALTH TAX Vs. JOHARMAL MURLIDHAR
LAWS(GAU)-1968-2-1
HIGH COURT OF GAUHATI
Decided on February 15,1968

COMMISSIONER OF WEALTH TAX Appellant
VERSUS
Joharmal Murlidhar Respondents

JUDGEMENT

GOSWAMI, J. - (1.) THIS matter has come to us on a reference by the Tribunal, "A" Bench, Calcutta, under s. 27(1) of the WT Act, 1957. The assessment years concerned in this reference are 1957 -58, 1958 -59, 1959 - 60 and 1960 -61.
(2.) BRIEFLY the facts are that the assessee's residence is situated at a place known as Makum at a distance of less than five miles from the Tinsukia municipal town limit, but more than five miles from the central point of the Tinsukia Municipality. It is admitted that Makum is a place with a population not exceeding 10,000 and the Tinsukia Municipality has a population exceeding 10,000. The only controversy is whether the assessee's house is situated at a distance of more than five miles from the area of the Tinsukia Municipality. The WTO, who made the original order of assessment, refused to grant the exemption on the ground that the assessee's residence was less than five miles from the limits of the Tinsukia town. On appeal, the AAC set aside the order of the WTO and allowed the exemption holding that the assessee's residence was more than five miles from the central point of the municipality. The Tribunal also confirmed the order of the AAC and it held that when a place is said to be at a particular distance from a certain town the distance is usually reckoned from a central point in that town. On this view of the matter, the Tribunal allowed the exemption, and hence this reference by the Tribunal at the instance of the Department on the following question of law : "Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was right in holding that the assessee's dwelling house was exempted from wealth -tax under s. 5(1)(iv) of the WT Act, 1957, as it was situated at a distance of more than five miles from a central point of the municipality whose population exceeded ten thousand -
(3.) THE answer to the question will depend upon the interpretation of s. 5(1)(iv) of the WT Act, 1957, hereinafter referred to as the Act, before its amendment in 1964. Sec. 5(1)(iv) as it stood before the amendment is as follows : "5. Exemption in respect of certain assets. - -(1) Wealth -tax shall not be payable by an assessee in respect of the following assets, and such assets shall not be included in the net wealth of the assessee.... (iv) one house belonging to the assessee exclusively used by him for residential purposes and situate in any place with a population not exceeding ten thousand and which is more than five miles distant from any area for which there is a municipality the population whereof exceeds ten thousand;....." This provision indicates that during the relevant time, a residential house within the municipal area was not under any exemption. A residential house in order to attract the exemption clause will have to be, firstly, in a place where the population does not exceed ten thousand, and, secondly, that it must be situated at a distance of more than five miles from the municipal area, and, thirdly, that the municipality from which the distance is calculated must have a population exceeding ten thousand. As noted above, there is no controversy regarding the population clauses. The only point that requires to be determined is whether the residence of the assessee is at a distance of more than five miles from the municipal area. This at once brings us to the wording of the proviso (iv) to s. 5(1) of the Act.;


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