COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX BOMBAY NORTH KUTCH AND SAURASHTRA AHMEDABAD Vs. INDIRA BALKRISHNA
LAWS(SC)-1960-4-13
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA (FROM: BOMBAY)
Decided on April 14,1960

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX,BOMBAY NORTH Appellant
VERSUS
INDIRA BALKRISHNA Respondents


Referred Judgements :-

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. LAXMIDAS DEVIDAS [REFERRED]



Cited Judgements :-

COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. PURUSHOTAM GANGADHAR BHENDE [LAWS(BOM)-1974-12-26] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. MARSONS BENEFICIARY TRUST [LAWS(BOM)-1990-7-16] [REFERRED TO]
M C CHINNA NAGAMMA VS. M C GIDDAMMA [LAWS(APH)-1999-9-63] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF WEALTH TAX VS. J K SRIVASTAVA [LAWS(ALL)-2004-10-167] [REFERRED TO]
SWAMI SATCHITHANAND VS. ADDITIONAL ITO KOZHIKODE [LAWS(KER)-1966-3-4] [REFERRED TO]
USHAKIRAN MOVIES VS. STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH [LAWS(APH)-2006-6-97] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. GOOL C DALAL AND PERIN C DALAL [LAWS(KER)-1989-10-6] [REFERRED TO]
K. SAKKANNA PILLAI AND ORS. VS. K. PASUPATHI AND ORS. [LAWS(MAD)-1975-7-38] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. VENU SURESH SANJAY TRUST [LAWS(MAD)-1995-12-23] [REFERRED TO]
OOTACAMUND CLUB VS. ADDITIONAL COMMISSIONER [LAWS(MAD)-2019-12-273] [REFERRED TO]
MAHENDRA KUMAR AGRAWALLA VS. INCOME TAX OFFICER [LAWS(PAT)-1974-9-21] [REFERRED TO]
Sudha Khemka VS. Commissioner of Income-tax Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal [LAWS(MPH)-1981-12-24] [REFERRED TO]
GHASITA AND OTHERS VS. JASHRATH SINGH AND OTHERS [LAWS(MPH)-1985-10-29] [REFERRED TO]
MILAN SUPARI STORES VS. INCOME TAX OFFICER [LAWS(MPH)-1990-1-2] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. SHARADAPRASAD MOTILAL [LAWS(MPH)-1996-9-63] [REFERRED TO]
MOHAMMAD NOORULLA REPRESENTING THE ESTATE OF LATE KHAN SAHIB MOHAMMAD OOMER SAHIB VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX MADRAS [LAWS(SC)-1961-1-4] [RELIED ON]
G MURUGESAN VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX MADRAS [LAWS(SC)-1973-2-8] [APPLIED]
SHANTILAL MOHANLAL SHAH VS. STATE OF GUJARAT [LAWS(GJH)-2013-4-255] [REFERRED TO]
SUNIL KRISHNA PAUL VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX [LAWS(CAL)-1968-5-31] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. KRISHNA BANDAR TRUST [LAWS(CAL)-1992-3-34] [REFERRED TO]
DEORIA OXYGEN COMPANY VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX [LAWS(ALL)-2006-11-280] [REFERRED TO]
CHUNI LAL VS. SARASWATI [LAWS(J&K)-1976-1-12] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. KARUNAKARAN C [LAWS(KER)-1988-1-43] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. MURUGESAN G [LAWS(MAD)-1968-6-13] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. SEHGAL OIL AND GENERAL MILLS [LAWS(P&H)-2006-5-459] [REFERRED TO]
KUMARI RAMLALI VS. BHAGUNTI BAI [LAWS(MPH)-1968-4-14] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. DEVADASAN [LAWS(KER)-1966-7-33] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. K SHYAMARAJU TRUSTEE LUKSLMAMMA SHYUMA RAJU FAMILY TRUST [LAWS(KAR)-1990-10-19] [DISTINGUISHED]
HARYANA STATE, ETC. VS. SAVITRI DEVI AND ORS. [LAWS(P&H)-1973-12-12] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. S B SUGAR MILLS [LAWS(ALL)-1984-9-21] [REFERRED TO]
MADHUSUDAN GORDHANDAS AND CO VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX [LAWS(BOM)-1993-10-67] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. MOKTAR BEGUM [LAWS(CAL)-1986-5-30] [REFERRED TO]
BOLLA TIRAPANNA AND SONS VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX [LAWS(APH)-1967-7-8] [REFERRED TO]
SHAH RAJENDRABHAI JAYANTILAL VS. D. PRANJIVANDAS AND SONS PROP. DHIRAJLAL PRANJIVANDAS POPAT [LAWS(GJH)-2017-1-24] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. VANDANA VERMA [LAWS(ALL)-2009-10-251] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX POONA VS. BULDANA DISTRICT MAIN CLOTH IMPORTERS GROUP [LAWS(SC)-1961-3-5] [REFERRED]
REVABAI VS. SITARAM [LAWS(MPH)-1983-11-2] [REFERRED TO]
LADUKISHORE DAS SRI VS. STATE OF ORISSA [LAWS(ORI)-1972-4-9] [REFERRED TO]
SURENDRA PRASAD PARIDA VS. STATE OF ORISSA [LAWS(ORI)-1986-5-19] [REFERRED TO]
STATE OF WEST BENGAL VS. CALCUTTA CLUB LIMITED [LAWS(SC)-2019-10-17] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. PATNI N K [LAWS(ALL)-1997-7-8] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. MODU TIMBLO [LAWS(BOM)-1993-4-61] [REFERRED TO]
P R MUKHERJEE VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX [LAWS(CAL)-1978-3-44] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX & ANR. VS. NAGARBAIL SALT [LAWS(KAR)-2016-11-28] [REFERRED TO]
Gouranga Lal Chatterjee VS. Income tax Officer [LAWS(CAL)-2000-11-28] [REFERRED TO]
K.P.SHIBU VS. STATE OF KERALA [LAWS(KER)-2019-2-337] [REFERRED TO]
DAITARI NAIK VS. TAHASILDAR CUM REVENUE OFFICER [LAWS(ORI)-1994-7-28] [REFERRED TO]
SANTIMOYEE BOSE VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX [LAWS(CAL)-1969-2-2] [REFERRED TO]
FOOD INSPECTOR OF CALICUT CORPORATION VS. KANDAGOURI HEMATHLAL CHOWDGAR [LAWS(KER)-1965-12-36] [REFERRED TO]
VALSALA AMMA R VS. COMMISSIONER OF GIFT TAX [LAWS(KER)-1968-10-21] [REFERRED TO]
BINDUMATI BAI VS. NARBADA PRASAD [LAWS(SC)-1976-10-37] [EXPLAINED AND DISTINGUISHED]
MEERAAND COMPANY LUDHIANA VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX PUNJAB JANDK AND CHANDIGARH PATIALA [LAWS(SC)-1997-3-174] [DISTINGUISHED]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME-TAX VS. HAR PARSHAD [LAWS(P&H)-1988-10-31] [REFERRED TO]
M/S. BANGALORE CLUB VS. COMMISSIONER OF WEALTH TAX AND ANOTHER [LAWS(SC)-2020-9-11] [REFERRED TO]
RAMA DEVI AGARWALLA VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX [LAWS(CAL)-1975-6-9] [REFERRED TO]
LINDE AG, LINDE ENGINEERING DIVISION VS. DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF INCOME TAX [LAWS(DLH)-2014-4-60] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. MEMO DEVI [LAWS(DLH)-1977-5-1] [REFERRED IN RE B. N. ELIAS,(1935) 3 I.T.R. 408 (CALCUTTA)]
GANESH CHHABABHAI FAMILY TRUST VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX [LAWS(GJH)-2005-8-84] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. A U CHANDRASEKHARAN [LAWS(MAD)-1996-9-15] [REFERRED TO]
SHIBU K.P. AND ORS. VS. STATE OF KERALA AND ORS. [LAWS(KER)-2019-2-364] [REFERRED TO]
RAJ KUMAR KOTWAJ VS. COMMISSIONER OF SALES TAX U P [LAWS(ALL)-1976-10-3] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX DELHI VIII VS. SAE HEAD OFFICE MONTHLY PAID EMPLOYEES WELFARE TRUST [LAWS(DLH)-2004-9-75] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX, CHENNAI VS. SHRIRAM OWNERSHIP TRUST [LAWS(MAD)-2020-12-126] [REFERRED TO]
N. BASHYAM AND ANR. VS. THE STATE OF MADRAS REPRESENTED BY THE DISTRICT COLLECTOR AND ORS. [LAWS(MAD)-1969-11-42] [REFERRED TO]
LAMBOD A R BORDOLOI VS. MRINALINI DEBI TRUST BOARD ON THE DEATH OF NARENDRA NATH BORDOLOI [LAWS(GAU)-2002-9-3] [REFERRED TO]
M V Ganesh VS. Commercial Tax Officer [LAWS(MAD)-2004-5-18] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. ARUMUGHAM CHETTIAR O K [LAWS(MAD)-1995-6-11] [REFERRED TO]
NARAYAN NEPAK VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX [LAWS(ORI)-1981-4-5] [REFERRED TO]
KARPAGATHACHI VS. NAGARATHINATHACHI [LAWS(SC)-1965-3-17] [RELIED ON]
RAMANLAL BHAILAL PATEL VS. STATE OF GUJARAT [LAWS(SC)-2008-2-69] [REFERRED TO]
RAJGHARIA C M VS. INCOME TAX OFFICER [LAWS(PAT)-1974-4-15] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME-TAX VS. VIMLA LAL [LAWS(ALL)-1982-8-16] [REFERRED TO]
RAJA MOHAMMAD AZAM KHAN VS. STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH [LAWS(ALL)-1970-1-16] [REFERRED TO]
ORIENT CLUB VS. COMMISSIONER OF WEALTH TAX [LAWS(BOM)-1982-2-50] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. SHIV SAGAR ESTATES AOP [LAWS(BOM)-1992-12-43] [REFERRED TO]
INDO BURMA PETROLEUM CO LTD VS. COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX CENTRAL [LAWS(CAL)-1977-8-33] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. ASHOK MATCH INDUSTRIES B UNIT [LAWS(MAD)-1998-3-2] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX VS. PARUKUTTY MOOPPILAMMA A P [LAWS(KER)-1983-8-6] [REFERRED TO]
SUDHIR NAGPAL VS. INCOME TAX OFFICER [LAWS(P&H)-2012-7-196] [REFERRED TO]
C PRAKASH VS. STATE OF KARNATAKA,REPRESENTED BY ITS SECRETARY [LAWS(KAR)-2018-4-47] [REFERRED TO]
COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURAL INCOME TAX HYDERABAD VS. RAJA RATAN GOPAL [LAWS(SC)-1964-9-20] [APPLIED]


JUDGEMENT

S. K. DAS, - (1.)THE Judgment of the court was delivered by :
(2.)THESE two appeals with special leave have been heard together. They arise out of similar facts and the question of law arising therefrom is the same.
The short facts are these. One Balkrishna Purushottam Purani died on 11/11/1947. He left behind him three widows and two daughters. The three widows were named Indira, Ramluxmi and Prabhuluxmi. These widows as legal heirs inherited the estate of the deceased, which consisted of immovable properties situate in Ahmedabad, shares in Joint Stock Companies,oney lying in deposit, and share in a registered firm. For the two assessment years 1950-51 and 1951-52 (the corresponding account years being the Sambat years 2005 and 2006) the Incometax Officer issued notices to the legal heirs of Balkrishna Purushottam Purani. Pursuant to those notices, returns were filed under the heading, ' Legal heirs of Balkrishhna Purushottam Purani ', in one case and in the name of the 'estate of Balkrishna in the other; the status was shown as ' individual ' in one case and ' association of persons ' in -the other. They were signed by Indira, one of the three widows. For the assessment year 1950-51 the total income was shown as under JUDGEMENT_1172_AIR(SC)_1960Html1.htm For the assessment year 1951-52, the total income was shown JUDGEMENT_1172_AIR(SC)_1960Html2.htm For both years the Income-tax Officer took the status of the assessee as an ' association of persons ' and on that footing made two assessment orders. There was an appear to the Appellate Assistant Commissioner, and two of the points taken before him were(a) that the three widows ought to have been assessed separately and not as an ' association of persons ', and (b) that in any event, the income from property ought to have been assessed separately in the hands of the three widows by reason of the provisions in s. 9(3) of the Income-tax Act, 1922. The Appellate Assistant Commissioner rejected point (a) but accepted point (b). Then, there was a further appeal to the Income-tax Appellate tribunal, Bombay. The tribunal held that the entire estate of deceased Balkrishna Purushottam Purani was inherited and possessed by the three widows as joint tenants and its income was liable to be assessed in their hands in the status of an association of persons. The tribunal further held that the Appellate Assistant Commissioner was wrong in holding that the shares of the three widows were definite and determinable and s. 9(3) was applicable. The assessee then moved the tribunal to refer certain questions of law which arose out of its orders to the High court of Bombay. The tribunal referred four such questions, but we are now concerned with only one of them, viz., question No. 3 which was in the following terms: ' (3) Whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case the tribunal was right in holding that the assessment made on the three widows of Balkrishna Purushottam Purani in the status of an association of persons is legal and valid in law ? ' Two references were made to the High court in respect of the orders passed for two assessment years and they gave rise to Income-tax References Nos. 52 and 53 of 1955. The leading judgment was given in T. T. It. 52 of 1955. The High court held that the tribunal was in error incoming to the conclusion that the three widows could be assessed in the status of an association of persons with regard to the income which they earned as heirs of their deceased husband. Therefore, it answered question No. 3 in the negative. The department represented by the Commissioner of Income-tax, Bombay, then applied to this court and obtained special leave to appeal from the judgment and orders of the High court of Bombay in the two References. These two appeals have been filed in pursuance of the special leave granted by this court. The appellant is the Commissioner of Incometax, Bombay, and the assessee is the respondent.

The argument on behalf of the appellant is that the High court was in error when it said that ' what is required before an association of persons can be liable to tax is not that they should receive income but that they should earn or help to earn income by reason of their association, and if the case of the Department stops short at mere receipt of income, then the Department must fail in bringing home the liability to tax of individuals as an association of persons.' It is submitted that the High court did not, in the statement quoted above, lay down the correct test for determining what is an ' association of persons ' for the purposes of the Income-tax Act.

Before we go on to discuss the argument presented on behalf of the appellant, it is necessary to clear the ground by stating what is the position of co-widows in Mitakshara succession and what are the findings arrived at by the tribunal. The position of co-widows is well-settled. They succeed as co-heirs to the estate of their deceased husband and take as joint tenants with rights of survivorship and equal beneficial enjoyment ; they are entitled as between themselves to an equal share of the income. Though they take as joint tenants, no one of them has a right to enforce an absolute partition of the estate against the others so as to destroy their right of survivorship. But they are entitled to obtain a partition of separate portions of the property so that each may enjoy her equal share of the income accruing therefrom. The tribunal found that the widows in this case did not exercise their right to separate possession and enjoyment and ' they chose to manage the property jointly, each acting for herself and the others and receiving the income of the property which they were entitled to enjoy in equal shares.' Learned counsel for the appellant has emphasised before us the aforesaid finding of the tribunal and has contended that on the finding of joint management, the widows fulfilled even the test laid down by the High court and constituted an an 'association of persons' for taxing purposes. The High court, however, rightly pointed out that the only property which the widows could have managed jointly was the immovable property which fetched an income of about Rs. 11,000.00, and as to that property, the Appellate Assistant Commissioner had held that s. 9 (3) applied. There was no appeal by the Department against that finding and it was not 68 open to the tribunal to go behind it. Even on merits the tribunal was wrong in thinking that the respective shares of the widows were not definite and ascertainable. They had an equal share in the income, viz., one-third each, and the provisions of s. 9 (3) clearly applied in respect of the immovable property.

With regard to the shares, dividends and interest on deposits there was no finding of any act of joint management. Indeed, the main item consists of the dividends and it is difficult to understand what act of management the widows performed in respect thereof which produced or helped to produce income. On the contrary, the statement of the case shows that the assessee filed lists of shares, copies whereof are marked Annx. C and form part of the case, which showed that the shares stood separately in the name of each one of the three widows and this was not denied by the Department.

(3.)WE now come to the main question in this appeal. What constitutes an ' association of persons ' within the meaning of the Income-tax Act ? It has been repeatedly pointed out that the Act does notdefine what constitutes an association of persons, which under s. 3 of the Act is an entity or unit of assessment. Previous to the year 1924, the words of s. 3 were ' individual, company, firm and Hindu undivided family.' By the Indian Income-tax Amendment Act of 1924 (Act XI of 1924) the words ' individual, Hindu undivided family, company, firm and other association of individuals ' were substituted for the former words. By the Income-tax Amendment Act of 1939 (Act VII of 1939) the section was again amended and it then said: ' Where any Act of the central Legislature enacts that income-tax shall be charged for any year at any rate or rates, tax at that rate or those rates shall be charged for that year in accordance with, and subject to the provisions of, this Act in respect of the total income of the previous year of every individual, Hindu undivided family, company and local authority, and of every firm and other association of persons or the partners of the firm or members of the association individually.'
By the same Amending Act (Act VII of 1939) sub-s. (3) of s. 9 was also added.

Now, s. 3 imposes a tax ' in respect of the total income...................... of every individual, Hindu undivided family, company and local authority, and of every firm and other association of persons or the partners of the firm or members of the association individually.' In the absence of any definition as to what constitutes an association of persons, we must construe the words in their plain ordinary meaning and we must also bear in mind that the words occur in a section which imposes a tax on the total income of each one of the units of assessment mentioned therein including an association of persons. The meaning to be assigned to the words must take colour from the context in which they occur. A number of decisions have been cited at the bar bearing on the question, and our attention has been drawn to the controversy as to whether the words ' association of individuals ' which occurred previously in the section should be read ejusdem generis with the word immediately preceding, viz., firm or with all the other groups of persons mentioned in the section. Into that controversy it is unnecessary to enter in the present case. Nor do we pause to consider the widely differing characteristics of the three other associations mentioned in the section, viz., Hindu undivided family, a company and a firm, and whether in view of the amendments made in 1939 the words in question can be read ejusdem generis with Hindu undivided family or company.

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