(1.)THE petitioner manufactures and sells textiles. Its year of account commences on May 1 and ends on April 30 next.
THE petitioner installed plant and machinery in the accounting year 1948-49 and thereafter has made additions to its plant and machinery annually. For the assessment years 1950-51, 1951-52 and 1952-53, the petitioner was allowed initial depreciation at the rate of 20% on the plant and machinery which being new had been installed during the relevant year. This initial depreciation was allowed under section 10(2)(vi) of the Income-tax Act, 1922. THE written down value of plant and machinery at the commencement of the following year did not take into account the initial depreciation so allowed because section 10(2)(vi) contains a provision which declares that initial depreciation shall not be deductible in determining the written down value for the purposes of section 10(2)(vi). THE petitioner entered the written down value, as reduced from year to year, in its returns while claiming depreciation on its plant and machinery, and depreciation was allowed year after year. Now there is proviso (c) to section 10(2)(vi) which says that the aggregate of all allowances in respect of depreciation made under that clause shall in no case exceed the original cost to the assessee of the plant and machinery. THEre comes a time when all the allowances in respect of depreciation, and this would include initial depreciation allowed to the petitioner, almost equals the original cost to him on the plant and machinery. THE first assessment year, for which this period arrived, was the assessment year 1956-57. THE petitioner, in its return for that assessment year, entered at a certain figure the written down value of its plant and machinery at the beginning of the accounting period, and this figure did not include the initial depreciation of Rs. 15,91,511, allowed in the assessment years 1950-51,1951-52 and 1952-53. THE written down value was calculated at Rs. 16,48,053 and depreciation was allowed by the Income-tax Officer to the extent of Rs. 2,59,236. It was overlooked that regard being had to proviso (c) to section 10(2)(vi), if the initial depreciation was taken into account, depreciation should have been allowed to the extent of the difference between Rs. 16,48,053 and Rs. 15,91,511, i.e., Rs. 56,542. This was the extent of depreciation admissible to the petitioner in that assessment year and as it had been allowed depreciation in the sum of Rs. 2,59,236 it is clear that the depreciation allowed to it in excess was Rs. 2,02,694.
(2.)AS excessive depreciation allowance had been computed, it must be deemed to be a case where income chargeable to tax had escaped assessment (Explanation I to section 147), and, consequently, the Income-tax Officer issued a notice under section 148 of the Income-tax Act, 1961, on November 20, 1964, for the assessment year 1956-57. The petitioner objected to the issue of the notice on the ground that the period of four years from the end of the relevant assessment year 1956-57 had expired. By his letter of February 18,1965, the Income-tax Officer explained how the excessive depreciation had been computed and pointed out that this had resulted because of the omission or failure on the part of the petitioner to disclose fully and truly all material facts necessary for its assessment for that year, and that, therefore, the period of limitation was not four years.
The petitioner then filed the instant petition for prohibition and certiorari challenging the validity of the notice under section 148 and the assessment proceedings which are being taken consequent to it.
Similar notices under section 148, and for the same reasons, were issued by the Income-tax Officer for the assessment years 1957-58 and 1958-59. Writ petition No. 970 of 1965 relates to the proceedings for the assessment year 1957-58, and Writ Petition No. 969 of 1965 relates to the proceeding for the assessment year 1958-59.
It is admitted between the parties that the rule contained in proviso (c) to section 10(2)(vi) came into play during the assessment year 1956-57, and that because the rule was not applied the petitioner was allowed excessive depreciation allowance. It cannot also be disputed that a case where excessive depreciation allowance has been computed must be deemed, by Explanation I to section 147, to be a case where income chargeable to tax has escaped assessment. The only dispute before me is whether income can be said to have escaped assessment by reason of the omission or failure of the assessee to disclose fully and truly all material facts necessary for the assessment for that year.
(3.)MR. K. N. Rajagopala Shastri, who appears on behalf of the petitioner, contends that no default can be ascribed to the petitioner, that is filled in the statutory return according to the particulars mentioned in it, and that petitioner was never required by the statutory return to enter anywhere that initial depreciation had been allowed in an earlier assessment year. He also urges that the petitioners could be said to have been guilty of an omission for failure to disclose to the Income-tax Officer the fact that initial depreciation had been allowed only if the statute placed an obligation or cast a duty upon it to do so. Further he points out, if the Income-tax Officer could be said to have had knowledge, or could be presumed to have had knowledge, of the fact that initial depreciation had been allowed, then, even if there was such statutory obligation or duty upon the petitioner, income cannot be said to have escaped assessment because of any omission or failure to "disclose" that fact. "Disclosure", he urges, must imply making known to the Income-tax Officer that which he did not know. Upon these submissions, MR. Shastri contends that the case does not fall within the provisions of section 147(i)(a) and, therefore, the issue of notice under section 148 was barred by limitation.
Mr. R. L. Gulati, appearing for the Income-tax Officer, contends that when filling up the return for the assessment year 1956-57, the petitioner was bound, to take into account the fact that initial depreciation had been allowed and this should have been reflected in the written down value entred in column (2) of Part V of the return. The petitioner did not do so, and was, therefore, responsible for the omission in applying proviso (c) to section 10(2)(vi). In the alternative, it is urged that the petition was bound, during the assessment proceedings, to disclose to the Income-tax Officer that initial depreciation had been allowed and that its claim to depreciation allowance should be considered accordingly. He also contends that it cannot be presumed that the Income-tax Officer, when he made the original assessment, was aware of the fact that initial depreciation had been allowed to the petitioner earlier and, he says, there is no material to show that he was actully possessed of that knowledge.
Section 10(2)(vi) provides :
"10. (2) Such profits or gains shall be computed after making the following allowances, namely :-.....
(vi) in respect of depreciation of such buildings, machinery, plant or furniture being the property of the assessee, a sum eqivalent.... to such percentage on the written down value thereof as may in any case or class of cases be prescribed; and where the buildings have been newly erected, or the machinery or plant being new,... has been installed, after the 31st day of March, 1945, and before the 1st day of April, 1956, a further sum (which shall however not be deductible in determining the written down value for the purposes of this clause) in respect of the year of erection equivalent, - .....
(c) in the case of machinery or plant, to twenty per cent of the cost thereof to the assessee :.....
provided that - ....
(c) the aggregate of all allowances in respect of depreciation made under this clause... shall, in no case, exceed the original cost to the assessee of the buildings, machinery, plant or furniture, as the case may be."
Mr. Shastri points out that because of the express reservation that initial depreciation shall not be deductible in determining the written down value for the purposes of the clause, the petitioner was not at fault when, while entering the written down value in column 2 of Part V of the return, he did not take into account the initial depreciation. Mr. Gulati, however, relies upon section 10(5)(b) where "written down value" for the purposes of sub-section (2) of section 10 has been declared to mean,
"(b) in the case of assets acquired before the previous year the actual cost to the assessee less all depreciation actually allowed to him under this Act..."
Mr. Gulati says that this definition of "written down value" applies throughout whenever the expression has been used in section 10(2), and therefore when setting out the written down value in column (2) of Part V of the return, the petitioner was bound to take into account all the depreciation actually allowed to it, and this would include initial depreciation it difficult to accept the submission of Mr. Gulati. Clause (b) of section 10(5), on which he relies, was brought into the Income-tax Act in 1941, while the provision in section 10(2)(vi) providing for initial depreciation was inserted in the Act in 1946. Clause (b) of section 10(5) is a general provision, applicable generally to the provisions of section 10(2), and must yield to the special provision in section 10(2)(vi) introduced subsequently which declares that initial depreciation shall not be deductible in determining the written down value for the purpose of that clause. Reading the provisions in harmony, what they say is that wherever you find the expression "written down value" in the several clauses of section 10(2), you must understand it to mean what is contained in section 10(5)(b), but when you come to clause(vi) of section 10(2), then, for the purposes of that clause, you shall not deduct initial depreciation when deducting depreciation from the actual cost in order to determine the "written down value". In other words, the reservation in section 10(2)(vi) against the deduction of initial depreciation is a proviso to section 10(5)(b), to be invoked only when applying section 10(2)(vi). It must be remembered that column (2) of Part V requires the entry of the written down value as at the beginning of the accounting period while proviso (c) to section 10(2)(vi) speaks of what is to be allowed upon the claim for depreciation. Not only is the nature of the determination different, but two distinct points in time also are involved. Accordingly, in my judgment, the petitioner, when it did not take into account the initial depreciation while entering the written down value in column (2) of Part V of the return, committed no error.