Case Law Details

Case Name : CIT Vs Alom Extrusions Ltd. (Supreme Court of India)
Appeal Number : Civil Appeal No. 7771 of 2009
Date of Judgement/Order : 25/11/2009
Related Assessment Year :
Courts : Supreme Court of India (928)

We find no merit in these civil appeals filed by the Department for the following reasons: firstly, as stated above, Section 43-B [main section], which stood inserted by Finance Act, 1983, with effect from 1st April, 1984, expressly commences with a non-obstante clause, the underlying object being to disallow deductions claimed merely by making a Book entry based on Merchantile System of Accounting. At the same time, Section 43-B [main section] made it mandatory for the Department to grant deduction in computing the income under Section 28 in the year in which tax, duty, cess, etc., is actually paid.

However, Parliament took cognizance of the fact that accounting year of a company did not always tally with the due dates under the Provident Fund Act, Municipal Corporation Act [octroi] and other Tax laws. Therefore, by way of first proviso, an incentive/relaxation was sought to be given in respect of tax, duty, cess or fee by explicitly stating that if such tax, duty, cess or fee is paid before the date of filing of the Return under the Income Tax Act [due date], the assessee(s) then would be entitled to deduction. However, this relaxation/incentive was restricted only to tax, duty, cess and fee. It did not apply to contributions to labour welfare funds. The reason appears to be that the employer(s) should not sit on the collected contributions and deprive the workmen of the rightful benefits under Social Welfare legislations by delaying payment of contributions to the welfare funds.

However, as stated above, the second proviso resulted in implementation problems, which have been mentioned hereinabove, and which resulted in the enactment of Finance Act, 2003, deleting the second proviso and bringing about uniformity in the first proviso by equating tax, duty, cess and fee with contributions to welfare funds. Once this uniformity is brought about in the first …10/- – 10 – proviso, then, in our view, the Finance Act, 2003, which is made applicable by the Parliament only with effect from 1st April, 2004, would become curative in nature, hence, it would apply retrospectively with effect from 1st April, 1988. Secondly, it may be noted that, in the case of Allied Motors (P) Limited vs. Commissioner of Income Tax, reported in [1997] 224 I.T.R.677, the Scheme of Section 43-B of the Act came to be examined. In that case, the question which arose for determination was, whether sales tax collected by the assessee and paid after the end of the relevant previous year but within the time allowed under the relevant Sales Tax law should be disallowed under Section 43-B of the Act while computing the business income of the previous year? That was a case which related to Assessment Year 1984-1985. The relevant accounting period ended on June 30, 1983. The Income Tax Officer disallowed the deduction claimed by the assessee which was on account of sales tax collected by the assessee for the last quarter of the relevant accounting year. The deduction was disallowed under Section 43-B which, as stated above, was inserted with effect from 1st April, 1984. It is also relevant to note that the first proviso which came into force with effect from 1st April, 1988 was not on the statute book when the assessments were made in the case of Allied Motors (P) Limited (supra).

However, the assessee contended that even though the first proviso came to be inserted with effect from 1st April, 1988, it was entitled to the benefit of that proviso because it operated retrospectively from 1st April, 1984, when Section 43-B stood inserted. This is how the …11/- – 11 – question of retrospectivity arose in Allied Motors (P) Limited (supra). This Court, in Allied Motors (P) Limited (supra) held that when a proviso is inserted to remedy unintended consequences and to make the section workable, a proviso which supplies an obvious omission in the section and which proviso is required to be read into the section to give the section a reasonable interpretation, it could be read retrospective in operation, particularly to give effect to the section as a whole. Accordingly, this Court, in Allied Motors (P) Limited (supra), held that the first proviso was curative in nature, hence, retrospective in operation with effect from 1st April, 1988. It is important to note once again that, by Finance Act, 2003, not only the second proviso is deleted but even the first proviso is sought to be amended by bringing about an uniformity in tax, duty, cess and fee on the one hand vis-a-vis contributions to welfare funds of employee(s) on the other. This is one more reason why we hold that the Finance Act, 2003, is retrospective in operation. Moreover, the judgement in Allied Motors (P) Limited (supra) is delivered by a Bench of three learned Judges, which is binding on us. Accordingly, we hold that Finance Act, 2003, will operate retrospectively with effect from 1st April, 1988 [when the first proviso stood inserted]. Lastly, we may point out the hardship and the invidious discrimination which would be caused to the assessee(s) if the contention of the Department is to be accepted that Finance Act, 2003, to the above extent, operated prospectively. Take an example – in the present case, the respondents have deposited the contributions with the R.P.F.C. after 31st March [end of accounting year] …12/- – 12 – but before filing of the Returns under the Income Tax Act and the date of payment falls after the due date under the Employees’ Provident Fund Act, they will be denied deduction for all times. In view of the second proviso, which stood on the statute book at the relevant time, each of such assessee(s) would not be entitled to deduction under Section 43-B of the Act for all times. They would lose the benefit of deduction even in the year of account in which they pay the contributions to the welfare funds, whereas a defaulter, who fails to pay the contribution to the welfare fund right upto 1st April, 2004, and who pays the contribution after 1st April, 2004, would get the benefit of deduction under Section 43-B of the Act. In our view, therefore, Finance Act, 2003, to the extent indicated above, should be read as retrospective. It would, therefore, operate from 1st April, 1988, when the first proviso was introduced. It is true that the Parliament has explicitly stated that Finance Act, 2003, will operate with effect from 1st April, 2004. However, the matter before us involves the principle of construction to be placed on the provisions of Finance Act, 2003.

Before concluding, we extract hereinbelow the relevant observations of this Court in the case of Commissioner of Income Tax, Bangalore vs. J.H. Gotla, reported in [1985] 156 I.T.R. 323, which reads as under:

“We should find out the intention from the language used by the Legislature and if strict literal construction leads to an absurd result, i.e., a result not intended to be subserved by the object of the legislation found in the manner indicated before, then if …13/- – 13 – another construction is possible apart from strict literal construction, then that construction should be preferred to the strict literal construction. Though equity and taxation are often strangers, attempts should be made that these do not remain always so and if a construction results in equity rather than in injustice, then such construction should be preferred to the literal construction.”

For the afore-stated reasons, we hold that Finance Act, 2003, to the extent indicated above, is curative in nature, hence, it is retrospective and it would operate with effect from 1st April, 1988 [when the first proviso came to be inserted]. For the above reasons, we find no merit in this batch of civil appeals filed by the Department which are hereby dismissed with no order as to costs.

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