Rm. Ramanathan Chettiar Vs.
Commissioner of Income Tax, Madras  INSC 122 (30 April 1970)
30/04/1970 GROVER, A.N.
CITATION: 1970 AIR 1624 1971 SCR (1) 465 1970
SCC (2) 189
Income-tax Act (1922) ss. 4(1)(c) and
23(5)(a) second proviso--Share of income derived outside taxable territories by
firm included in income of non-resident partner-If can be excluded under s.
The appellant was a non-resident individual.
He was a partner of a registered resident firm which carried on money-lending
business in India and Malaya. The entire income of the firm for the assessment
year 195657 accrued outside India. Since before the Finance Act, 1956, under s.
23 (5) (a) of the Income-tax Act, 1922, the
firm did not itself pay the tax on its income, but each partner's share in the
firm's profits was added to his other income and the tax was payable by each
partner on the basis of his total income, the assessee's share of the foreign
income of the firm was included in his total income. 'The assessee claimed that
it could not be so included under s. 4(1) (c).
HELD: Under s. 4(1) (c) when a person was not
resident in the taxable territory income derived by him outside the taxable
territories was not to be included in his taxable income.
But under s. 4(1) (c) a nonresident partner
of a resident firm was not entitled to exclude from his total income such
proportionate share of the profits of the said firm which accrued or arose to
it outside the taxable territories, and which was in eluded in the total income
of the partner under s. 23(5) for the purpose of assessing the firm, since s. 4
is "subject to the provisions of this Act" that is, subject to s.
23(5) (a). [466 F-H; 467 C-E] Seth Badri Das Daga & Anr. v. Commissioner of
Income-tax, Central and United Provinces, 17 I.T.R. 209, applied.
Gnanam & Sons v. Commissioner of
Income-tax, Madras, 43 I.T.R. 485, approved.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 710 of 1967.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated June 30, 1965 of the Madras High Court in Tax Case No. 114 of 1962.
K. Srinivasan and T. A. Ramachandran, for the
Jagadish Swarup, Solicitor-General, G. C.
Sharma and B. D. Sharma, for the respondent.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Grover, J. This is an appeal by special leave against a judgement of the Madras
High Court rendered in its advisory jurisdiction in a case stated unders s.
66(1) of the Income-tax Act, 1922, hereinafter referred to as the
"Act". The appellant was a nonresident individual. During the
previous year ending April 12, 1956 relevant to the assessment year 1956- 57,
he was a partner of a registered resident firm which carried on money lending
business in India and Malaya. The entire income of that firm for the assessment
year in question accrued outside India. The appellant's share in the income of
the firm came to Rs. 62,612/- the whole of which was foreign income. The
appellant had also incurred a loss of Rs. 8,484/- in his own business at Madras.
While assessing the appellant the Income-tax Officer set off the loss in the
appellant's Madras business against the foreign income and assessed him at the
maximum rate as the appellant had not filed a declaration in terms of the
proviso to s.
17(1). The Appellate Assistant Commissioner
confirmed the assessment. An appeal was taken to the Appellate Tribunal but it
failed. Two questions of law were referred by the Tribunal :
(1) "Whether the assessment made on the
assessee, a non-resident, by including in his total income his share of foreign
income of the resident firm of Messrs. K. V. Al. Rm.
Rm. Ramanathan Chettiar, is valid in law ?
(2) Whether the levy of the tax at the maximum rate is correct ?" The High
Court answered the questions referred against the assessee on the ground that
the points were covered by its previous decision in Gnanam & Sons v.
Commissioner of Income-tax, Madras(1).
The argument which was raised before the
Madras High Court in the above case (Gnanam & Sons) was based largely on a
reading of two provisions of the Act. Under s. 4 (1) (c) when a person was not
resident in the taxable territories the income, profits and gains which accrued
or arose to him without the taxable territories were not to be included in his
"taxable income" unless they were brought into or received by him in
the taxable territories. Sub-section (5) (a) of s. 23 was intended to tax the
total income of each partner of the firm including therein his share of its
income profits and gains of the previous year. The argument raised was that
this concept of the total income must be carried into the second proviso to s.
23(5) (a) to a non- resident partner. It would, therefore, mean that this
income arose wholly outside the taxable territories and had to be excluded by virtue
of the operation of s. 4 (1 ) (c) of the Act.
(1)43 I.T.R. 846.
467 Under s. 23(5) when the assessee is a
registered firm and its income has been assessed the income tax payable by
itself shall be:; determined and the total income of each partner of the firm
including therein his share of its profits and gains of the previous year shall
be assessed and the sum payable by him on the basis of such assessment shall be
determined. The provisions relating to payment of income tax by the firm itself
were introduced by the ,Finance Act 1956. The position before 1956 was that
where the firm was registered the firm did not itself pay the tax and therefore
each partner's share in the firm's profits was added to his other income and
the tax payable by each partner on the basis of his total income was determined
and the demand was also made on the partners individually. After 1956 income
tax at low rates. became chargeable on the registered firms but the partners
continued to be assessed individually in the same way as before. There can be
no manner of doubt that the unit of assessment was the registered firm and when
it was assessed and its total income computed the individual partners were
taxed under s. 23 (5) (a) on their respective shares of the firm's income.
The Privy Council in Seth Badri Das Daga
& Another V. Commissioner of Income-tax, Central and United Provinces(1)
took the view that a non-resident partner of a resident firm was not entitled
to exclude from his total income such proportionate share of the profits of the
said firm which accrued or arose to it without British India, under s. 4(1) (c)
of the Act. In Gnanam & Sons'(2) case the Madras High Court relied on this
decision and repelled the argument raised on behalf of the assessee that the
second proviso, to s. 23 (5) (a) called for the determination of the total
income of the non-resident partner. It was held that on the language of the
proviso there was no ground for computing the income of the non-resident
partner with reference to s. 4 (1 ) of The Act and for excluding income derived
without the taxable territories by the operation of s. 4(1) (c).
A faint attempt was made to assail the
correctness of the decision of the Privy Council in Seth Badri Das's case(1)
but the discussion of all the relevant provisions by their Lordships is, with
respect, so clear and cogent that we are unable to find any infirmity or flaw
therein. It is not disputed that if that decision lays down the law correctly
this appeal must fail.
It is therefore dismissed with costs.
V.P.S. Appeal dismissed..
(1)17 I.T.R. 209.
(2)43 I.T.R. 485.