Commissioner of Wealth Tax, West
Bengal Vs. Aluminum Corporation Ltd.  INSC 223 (30 August 1971)
Wealth Tax Act (27 of 1957), s. 7(2)-Value of
assets as shown in balance-sheet-Whether should be accepted- Depreciation, if
permissible Practice and Procedure-Remand by Supreme Court-High Court examining
competency of Supreme Court--Propriety.
The assessee-company made a revaluation of
its assets, namely, land, buildings, plant and machinery in 1956, and the
increase in value was carried over to subsequent years.
For the assessment year 19'57-58, on the
questions, (1) whether in determining the net value of the assets under s.
7(2) of the Wealth Tax Act the value as shown
in the balance sheet should be substituted by the written down value as per the
income tax records, and (2) whether, even on the basis of the value as shown in
the balance sheet an adjustment on account of normal depreciation of the assets
for arriving at the net value is justified, the High Court, on reference,
answered the first question in favour of the assessee and did not answer the
second question. This Court, on appeal, set aside that judgment and remanded
the case to the High Court. Meanwhile, the High Court, for the assessment years
1958-59 and 1959-60, also on reference answered the first question in favour of
the assessee and did not answer the second question.
After remand, with respect to the assessment
year 1957-58, the High Court, answered the first question in favour of the
Revenue and the second question in favour of the assessee.
In appeal to this Court, with respect to all
the three assessment years,
HELD : (1) (a) Wealth Tax is levied on the
value of the assets of the assessee on the valuation date. Section 7(2) of the
Wealth Tax Act requires the Wealth Tax Officer to have regard to the balance
sheet. it is open to the assessee to satisfy the authorities that the valuation
in the balance sheet is not correct, but, in the absence of such proof, the
Wealth Tax Officer will be justified in proceeding on the basis that the value
shown in the balance-sheet is correct, because, no one can know the value of
the assets of a business better than those who are in charge of the business.
[488 D--F] Therefore, in the present case, the revaluation of the assets made
in 1956, undoubtedly afforded a sound basis for valuing the assessee's assets
in the absence of any evidence showing that it was incorrect, and the answer to
the first question for all the three years should be in favour of the
Department. The High Court was in error in holding that the evidence afforded
by the balance sheet could not be considered as prima facie evidence of the
value of the assets. [488 F-H] C.I.T. West Bengal v. Aluminum Corporation, 78
I.T.R. 483 (S.C.) and Kesoram Industries Case, 59, I.T.R. 767 (S.C.), followed.
(2) But the assets in the present case were
subject to wear and tear and there was no evidence to show that the market
value of these assets had ,-One up after the revaluation in 1956. Hence, when
the value of the 485 assets had to be determined on the concerned valuation
dates, the Wealth Tax Officer should have deducted from the 1956 valuation the
value of the depreciation of those assets after the revaluation. Therefore, the
answer to the second question for all the three years should be in favour of
the assessee. [488 H; 489 A-B]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeals
Nos. 1691. and 1962 of 1968 and 1075 of 1971.
Appeals by certificate/special leave from the
judgments and orders dated August 18, 1967 and May 7, 1970 of the Calcutta High
Court in Matters Nos. 298 of 1963 and 69 of 1962.
S. C. Manchanda, R. N. Sachthey, B. D. Sharma
and S. P. Nayar, for the appellant (in all that appeals).
B. Sen, N. R. Khaitan, B. P. Maheshwari and
O. P. Khaitan, for the respondent (in all the appeals).
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Hegde, J. Civil Appeals Nos. 1691-1692 of 1968 are by certificate and Civil
Appeal No. 1075 of 1971 is by special leave. These appeals are brought by the
Commissioner of Wealth Tax, West Bengal. In all these appeals we are dealing
with the case of the same assessee, namely Aluminum Corporation Ltd. The
relevant assessment years are 1957-58, 1958-59 and 1959-60 and the material
valuation dates are 31- 3-1957, 31-3-1958 and 31-3-1959. So far as the assessment
of the assessee for the assessment year 1957-58 is concerned the matter had
come up to this Court on an earlier occasion.
This Court remanded the case to the High
Court to decide the case afresh, if necessary after reframing the first
question in the light of the principles enunciated by this Court in the order
of remand-see Commissioner of Wealth Tax, West Bengal v. Aluminum Corporation
Ltd.(1) The High Court after expressing doubts about the competence of this
Court to remand the case brought to this Court under the Provisions of the
Wealth 'Tax Act has answered the first question in favour of the Revenue. So
far as the second question is concerned it has answered, the same in favour of
the assessee. As against that order the Department has brought Civil Appeal No.
1075 of 1971. The other two appeals relate to the assessment of the assessee
for the assessment years 1958-59 and 1959-60. Here, the High Court has answered
the first question referred to it in favour of the assessee and did not answer
the second question.
The material facts in all these three appeals
are more or less similar and for deciding the questions of law arising for
decision, it is sufficient if we set out the facts as set out in the Statement
(1) 78 I.T.R. 483.
486 of the case submitted by the Tribunal to
the High Court along with the questions of law arising for decision in respect
of the ,assessment of the assessee for the assessment years 1958-59 and
1959-60. From that Statement we get the following facts :
The assessee company's fixed assets namely,
land, buildings, plant and machinery were valued at Rs. 2,19,982/-, Rs. 36,13,906/-
and Rs. 93,78,868/- respectively as on 31-3- 1955. This valuation did not take
into account a depreciation for the year ending 31-3-1955 in respect of buildings,
plant and machinery. A year later i.e. on 31-3- 1956 the same assets were
valued at Rs. 4,99,340/-, Rs. 1,08,40,840/- and Rs. 1,89,23,449/This valuation
was also without taking into account depreciation for the year ending 31-3-1956
in respect of buildings, plant and machinery. The increase in the value of
these assets, after making allowance for all additions made to the assets, was
due to the revaluation of the assets made by the company before 31- 3-56. The
increase in value on account of revaluation was to the tune of Rs. 2,83,871/-,
Rs. 72,31,204/- and Rs. 98,67,481/- in the case of land, buildings and
machinery respectively. The Directors of the company in their annual report for
the year ended 31-3-1956 noted that these assets had been revalued so as to
indicate a true picture of their value and that evaluators had given due
consideration to depreciation which the buildings, plant and machinery had been
already subjected to. A corresponding capital reserve of an amount of Rs.
1,73,82,556/- was created against ,the increase in the value of the assets. The
increase in the, value of assets effected before 31-3-1956 was carried over to
31-3-1958 and 31-3-59, the relevant valuation dates and the capital reserve aforesaid
continued to remain unaltered.
The company in submitting its return of
wealth-tax as at the relev ant valuation dates claimed before the Wealth-tax
Officer that its lands, buildings and machinery should be valued according to
the written down value as per income-tax records after allowing depreciation
according to the Income- tax Act. According to the company the value of these
assets should be respectively, Rs. 2,26,786/- Rs. 12,38,109/- and Rs.
11,46,979/- as at 31-3-1958 and Rs. 2,28,188/-, Rs.
13,64,198/- and Rs. 9,16,626/- as at 31-3-1959.
These written down values were determined on the basis of the original cost as
it stood before the assets were revalued in 1955-56. The Wealth-tax Officer in
including these assets in the net wealth of the company, however, took the
value thereof to be Rs. 5,10,657/-, Rs. 1,02, 53,392/- and Rs.1,71,24,711/- as
at 31-3-1958 and Rs. 5,12,059/-, Rs. 1,02,71,383/- and Rs. 1,65,02,524/- as at
31-3-1959 as shown 'in the company's balance sheets as at 31-3-1958 and 31-3-
1959. 'The Wealth-tax Officer was of the view that the valuation of the 487
assets having been made under section 7 (2) of the Wealth Tax Act, there was no
need to analyse individually the value of particular assets. He also took the
view that the value of the assets after revaluation was the correct one. He
rejected the request of the company to make an allowance for the wear and tear
of the assets even on the basis of the revised values for the period between
the date of the revaluation of the assets and the Wealth-tax valuation dates.
The Appellate Assistant Commissioner of
Wealth-tax disagreed with the Wealth-tax Officer and allowed the assessee's
appeal holding that the value of the block assets should be taken to be their
write down value as per, the income-tax records and not the value shown by the
assessee in its balance sheets.
The Department appealed to the Tribunal
against the order of the Appellate Assistant Commissioner. The Tribunal allowed
the appeal partially. It upheld the action of the Wealth- tax Officer in
determining the value of the fixed assets on the basis of the values shown in
the balance sheets of the company, but it, however, held that the assessee was
entitled to an allowance in respect of these assets on account of wear and tear
during the period subsequent to the revaluation. Thereafter at the instance of
the assessee as well as the Commissioner, the Tribunal stated a case and
submitted the following questions seeking the opinion of the High Court.
(1) Whether on the facts and in the
circumstances of the case, in determining the net value of the assets of the
assessee company under section 7(2) of the Wealth-tax Act, the value of the
company's fixed assets as shown in its balance sheet as on the valua- tion
dates should have been substituted by the written down value of those assets as
per the company's income-tax records ? (2) If the answer to the first question
is in the negative, whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case,
for the purposes of determining the net value of the assets of the company
under Section 7(2) of the Wealth-tax Act an adjustment on account of normal
depreciation of the fixed assets from the date of revaluation of the assets to
the valuation dates was justified ? Now reverting back to the assessment of the
assessee for the assessment year 1957-58, we have earlier noted the decision of
the High Court. Aggrieved by the, answer given by the High 488 Court on the
second question, the Commissioner has brought Civil Appeal 1075 of 1971. The
assessee has not appealed against the decision of the High Court on the first
Before adverting to the merits of the
contentions of the parties, we consider it necessary to observe that we are
wholly unable to comprehend the attitude of the High Court while dealing with
the case. The High Court quite clearly exceeded its jurisdiction in examining
the competence of this Court to remand an appeal brought to this Court under
the provisions of the Wealth-tax Act. It would have done well to remind itself
that it was bound by the orders of this Court and could not entertain or
express any argument or views challenging their correctness. The judicial
tradition and propriety required that court not to attempt to sit on judgment
over the decisions and orders of this Court.
Now turning to the second question referred
to the High Court, we agree with the High Court that the valuation of the
assets shown in the balance sheet is not conclusive.
Wealth-tax is levied on the value of the
assets of the assessee on the valuation date. Section 7(2) of the Wealth- tax
Act merely requires the Wealth-tax Officer to have regard to the balance-sheet.
It is open to the assessee to satisfy the authorities under the Wealth-tax Act
that the valuation shown in the balance sheet is not correct. But in the
absence of such a proof, the Wealth Tax Officer will be justified in proceeding
on the basis that the value shown in the balance-sheet is correct because no
one can know the value of the assets of a business more than those who are in
charge of the business. In other words, the value of the assets shown in the
balance sheet can justifiably be made the primary basis of valuation for the
purpose of the Wealth-tax Act. In other words it can be taken as prima facie
evidence of the value of the assets. Here again the High Court ignoring the
ratio of the decision of this Court in Kesoram Industries(1) case as well as
the other deci- sions of this Court held that the evidence afforded by the
balance sheet cannot be considered as primary evidence or prima facie evidence
of the value of the assets of the business. To say the least. the learned Chief
Justice indulged in an unnecessary mental exercise forgetting the fact that the
law as interpreted by this Court is binding on all courts and Tribunals.
Turning to the facts of the assessee's case,
the revaluation of the assets was made in 1956. That revaluation in the absence
of any evidence to show that it was incorrect, undoubtedly afforded a sound
basis for valuing the assessee's assets. But then, when the value of those
assets had to be determined on the valuation dates concerned in these cases,
the Wealth-tax Officer should have deducted from the 1956 valuation the value
of the depreciation of (6) 59. I.T.R. 767.
489 those assets after the date they were
revalued. Undoubtedly those assets were subject to wear and tear and there was
no evidence to show that the market value of those assets had gone up after
they were revalued in 1956.
Our conclusion regarding the, valuation for
the year 1957-58 applies with equal force as regards the valuation for 1958- 59
Following the decision of this Court in
Aluminum Corporation of India Ltd.'s case(1) we answer the first question re-
ferred to the High Court in all these appeals in favour of the Department. On
this question we see no justification for the reservations made by the High
Court in the judgment under appeal in Civil Appeal No. 1075 of 1971.
Now turning to the second question, we are of
the opinion that the finding of the Tribunal on that question was essentially a
finding of fact. That finding was based on relevant evidence. It is not
vitiated in any manner. In our opinion, the Tribunal took a correct view of the
scope of s. 7 (2) of the Wealth-tax Act and its approach to the question was in
accordance with law. Hence our answer to the second question is in the
affirmative and in favour of the assessee. In the result, these appeals are
allowed to the extent mentioned above. In the circumstances of these cases, we
direct the parties to bear their own costs both in the High Court as well as in
V.P.S. Appeals allowed.
(1) 78 I.T.R. 483.