Messrs. Howrah Trading Co., Ltd, Vs.
The Commissioner of Income-Tax, Calcutta  INSC 27 (26 March 1959)
SINHA, BHUVNESHWAR P.
CITATION: 1959 AIR 775 1959 SCR Supl. (2) 448
CITATOR INFO :
R 1961 SC1019 (8) F 1963 SC 493 (4) R 1964
SC1761 (9) RF 1966 SC 719 (5) RF 1966 SC1583 (3,7,8) RF 1973 SC 651 (7,8) RF
1974 SC1728 (17) R 1985 SC 520 (21)
Income-tax-Assessee acquiring shares by blank
transfers- Receipt of dividend on such shares-If assessee entitled to grossing
up of dividend income and to credit for tax deducted at source-Indian
Income-tax Act, 1922 (XI of 1922), ss. 16(2) and 18(5).
The assessee acquired shares in certain
companies under "blank transfers” without getting the transfers registered
with the companies and it received dividends in respect of these shares. It
claimed that the dividend income should be grossed up under s. 16(2) Income-tax
Act and that it should be allowed credit under s. 18(5) for the tax deducted at
source on the dividend in the hands of the companies.
Held, that, the assessee was not entitled to
the benefits of ss. 16(2) and 18(5) as its name was not in the register of
members of the companies. The benefit of s. 18(5) could only go to a shareholder;
and a shareholder in that section meant the same thing as in the Indian
Companies Act, 1913, i. e., a " member having his name on the register.
The scheme of the Indian Companies Act, 1913,
shows that the words " member ", " shareholder " and "
holder of a share " have been used interchangeably. The words "holder
of a share" are really equal to the word "shareholder" and the
expression " holder of a share " denotes only a person who, as a
shareholder, has his name entered on the register of members.
In re Wala Wynaad Indian Gold Mining Company,
(1882) 21 Ch. D. 849, Shree Shakti Mills Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income- tax,
 16 I.T.R. 187, jaluram Bhikulal v. Commissioner of Income-tax,  22
I. T.R. 491, Arvind N. Mafatlal v. Incometax Officer,  32 I.T . R. 350,
Bikaner Trading Co. v. Commissioner of Income-tax,  24 I.T.R. 419,
referred to. - A company when it pays income-tax does not do so on behalf of
the shareholders, but the shareholders get the benefit of such payment. The
rates of income-tax applicable to the company are, in most instances, higher
than the rates applicable to individual shareholders and by the process of
grossing up the recipient of the dividend gets some benefit.
Cull v. Inland Revenue Commissioners, (1940)
A.C. 51 and Inland Revenue Commissioners v. Blott, (1921) 2 A.C. 171, referred
440 In blank transfers the transfer deed
signed by the transferor is handed over with the share scrip to the transferee
who may complete the transfer by entering his name and applying to the company
for registration of his name. The company only recognises those persons whose
names are on the register of members and they alone are legally entitled to the
dividend declared. In the case of a blank transfer equities exist between the
transferor and the transferee and the transferee has a right to claim the
dividend from the transferor who holds it in trust for him, but the company is
only liable to the transferor and not to the transferee. Though the transferee
is clothed with an equitable ownership he is not a full owner, since the legal
interest vis-a-vis the company still outstands in the transferor.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 65 of 1956.
Appeal from the judgment and order dated
August 31, 1954, of the Calcutta High Court in Income-tax Ref. No. 57 of 1953.
N. C. Chatterjee and B. P. Maheshwari, for
K. N. Rajagopala Sastri, R. H. Dhebar and D.
Gupta, for the respondent.
1959. March 26. The Judgment of the Court was
delivered by HIDAYATULLAH, J.-Messrs. Howrah Trading Company, Ltd., Calcutta
(hereinafter called the assessee) obtained on April 28, 1955, a certificate
under s. 66A(2) of the Indian Income-tax Act from the Calcutta High Court, to
appeal to this Court against the judgment dated August 31, 1954, in Income-tax
Reference No. 57 of 1953. The Divisional Bench (Chakravarti, C. J., and Lahiri,
J.) in the judgment under appeal merely followed their earlier judgment
delivered the same day in Income-tax Reference No. 22 of 1953, since reported
as Hindustan Investment Corporation v. Commissioner of Income-tax (1). It is
the latter judgment which gives the reasons for the decision.
The facts of the case have been stated with
sufficient ful ness, yet briefly, in the statement of the case submitted by the
Income-tax Appellate Tribunal (Calcutta Bench) and may be conveniently set out
in its own words:
(1)  27 I.T.R. 202.
57 450 " The applicant had received sums
of Rs. 3,831, Rs. 6,606, Rs. 7,954 and Rs. 8,304 in the four assessment years,
1944- 45, 1945-46, 1946-47 and 1947-48 as income from dividends.
The shares in respect of which this dividend
income was received were the property of the Applicant but in the books of the
various companies these stood in the names of other persons. It appears that
these shares were purchased by the Applicant from other persons under a blank
transfer but the transfers had not been registered with the various companies.
The Applicant's claim in these income-tax proceedings was that these shares
although not registered in the name of the applicant were the property of the
applicant. It was further claimed that this dividend income should be grossed
up under s. 16(2) and credit for the tax deducted should be allowed to the
Applicant under s. 18(5)." The Income-tax Officer did not accept this
claim, and the appeals of the assessee were rejected by the Appellate Assistant
Commissioner of Income-tax, Calcutta, " A " Range and by the
Appellate Tribunal. The Tribunal, however, on being moved, referred the following
question to the High Court:
" Whether in the facts and circumstances
of this case, the Applicant (the assessee) was entitled to have this dividend
income grossed up under section 16(2) and claim credit for tax deducted at
source under section 18(5) of the Income-tax Act? " The High Court
answered the question in the negative, thus affirming the decisions of the
Department and the Appellate Tribunal.
The assessee contends that the decision of
the High Court is erroneous, and that it is entitled to have the dividend
income I grossed up' under s. 16(2) and also to claim credit for tax deducted
at source, under s.18(5) of the Income-tax Act.
The relevant sections are as follows:
" 16(2) : For the purposes of inclusion
in the total income of an assessee any dividend shall be deemed to be income of
the previous year in which it is paid, credited or distributed or deemed to
have been 451 paid, credited or distributed to him, and shall be increased to
such amount as would, if income-tax (but not super-tax) at the rate applicable
to the total income of the company without taking into account any rebate
allowed or additional income-tax charged for the financial year in which the
dividend is paid, credited or distributed or deemed to have been paid, credited
or distributed, were deducted there from, be equal to the amount of the
dividend: (proviso omitted).
18 (5): Any deduction made and paid to the
account of the Central Government in accordance with the provisions of this
section and any sum by which a dividend has been increased under sub-section
(2) of section 16 shall be treated as a payment of income tax or super-tax on
behalf........ of the shareholder and credit shall be given to him there for on
the production of the certificate furnished under.....section 20 ...... in the
assessment, if any, made for the following year under this Act: (proviso
49B(1): Where any dividend has been paid,
credited or distributed or is deemed to have been paid, credited or distributed
to any of the persons specified in section 3 who is a shareholder of a company
which is assessed to income- tax in the taxable territories or elsewhere, such
person shall, if the dividend is included in his total income, be deemed in
respect of such dividend himself to have paid income-tax (exclusive of
super-tax) of an amount equal to the sum by which the dividend has been
increased under sub- section (2) of section 16." It was contended in the
High Court that inasmuch as s. 16(2) referred to an I assessee, the assessee
company was entitled to have the dividend 'grossed up' by the addition of
income- tax paid by the various companies at source and consequently to have
the benefit of the credit allowed under the two remaining sections. In the
opinion of the High Court, an assessee whose name was not in the register of
members of the companies was not entitled to the benefit of these provisions.
The learned Judges of the High Court were of the opinion that the word "
shareholder " in 452 s.18(5) had the same signification as the word "
member " used in the Indian Companies Act; and that the assessee was not
qualified to be considered as a shareholder, even though by a blank transfer it
had ,purchased the relevant shares.
In our opinion, the High Court was right in
A company when it pays income-tax, does not
do so on behalf of the shareholders. It is itself chargeable under the Act, In
Cull v. Inland Revenue Commissioners (1), Lord Atkin stated the law (which in
substance is also the law in our country) thus:
My Lords, it is now clearly established that
in the case of a limited company the company itself is chargeable to tax on its
profits, and that it pays tax in discharge of its own liability and not as
agent for its shareholders......... At one time it was thought that the company,
in paying tax, paid on behalf of the shareholder; but this theory is now
exploded by decisions in this House, and the position of the shareholders as to
tax is as I have stated it." When the company pays its own income-tax and
declares a dividend from the balance of its profits, it deducts from such
dividend a proportionate part of the amount of the tax paid by it. This
principle is explained in another English case, and it is substantially also
the law in this country.
In Inland Revenue Commissioners v. Blott (2),
Viscount Cave stated the law in these words:
" Plainly, a company paying income-tax
on its profits does not pay it as agent for its shareholders. It pays as a tax-
payer, and if no dividend is declared, the shareholders have no direct concern
in the payment. If a dividend is declared, -the company is entitled to deduct
from such dividend a proportionate part of the amount of the tax previously
paid by the company; and, in that case, the payment by the company operates in
relief of the shareholder. But no agency, properly so called, is
involved." The share-holders, however, get the benefit of the payment of
the tax by the company. Though under (1)  A.C. 51, 56 ; (1939) 22 Tax
Cas. 603, 636.
(2)  2 A.C. 171, 201.
453 s.16(2) of the Act their dividend is
increased by a proportionate amount of tax paid by the company, the payment of
the tax by the company is deemed tinder ss. 18(5) and 49B(1) to be payment by
the shareholders. The rates of income-tax applicable to the company are, in
most instances, higher than the rates applicable to the individual
shareholders, and by this process of 'grossing up', as it is commonly called,
the recipient of the dividend gets some benefit.
The position of a shareholder who gets
dividend when his name stands in the register of members of the company causes
no difficulty whatever. But transfers of shares are common, and they take place
either by a fully executed document such as was contemplated by Regulation 18
of Table A of the Indian Companies Act 1913, or by what are known as blank
transfers'. In such blank transfers, the name of the transferor is entered, and
the transfer deed signed by the transferor is handed over with the share scrip
to the trans- feree, who, if he so chooses, completes the transfer by entering
his name and then applying to the company to register his name in place of the
previous holder of the share. The company recognises no person except one whose
name is on the register of members, upon whom alone calls for unpaid capital
can be made and to whom only the dividend declared by the company is legally
payable. Of course, between the transferor and the transferee, certain equities
arise even on the execution and handing over of 'a blank transfer', and among
these equities is the right of the transferee to claim the dividend declared
and paid to the transferor who is treated as a trustee on behalf of the
transferee. These equities, however, do not touch the company, and no claim by
the transferee whose name is not in the register of members can be made against
the company, if the transferor retains the money in his own hands and fails to
pay it to him.
A glance at the scheme of the Indian
Companies Act, 1913, shows that the words " member ", "
shareholder " and " holder of a share " have been used
interchangeably in that Act. Indeed, the opinion of most of the writers on the
subject is also the same.
454 Buckley on the Companies Act, 12th
Edition, page 803 has pointed out that the right of a transferee is only to
call upon the company to register his name and no more.- No rights arise till
such registration ,takes place.
Section 2(16) of the Indian Companies Act,
1913, defines " share " as " share in the share capital of the
company Section 5 deals with the mode of forming incorporated companies, and in
the case of companies limited by shares, the liability of the members is
limited to the amounts, if any, unpaid on the shares respectively held by them.
By s. 18, Table A is made applicable to companies, unless by the Articles of any
company the terms of Table A have been excluded or modified. Regulation 18 of
Table A reads as follows:
" The instrument of transfer of any
share in the company shall be executed both by the transferor and transferee,
and the transferor shall be deemed to remain holder of the share until the name
of the transferee is entered in the register of members in respect thereof.
" The words " holder of a share " are really equal to the word
shareholder and the expression " holder of a share denotes, in so far as
the company is concerned, only a person who, as a shareholder, has his name
entered on the register of members. A similar view of the Companies Clauses
Consolidation Act, 1845, was taken in Nanney v. Morgan(1).
The learned Lord Justices held that under s.
15 of that Act, the transferee bad not the benefit of a legal title till
certain things were done, which were indicated by Lopes, L.J., in the following
" Therefore the transferor, until the
delivery of the deed of transfer to the secretary, is subject to all the
liabilities and entitled to all the rights which belong to a shareholder or
stockholder, and, in my opinion until the requisite formalities are complied
with, he continues the legal -proprietor of the stock or shares subject to that
proprietorship being divested, which it may be at any moment, by a compliance
with the requisite formalities.
(1) (1888) 37 Ch. D. 346, 356.
455 The same position obtains in India,
though the completion of the transaction by having the name entered in the register
of members relates it back to the time when the transfer was first made. See
Nagabushanam v. Ramachandra Rao (1).
During the period that the transfer exists
between the transferor and the transferee without emerging as a binding
document upon the company, equities exist between them, but not between the
transferee and the company. The transferee can call upon the transferor to
attend the meeting, vote according to his directions, sign documents in
relation to the issuance of fresh capital, call for emergent meetings and inter
alia, also compel the transferor to pay such dividend as he may have received.
See E. D. Sassoon & Co.
Ltd. v. Patch-(2) approved in Mathalone v.
Bombay Life Assurance Co. Ltd. (3 ). But these rights though they, no doubt, clothe
the transferee with an equitable ownership-, are not sufficient to make the
transferee a full owner, since the legal interest vis-a-vis the company still
outstands in the transferor; so much so, that the company credits the dividends
only to the transferor and also calls upon him to make payment of any unpaid
capital, which may be needed. The cases in Black v. Homersham (4) or Wimbush,
In re Richards v. Wimbush (5) hardly advance the matter further than this. The
position, therefore, under the Indian Com- panies Act, 1913, is quite clear
that the expression " shareholder " or " holder of a share
" in so far as that Act is concerned, denotes no other person except a
" member ".
The question that arises in the present case
is whether by reason of ss. 16(2) and 18(5) the assessee, who was a transferee
on a blank transfer' is entitled to the benefits of the grossing up of the
dividend income. Learned counsel for the assessee strenuously contends that the
assessee being an owner in equity of the shares and thus also of the dividend
is entitled to this benefit. He refers to the use of the word I assessee in s.
16(2). The Department, on the (1) (1922) I.L.R. 45 Mad. 537.
(3)  S.C.R. 117.
(2) (1922) 45 Bom. L.R. 46.
(4) (1878-79) L. R. 4 Ex. D. 24.
(5)  1 Ch. D. 92.
456 other hand, says that the dividend can be
increased under s. 16(2) and credit allowed under s. 18(5) if the assessee is a
'shareholder', because the benefit of s. 18(5) can go only to the shareholder,
i. e., a person with his name on the register of members, and not to a person
holding an equity against such shareholder. The assessee contends that the word
" shareholder " includes even a person who holds a share as a result
of a blank transfer, and does not necessarily mean a member of the company,
whose name is on the register of members.
Authorities on this point are not wanting,
and indeed, in the judgment of the Calcutta High Court they have all been
referred to. They are all against the assessee. See Shree Shakti Mills Ltd. v.
Commissioner of Income-tax (1), Jaluram Bhikulal v. Commissioner of Income-tax
(2), Arvind N.
Mafatlal v. Incometax Officer (3) and Bikaner
Trading Co. v. Commissioner of Income-tax (4).
The question that falls for consideration is
whether the meaning given to the expression "shareholder" used in s.
18(5) of the Act by these cases is correct.
No valid reason exists why " shareholder " as used in s. 18(5) should
mean a person other than the one denoted by the same expression in the Indian
Companies Act, 1913. In In re Wala Wynaad Indian Gold Mining Company (5),
Chitty, J., observed:
" I use now myself the term which is
common in the Courts, I a shareholder', that means the holder of the shares. It
is the common term used, and only means the person who holds the shares by
having his name on the register. " Learned counsel for the assessee cited
a number of authorities in which the ownership of the dividend was in question,
and it was held that the transferee whose name was not registered, was entitled
to the dividend after transfer had been made. These cases are Commissioners of
Inland Revenue v. Sir John Oakley (6), Spence v. Commissioners of Inland
Revenue (7) (1)  16 I.T.R. 187.
(3)  32 I.T.R. 350.
(5) (1882) 21 Ch. D. 849, 854.
(2)  22 I.T.R. 490.
(4)  24 I.T.R. 419.
(6) (1925) 9 Tax Cas. 582, (7) (1941) 24 Tax
457 and others cited at page 367 in Multipar
Syndicate, Ltd. v. Devitt (1).
No one can doubt the correctness of the
proposition in these cases, but from an equitable right to compel the
transferor to give up the dividend to the transferee, to a claim to the
dividend by him as a " shareholder " against the company is a wide
jump. In so far as the company is concerned, it does not even issue the
certificate under s. 20 of the Income-tax Act in the name of an unregistered
transferee but only in the name of the transferor whom it recognises, because
his name is borne on its books. Section 20 lays down:
" The principal officer of every company
shall, at the time of distribution of dividends, furnish to every person
receiving a dividend a certificate to the effect that the company has paid or
will pay income-tax on the profits which are being distributed, and specifying
such other particulars as may be prescribed. " The meaning of s. 20 as
also of s. 18(5) is clear if they are read with s. 19A, under which information
regarding dividends has to be supplied by the company when demanded by the
Income-tax Officer. It lays down:
" The principal officer of every company
... shall, on or before the 15th day of June in each year, furnish to the
prescribed officer a return in the prescribed form and verified in the
prescribed manner of the names and of the addresses, as entered in the register
of shareholders maintained by the company, of the shareholders to whom a
dividend or aggregate dividends exceeding Such amount as may be prescribed in
this behalf has or have been, distributed during the, preceding year and of the
amount so distributed to each such shareholder. " (Italics supplied).
Section 19A makes it clear, if any doubt
existed, that by the term " shareholder " is meant the person whose
name and address are entered in the register of " shareholders "
maintained by the company. There is but one register maintained by the Company.
There (1) (1945) 26 Tax Cas. 359.
58 458 is no separate register of "
shareholders " such as the assessee claims to be but only a register of
" members ".
This takes us immediately to the register of
members, and demonstrates that even for the purpose of the Indian Income- tax
Act, the words ',member and " shareholder " can be read as
The words of s. 18(5) must accordingly be
read in the light in which the word " shareholder " has been used in
the subsequent sections, and read in that manner, the present assessee,
notwithstanding the equitable right to the dividend, was not entitled to be
regarded as a "shareholder" for the purpose of s. 18(5) of the Act.
That benefit can only go to the person who, both in law and in equity, is to be
regarded as the owner of the shares and between whom and the company exists the
bond of membership and ownership of a share in the share capital of the
In view of this, we are satisfied that the
answer given by the Calcutta High Court on the question posed by the Tribunal
The appeal fails, and is dismissed with