Karnani Properties Ltd. Vs.
Commissioner of Income Tax, West Bengal  INSC 221 (27 August 1971)
CITATION: 1972 AIR 2315 1972 SCR (1) 457 1971
SCC (3) 568
F 1973 SC 515 (11) E 1973 SC 997 (16) RF 1982
SC1153 (12) RF 1986 SC 98 (18)
Income Tax Act, 1922, ss. 9, 10, 12,
66-Company owning flats and shops and letting them out on rent-Also supplying
electricity, water and other services to tenants-Income from latter source
whether falls under .s. 10, or s. 12 of Act- High Court in reference cannot go
behind the facts found by the Tribunal as mentioned in statement of case.
The assessee company owned houses and flats
in Calcutta which it had let out on rent. The company purchased from the Calcutta
Electric Supply Corporation high voltage A.C.current in bulk, converted it into
low voltage A.C. current in the company's own power house with the premises.
and supplied the power to the tenants., It also maintained a separate water
pump-house and a boiler for the supply of hot and cold water to the tenants. It
further provided for the benefit of tenants electric lifts working day and
For all these purposes a large permanent
staff was maintained. The monthly payments by the tenants consisted apart from
rent, of charges in respect of these services.
In proceedings before the Income-tax Officer
for the assessment years 1956-57 and 1957-58 the assessse company claimed that
the entire receipts from the tenants should be treated as income from business
in as Much as the company had been formed for carrying on the business of
letting out flats and shops. The Income-tax Officer split the receipts into two
Parts; one part of the receipts he treated as rent received by the assessce and
the remaining part he treated as income from other Sources taxable tinder s. 12
of the income-tax Act, 1922. The Appellate Tribunal accepted the contention of
the assessee that the income taxed by the Income-tax Officer as income from
other sources should be treated as income from business. Thereafter at the
instance of the Department the Tribunal referred to the High Court the question
whether "on the facts and circumstances of the case" the Tribunal was
justified in holding that the services supplied to the tenants constituted a
business activity of the assessee taxable under s. 10. The High Court opined
after a reappraisal of the evidence that some of the facts found by the
Tribunal were not correct. It came to the conclusion that the income in
question was taxable neither under s. 12 nor under s. 10 but under s. 9 though
this was not the contention of the Department at any stage. By certificate
appeals were filed in this Court.
HELD : (1) The jurisdiction of the High Court
in dealing with a reference under s. 66 is a very limited one. It must take the
facts as stated in the statement of the case unless the question whether the
findings of the Tribunal are vitiated for one or the other of the reasons
recognised by the law is before it. The High Court thought that the Income-tax
Officer, the Appellate Assistant Commissioner as well as the Tribunal erred in
holding that the income of the assessee company came from two different sources
but that question was foreign to the proceedings before the High Court. Neither
the High Court nor this Court has jurisdiction to go behind or to question the
facts found by the Tribunal. [461 A-C] Kshetra Mohan Sannyasi Charan Sudhukhan
v. Commissioner of Excess Profits Tax, West Bengal. 24. I. T. R. 488. relied
458 (ii)On the facts found by the Tribunal in
the present case it was clear that the assessee had two different sources of
income and not one source .as found by the High Court. [C-D] [This however,
should not be understood to mean that in assessing the profits and gains from
the several activities of a business, the profits and gains arising from the
several activities of that business can be separately computed or separately
brought to tax.] [463 B-C] The services rendered by the assessee to its tenants
were the result of its activities carried on continuously, in an organised
manner and with a view to earn profits. Hence, those activities had to be
considered as business activities taxable under s. 10 of the Act. [461 D]
Salisbury House Estate Ltd. v. Fry, 15 Tax Cases 266, applied.
Commissioner of Income-tax, Bombay City v.
National Storage Private Ltd., 66 I.T.R. 596 and Sultan Brothers Pvt. Ltd. v.
Commissioner-of Income-tax, Bombay City-II, 51 I.T.R.
353, referred to.
(iii)Generally speaking the rule of res
judicata does not apply to taxation proceedings. This Court in the present case
had not gone into the correctness of the findings of fact reached by the
Tribunal. Therefore whether those facts and circumstances were correctly found
or not may still be a matter for consideration in any future assessment. [464
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeals
Nos. 1874 and 1875 of 1968.
Appeals from the judgment and order dated
June 16, 1967 ,of the Calcutta High Court in Income-tax Reference No. 20 of
M.C. Chagla, A. N. Sinha, P. K. Chatterjee
and Rathin Das. for the appellant (in both the appeals).
S.C. Manchanda, J. Ramamurthi, R. N. Sachthey
and B. D. Sharma, for the respondent (in both the appeals).
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Hegde, J These appeals by certificate arise from the decision of the High Court
of Calcutta in Income Tax Reference No. 20 of 1963 on its file. That was a
Reference under s. 66(1) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 (to be hereinafter
referred to as 'the Act'), made by the Income- tax Appellate Tribunal, 'B'
Bench, Calcutta. The question referred to the High Court for its opinion reads
"Whether on the facts and in the
circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was justified in holding that the
services rendered to the tenants, by supplying electrical energy, hot and cold
water and maintenance of lifts and other amenities, constituted a business
activity of the 459 assessee and as such the income arising therefrom was
assessable under section 10 of the Income-tax Act, 1922." The High Court
came to the conclusion that the income in question is income from property and
as such is assessable under S. 9 of the Act; that being so, the same cannot be
assessed under s. 10. In the result it answered the question in the negative
and in favour of the Department.
The assessment years with which we are
concerned in these appeals are 1956-57 and 1957-58, the corresponding
accounting periods being the calendar years 1955 and 1956.
The facts as set out in the Statement of the
case submitted by the, Tribunal are as follows :
The assessee company owned house properties,
popularly known as Karnani Mansion in Park Street, Calcutta. The said Karnani
Mansion consists of numerous residential flats and over a dozen shop premises.
All those were let out to different tenants on a monthly rental basis. The
tenants in respect of each of the flats and shops let out had to make a monthly
payment which included charges for electric current, for use of lifts, for the
supply of hot and cold water, for the arrangement for scavenging, for providing
watch and ward facilities as well as other amenities. The Tribunal further
found that the assessee company purchases from the Calcutta Electric Supply
Corporation high voltage A.C. current in bulk, converts the same into low voltage
A.C. current in the company's own power house within the premises and supplies
the power to its tenants. It also maintains a separate water pump-house and a
boiler for the supply of hot and cold water to the tenants. The company further
provided for the benefit of tenants, Electric lifts working day and night.
The further finding of the Tribunal was that
for all these purposes the assessee company maintains a large number of
permanent staff. No question under S. 66(1) or S. 66(2) was sought challenging the
correctness of the findings referred to earlier. The question submitted to the
High Court proceeded on the basis that the facts found by the Tribunal are
The total collection from the tenants made by
the assessee in accordance with the terms of the agreement between the tenants
and the assessee was Rs. 5,53,541/- during the accounting year 1956 and Rs.
5,59,145/- during the accounting year 1957. The assessee company claimed before
the Income-tax Officer that the entire receipts should be treated as income
from business inasmuch as the company had been formed for carrying on the
business of letting out flats and shops. The Income-tax Officer while rejecting
the assessees contention, split the receipts 460 into two parts; one part of
the receipt be treated as the rent received by the assessee and the remaining
part he treated as income from other sources taxable under s. 12.
The total amount of the latter category as
allocated by the Income-tax Officer was Rs. 1,32,456/- in the- assessment year
1956-57 and Rs. 1,32,568/in the assessment year 1957-
58. It may be noted that even according to
the Income-tax Officer the entire receipt was not assessable under s. 9.
In the appeal before the Appellate Assistant
Commissioner the only controversy was whether the receipt held by the
Income-tax Officer as income from other source should have been held to be
income from business. Neither the Revenue nor the assesses contended that the
same was assessable under s. 9 nor was there any dispute as regards that part
of the receipt which was brought to tax under s. 9. The Appellate Assistant
Commissioner rejected the contention of the assessee and affirmed the decision
of the Income-tax Officer.
Aggrieved by the decision of the Appellate
Assistant Commissioner, the assessee took up the matter in appeal to the
Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, challenging the finding of the Income-tax
Officer as well as the Appellate Assistant Commissioner as to the true
character of that part of the receipts which had been brought to tax by the
Income-tax Officer under s. 12. The assessee contended that the said amount
should have been assessed under s. 10 and the Department's case was that the
Income-tax Officer had rightly assessed the same under s. 12. Neither the
assessee nor the Department contended before the Tribunal that the same was
assessable under S. 9. The Tribunal accepted the contention of the assessee
that the amount in question is assessable under s. 10. Thereafter at the
instance of the Department the question set out earlier was referred to the
High Court of Calcutta for its opinion.
The High Court of Calcutta did not accept the
contention of the Department that the amount in question is assessable under s.
12 of the Act. On the other hand, it came to the conclusion that the same was
assessable under S. 9 of the Act. As seen earlier the Department had all along
proceeded on the basis that that amount was not assessable under S. 9 of the
Act. If the Department had sought to assess that amount under s. 9, it was open
to the assessee to claim the allowances to which it was entitled under S. 9.
The Department having all along proceeded on the basis that the income of the
assessee was income from two different sources, should not have been allowed to
change its case.
The High Court opined that some of the facts
found by the Tribunal are not correct. That finding was arrived at on
reappraisal of the evidence on record. As seen earlier the ques- 461 tion
whether the findings of fact reached by the Tribunal were vitiated for any reason
was not before the High Court.
The jurisdiction of the High Court in dealing
with a Reference under s. 66 is a very limited one. It must take the fact as
stated in the Statement of the case unless-the question whether the findings of
the Tribunal are vitiated for one or the other of the reasons recognised by law
is before it. It may be that the Income-tax Officer, the Appellate Assistant
Commissioner as well as the Tribunal erred in holding that the income with
which we are concerned in these appeals came from two different sources but
then that question was foreign to the proceedings before the High Court. The
High Court had to accept the facts as found by the Tribunal and should have
answered the question referred to it on the basis of those facts.
From the facts found by the Tribunal it
follows that the services rendered by the assessee to its tenants were the
result of its activities carried on continuously, in an organized manner, with
a set purpose and with a view to earn profits. Hence those activities have to
he considered as business activities. In this connection Mr. M. C. Chagla, the
learned Counsel for the assesses invited our attention to the decision of the
House of Lords in Salisbury House Estate, Ltd. v. Fry.(1) The facts of that
case are as follows The Appellant Company was the rated occupier of a large
block of buildings let to tenants by rooms and by suites of rooms as
unfurnished offices. The Company had no other business except the letting out
and management of the one property. In addition to the rents for the offices
the Company derived profits from its tenants in connection with the provision
of lighting. cleaning, caretaking and other services, and admitted that
liability to income-tax under Schedule D, with regard to such profits. The
Crown contended that the Company was in respect of all its activities carrying
on a trade and that accordingly in computing its profits for the purposes of
assessment under Schedule D, it was necessary to take into account all its
receipts, including receipts from rents, an allowance being made for the amount
of the assessments under Schedule A (Schedule dealt with rents of properties).
Assessments under Schedule D (which includes 'business' were made upon the
Company upon this basis. The facts found were that the Appellate Company was a
Company, the main objects of which were the acquisition, development,
management, leasing and letting of land and property. Its properties were for
the most part shops and blocks of offices and of flats in London, let unfurnished
to tenants. The larger blocks, of offices, etc. contained lifts, the liftman
being provided by (1) 15, Tax cases 266.
L1340 Sup.CI/71 462 the Company. The Company
also provided cleaning, heating, lighting and caretaking services in respect of
which additional changes were made. The Company admitted its liability to
income-tax under Sch. D, in respect of profits arising from such additional
charges levied for the services rendered. The Crown contended that the Company
was carrying on a trade namely the letting of accommodation and provision of
various services and that in addition to the profits assessed under Schedule A
in respect of the property in the premises the Company made a further profit by
the user of the premises as a commercial enterprise and hence the Company was
assessable to income-tax under Sch. D. The House of Lords held that the
Company's liability in respect of the rents was covered by the Sch. A
assessments, and the rents could not be brought into the computation of any
liability under Sch. D. In the course of the judgment, Lord Macmillan (at p.
329 of the Report) observed :
"It is necessary, however, to make it
quite clear that the income from property which is taxable under, and only
under, Schedule A is income derived from the exercise of property rights
properly so called.
Property is regarded as yielding income from
the exercise by the proprietor of the right either of himself enjoying the
possession or of parting with the possession by letting his property to
tenants. The owner of property may make profit out of it in other ways and by
doing so he may render himself liable to taxation under Schedule D. The case of
Governors of the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin v.
Coman, (1921) 1 A.C. 1, is an excellent
example. There as Lord Chancellor Lord Birkenhead pointed out at page 8(1) the
arrangements between the owners of the premises and the persons who paid for
their use for the purpose of entertainments were not such as to constitute the
relation of landlord and tenants, and the owners remained-in possession and
occupation of their property.
The receipts derived from hiring out their
premises along with various movable fittings, and affording services in the way
of heating, lighting and attendance, were receipts of an enterprise quite
distinct from the ordinary receipts which a landlord derives from letting his
Consequently the, owners of the premises were
rightly held to be engaged in the carrying on of a trade or business in their
premises, the trade or business", in Lord Shaw's language at p. 37(2)
"of providing, or (1) 7, Tax Cases at p. 576.
(2) Ibid. at p. 593.
463 providing for, public entertainments, There
is nothing to prevent a landlord who has been assessed under Schedule A in
respect of his income as a property owner being also assessed under Schedule D
'in respect of a trade, business or other enterprise carried on by him on his
premises." We are referring to these observations only to show that the
activities of the assessee with which we are concerned in these appeals are
business activities. We should not be understood as having laid down that in
assessing the profits and gains of a business, the profits and gains arising
from the several activities of that business can be separately computed or
separately brought to tax. If the facts are as found by the Tribunal we must
assume for the purpose of this case that the facts were correctly found by the
Tribunal as there was no challenge to the correctness of those findings in the
question referred to the High Court-then it is quite clear that the assessee
had two sources of income and not one source as found by the High Court.
Mr. Manchanda, learned Counsel for the
Department contended with some emphasis that there was no justification for the
Income-tax Officer, the Appellate Assistant Commissioner as well as the
Tribunal for coming to the conclusion that the services rendered by the
assessee was an activity independent of letting out the premises to the
According to him the primary activity of the
assessee was to let out the premises and the services rendered were merely
incidental. In support of his contention he relied on the ratio of the decision
of this Court in Commissioner of Income-tax, Bombay City v. National Storage
Private Ltd.(1) He alternatively contended that the income said to have been
realised as a result of rendering the services by the assessee should have been
brought to tax under s. 12(4).
For that contention he relied on the decision
of this Court in Sultan Brothers Private Ltd. v. Commissioner of Income- tax,
Bombay City-II(2). The High Court after reassessing the evidence on record has
also taken the view that there was only one source of income and that source
was of letting out the premises to the tenants. Mr. Manchanda contended, and
the High Court has accepted that contention that the authorities under the Act
have not properly construed the lease deeds nor have they properly appreciated
the evidence on record. It may well be so. We say nothing about it as it is not
within our province to reappropriates the evidence on record. The question as
to the correctness of the facts found by the Tribunal was not before the High
Court nor is it before us. When the question referred to the High Court speaks
of "on the facts and in the circumstances of the case", it means (1)
66 I.T.R. 596.
(2) 51. I.T.R. 353.
464 on the, facts and circumstances found. by
the Tribunal and not about the facts and circumstances that may be found by the
High Court. We have earlier referred to the facts found and the circumstances
relied on by the Tribunal, the final fact finding authority. It is for the
Tribunal to find facts and it is for the High Court and this Court to lay down
the law applicable to the facts found. Neither the High Court nor this Court
has jurisdiction, to go behind or to question the statements of facts made by
The statement of the case is binding on the
parties and they are not entitled to go behind the facts found by the Tri-
bunal in the Statement-see, Kshetra Mohan Sannvasi- Charan Sadhukhan v.
Commissioner of Exccess Profits Tax, West Bengal(1).
Mr. Manchanda was apprehensive that our
decision in this case may have far reaching effect inasmuch as that the same
may be considered as having laid down the rule that whenever a premises is let
out with fixtures and furnitures for a consolidated rent or when the landlord
in addition to providing fixtures and furnitures also renders services
incidental to the letting out of the premises and charges a consolidated rent,
it may be considered that the rent realised would have to be split up and
assessed separately partly under S. 9 and partly under some other provision.
There is no basis for this apprehension.
Herein we are not considering any abstract proposition of law. We are only
laying down the law applicable to the facts found.
It was next urged by Mr. Manchanda that our
decision in this case may preclude the Department from reconsidering the
correctness of the findings reached by the Income-tax Officer, Appellate
Assistant Commissioner and the Tribunal in the assessee's case in the
subsequent years. This apprehension may again be not well founded. Generally
speaking the rule of res judicata does not apply to taxation proceedings. _We
have not gone into the correctness of the findings of fact reached by the
Tribunal. Therefore whether those facts and circumstances were correctly found
or not may still be a matter for consideration in any future assessment. We do
not wish to say anything more on this aspect as we do not want to pronounce on
questions which are not before us.
In the result these appeals succeed, the
answer given by the High Court is discharged and in its place we answer the
question in the affirmative and in favour of the assessee.
The assessee is entitled to its costs of
these appeals-one hearing fee.
G. C. Appeal allowed.
(1) 24 I.T.R. 488.