Delhi H.C : Whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was correct in law in upholding the AAC’s order and allowing the expenses of Rs. 25,443 for the asst. yr. 1972-73 as mess expenses ?

High Court Of Delhi

CIT vs. Rajasthan Mercantile Co. Ltd.

Sections 37(2A) Expln. 2, 37(2B)

Asst. Year 1971-72, 1972-73, 1973-74, 1974-75

K. Shivashankar Bhat & D.K. Jain, JJ.

IT Ref. Nos. 243, 244, 246, 249, 250 283, 285 & 291 of 1987

21st September, 1994

Counsel Appeared

B. Gupta, R.N. Verma, R.C Pandey & R.K. Chaufla for the Revnue : S.K. Aggarwal, O.P. Dua & Sanjeev Sabharwal, for the Assessees

K. SHIVASHANKAR BHAT, J.:

These are references under s. 256(1) of the IT Act, 1961. The assessees are different. ITR Nos. 243 & 244/77 pertain to the asst. yr. 1972-73 and 1973-74. ITR No. 246/77 pertains to the asst. yr. 1971-72. So are ITR Nos. 249 and 250/77. ITR No. 283/77 And ITR No. 285/77; ITR No. 291/77 pertains to the asst. yr. 1974-75. ITR No. 285/77 is a reference at the instance of the assessee and all the other references are at the instance of the Revenue.

The assessee in ITR Nos. 243 and 244 of 1977 is a limited company, carrying on its business in cloth and paper. A part of its claim for deduction as business expenditure incurred in connection with the messing expenses was allowed, following earlier decisions in the assessee’s case. The expenditure was incurred for providing food, etc. to the customers and the representatives of the company, as could be gathered from the order of the AAC (which was affirmed by the Tribunal). Following questions which are identical for the two assessment years, have been referred for the opinion of this Court :

“1. Whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was correct in law in upholding the AAC’s order and allowing the expenses of Rs. 25,443 for the asst. yr. 1972-73 as mess expenses ?

2. Was not the amount of Rs. 25,443 claimed by the assessee as mess expenses for the asst. yr. 1972-73 in fact entertainment expenditure and as such disallowable under s. 37(2B) of the IT Act, 1961 ?”

4. In ITR No. 246/77, the assessee owns several hotels and has to attract foreign and Indian tourists for its business, apart from the customers who would organise various kinds of parties or functions in its premises. In this connection, it claimed allowance in respect of expenses incurred in connection with providing food etc. to its prospective customers as business expenditure. A part of the claim was allowed, negativing the Revenue’s contention that the expenditure in question is entertainment expenditure. It was held that the expenditure incurred was in the nature of “business promotion, publicity on advertisement than as entertainment”. The question referred reads :

“Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was justified in holding that the expenditure of Rs. 35,118 incurred by the assessee on serving food etc. to its prospective customers this year was not “entertainment expenditure” within the meaning of s. 37(2B) of the IT Act, 1961 ?” In ITRs 249 and 250 of 1977, the question referred is as follows :

Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was right in holding that beoparies expenses to the tune of Rs. 19,822 was an allowable item of deduction as the same was not hit by the provisions of s. 37(2B) of the Act?”

Though there are two references, the year of assessment is the same. Before the Tribunal, there were two appeals, one by the Revenue and another by the assessee. The relevant facts, accepted as correct by the Tribunal are :

“The claim of the assessee is that during the season of the fruits, customers come to it in Delhi and they stay there. While staying in Delhi, they are given food by the assessee. The food is provided to the customers as a matter of custom. Also, it is claimed that it promotes the business of the assessee. If the customers, during the season of the fruits, are not made comfortable in Delhi by the assessee, then the business of the assessee would be jeopardised as the customers would be in search of another agent, who may provide them better boarding and lodging facilities.”

5. The question referred in ITR 283 of 1977 is as follows : “Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was legally correct in upholding the order of the AAC in allowing Rs. 9,950 on account of beopari expenses incurred by the assessee by not treating the same as entertainment expenses ?” The assessee is a commission agent in fruits who was required to extend the ordinary courtesies of providing tea, biscuits, cold drinks and food to the customers. A part of the allowance claimed by the assessee has been upheld as business expenditure.

6. In ITR No. 291/77, the question to be answered is : “Whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was correct in law in upholding the deletion of the disallowance of entertainment expense of Rs. 10,296.” The assessee being a commission agent had to spend for providing food to beoparies coming from outstations for business. The expenditure was allowed as business expenditure, as the expenses were customary and did not involve any entertainment.

7. In ITR No. 285 of 1977, the question referred reads : “Whether on the facts and in the circumstances of the case the Tribunal was justified in holding that the expenditure amounting to Rs. 11,412 (Rs. 8,568 in fish market and Rs. 2,844 in egg market) incurred on food expenses for the constituents was in the nature of entertainment expenses and thus disallowing them under s. 37(2B) of the Act ?” In the fish market account, commission receipts of the assessee were declared at Rs. 1,07,648 and in egg market account the receipts were Rs. 1,70,087; assessee claimed a small fraction (Rs. 11,412) as expenditure incurred as food expenses, by way of payments at ad hoc rate to the constituents. AAC accepted the assessee’s contention and reversed the order of the ITO. However, the Tribunal restored the order of the ITO by holding that it was an entertainment expenditure. The learned counsel for the Revenue contended that in view of Expln. 2 to s. 37(2A), which also governs s. 37(2B), all such expenditures involved in these references, have to be considered as entertainment expenditure. According to the learned counsel, this explanation contains the exposition of the intention of the Parliament as to the meaning attributable to the term entertainment expenditure. This expect, according to the learned counsel, was not noticed in the earlier decisions of this Court and hence the basic question involved, requires reconsideration. To appreciate the problem, the relevant provisions in s. 37 have to be identified, such as, the amendments to its sub-s. (2A), additions to the Explanation and insertion of Expln. 2 and substitution of sub-s. (2B), which operated during those assessment years. Fortunately, during those assessment years, the relevant provisions were the same throughout. Sec. 37(1) provides for the grant of business expenditure as an allowance in computing the income chargeable under the head “Profits and gains of business or profession”. Sec. 37(2) puts a ceiling in the case of a company on the expenditure to be allowed which is in the nature of entertainment expenditure. Sec. 37(2A) was inserted with effect from 1st Oct., 1967, to govern the cases after 30th Sept., 1967, further restricting the allowance of expenditure. To this sub-section, an Explanation was added by the Finance Act, 1968, w.e.f. 1st April, 1968, which reads (we hope what we reproduce below is as per the original text) : “For the purposes of this sub-section ……. entertainment expenditure includes : (i) the amount of any allowance in the nature of entertainment allowance paid by the assessee to any employee or other person after the 20th day of July, 1968 : (ii) the amount of any expenditure in the nature of entertainment expenditure [not being expenditure incurred out of an allowance of the nature referred to in cl. (i)] incurred after the 29th day of July 1968, for the purposes of the business or profession of the assessee by any employee or other person. By Finance Act, 1970, the words “and sub-s. (2B)” were inserted in the opening clause, so that the Explanation would read as : “For the purpose of this sub-section and sub-s. (2B), entertainment expenditure includes : etc… Again, the said words “sub-s. (2B)” were omitted by the Finance Act, 1976 w.e.f. 1st April, 1977. However, for the purpose of these references, we have to read this Explanation as governing subs. (2B) also. By Finance Act 1983 (Act 11 of 1983), the above Explanation was made as Expln. 1 and thereafter Expln. 2 was inserted w.e.f. “1st day of April, 1976” (vide s. 17 of Finance Act,

1983). This Expln. 2 reads : “For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that for the purposes of this sub- section and sub-s. (2B), as it stood before the 1st day of April, 1977, entertainment expenditure “includes expenditure on provision of hospitality of every kind by the assessee to any person, whether by way of provision of food or beverages or in any other manner whatsoever and whether or not such provision is made by reason of any expressed or implied contract or custom or usage of trade, but does not include expenditure on food or beverages provided by the assessee to his employees in office, factory or other place of their work.” Sub-s. (2B) as was in force after 1st April, 1970 till 1st April, 1979 was as follows : “Notwithstanding anything contained in the section, no allowance shall be made in respect of expenditure in the nature of entertainment expenditure incurred within India by any assessee after 28th day of July, 1970.” Expln. 2 was actually not in the statute till it was inserted by the Finance Act 1983, however, it was inserted w.e.f. 1st April, 1976.

The learned counsel for the Revenue contended that the Expln. 2 was inserted “for the removal of doubts” and thereafter it declares that the meaning of the term “entertainment expenditure” for purposes of sub-s. (2A) and (2B) includes expenditure on provision of hospitality of every kind. Being a declaratory provision, the meaning attributed to the term “entertainment expenditure” by this provision should be understood as the real meaning of the term all along, even though the Explanation was inserted w.e.f. 1st April, 1976. The learned counsel pointed out that the date 1st April, 1977 was referred in this Expln. 2 to identify the sub-s. (2B), because, the said sub- section was substituted thereafter. by another provision; (after 1st April, 1977). Therefore, sub-s. (2B) which governed the assessment years commencing with 1st April, 1976 was the sub-section which was governed by this Explanation. When the Expln. 2 said “sub-s. (2B) as it stood before the 1st day of April, 1977”, it means, the sub- s. (2B) as it stood during all the years between 1st April, 1970 and 31st March, 1977.

The argument, no doubt is very attractive and tempting for acceptance, But, a fiscal legislation cannot be interpreted without reference to the language employed by the statute which brought it into existence. Unfortunately, the language of the Finance Act, 1983 is not truly reflected in Expln. 2. Sec. 17(a)(i) of the Finance Act 1983, amended the original sole Explanation to s. 37(2A) and thereafter proceeded under cl. (ii), which reads :

“The Explanation shall be numbered and shall be deemed to have been numbered w.e.f. 1st day of April, 1976 is Expln. 1 and after Expln. 1 as so numbered, the following explanation shall be inserted and shall be deemed to have been inserted with effect from the 1st day of April, 1976, namely…..” (Emphasis, italicised in print, supplied) Then came the Expln. 2. The source of Expln. 2 is s. 17 of the Finance Act, 1983. This Act, having created the Explanation engrafted it into s. 37 of the IT Act. The engrafting if effective as from 1st April, 1976. Therefore while reading Expln. 2, it is also necessary to read the said Explanation, as one w.e.f. 1st April, 1976. In other words, the removal of doubts made by and the declaration contained in Expln. 2 is w.e.f. 1st April, 1976. To repeat, s. 17(a)(ii) of the Finance Act states that the insertion of the Explanation shall be deemed to be w.e.f. 1st April, 1976.

12. The legislative practice of deeming a state of affairs, as in existence always is well known. If the intention of the Parliament was to attribute a wider meaning to the term entertainment expenditure from the date of the very inception of sub-s. (2B), s. 17 of the Finance Act, 1983 would have contained appropriate words to that effect. It could have simply mentioned the date 1st April, 1970 instead of 1st April, 1976, which introducing the 2nd Explanation.

13. When the statute, enacting an amendment or introducing a new provision, states that the provision is to be read “with effect from” a particular date, normally Court cannot travel beyond the said date along with the said provision, while interpreting the words used prior to the said date, unless, the natural meaning of the relevant words was totally ignored earlier and the newly added declaratory provision, embodies the ordinary and natural meaning of the said words. Explanation cuts down the scope of the allowable expenditure. It is in a taxing statute; it was introduced through another taxing Act. The meaning and effect of such a provision ought to be limited to the clear words used in the relevant provisions. The often quoted words of Rowlatt, J. are quite relevant here :

“In a taxing Act one has to look merely at what is clearly said. There is no room for any intendment. There is no equity about a tax. There is no presumption as to tax. Nothing is to be read in, nothing is to be implied. One can only look fairly at the language used.” (vide G.P. Singh. Principle of Statutory Interpretation 5th Edn., Page 456).

14. Mr. Gupta for the Revenue tried to lead us on a different path. According to the learned counsel. Explanation

2, is clarificatory in nature, declaratory in character, and explanatory in substance : therefore, it is not affected by any rule against retrospectivity; the Explanation brings into force the real meaning of the term “entertainment expenditure” and, therefore, should be read as if it was there all along. The learned counsel took us through a few decisions on this aspect: CIT vs. India Steamship Co. Ltd. (1992) 196 ITR 917 (Cal) is a decision of the Calcutta High Court. The Court was considering the scope of Expln. (8) to s. 43(1) of the Act, which declared that where any amount is paid or is payable as interest in connection with the acquisition of an asset, so much of such amount as is relatable to any period after such asset is first put to use shall not be included, and shall be deemed never to have been included, in the actual cost of such asset. In the year 1986 this Explanation was inserted with retrospective effect from 1st April, 1974. The Court held that the retrospectivity need not be confined to the period after 1st April, 1974, because, the Explanation was clarificatory in nature, intended to clear up any doubt or ambiguity as to the true meaning of the relevant provision. Therefore, this meaning was held as the true meaning governing the provision for the asst. yr. 1972-73 also. At page 935 the Court held : “The Explanation is a part of the main section and it clears the ambiguity, if any, in the main section. The Explanation cannot be read in isolation. The intention of adding the Explanation is that if anything is not clear in the main section, it shall be made clear by adding the Explanation. As indicated earlier, the Expln. 8 has been added in s. 43(1) of the Act. We have already extracted the Explanation and the reasons for insertion of the said Explanation. It is evident that the Explanation intends to clarify the position in law as regards the capitalisation of interest paid in connection with the acquisition of an asset after it has been put to use. We do not find any rhyme or reason in the declaration that the Explanation will come into force from 1st April, 1974. Obviously that is due to the fact that the judgment in J.K. Cotton Spinning & Weaving Mills Ltd. (1975) 98 ITR 153 (All) was rendered on 13th May, 1974, and, accordingly, it was made effective from 1st April, 1974. There is no logic behind the retroactive effect being given to the amendment from the asst. yr. 1974-75 when, admittedly, the treatment of interest is contrary to the established accountancy principles. The Explanation makes the clarification whereby what was implicit was made explicit. It cannot be that such Explanation will be effective only from a particular assessment year. The Explanation in itself does not, however, make any such provision. It says that, where any amount is paid or is payable as interest in connection with the acquisition of an asset, so much of such amount as is relatable to any period, after such asset is first put to use shall not be included, and shall be deemed never to have been included, in the actual cost of such asset. This clearly indicates that the intention of the legislature is not to apply this Explanation from a particular assessment year. Although the judgment of the Allahabad High Court in J.K. Cotton Spinning & Weaving Mills Ltd. (supra) was rendered in 13th May, 1974, we do not find any logic or reason or rationale behind making the Explanation effective from 1st April, 1974. We are, therefore, of the view that this explanation being clarificatory in nature and which intends to clear up any doubt or ambiguity must be deemed to be always in existence. It explains the meaning and intendment of the Act.

It is no doubt true that, ordinarily, a statute, and particularly when the same has been made applicable with effect from a particular date should be construed prospectively and not retrospectively. But this principle will not be applicable in a case where the provision construed is merely explanatory, clarificatory or declaratory. It cannot be disputed that the object of the Explanation is to explain the meaning and intendment of the Act itself.” There are three reasons for the above conclusion : (i) The treatment of interest was contrary to the established accounting principles; the true principle is that, where an asset is acquired out of borrowed funds, the interest paid or payable on such funds constitutes the cost of borrowings and not the cost of the asset. (ii) The explanation itself contained a deeming provision, whereby the relevant interest “shall never be deemed” to have been included in the actual cost of the asset; and (iii) the explanation was inserted w.e.f. 1st April, 1974, because of the judgment of the Allahabad High Court taking a contrary view for the first time on 13th May, 1974 and the said contrary view was taken in a few decisions subsequent to the said date. The situation in the instant case is not comparable to the above situation.

In Thiru Manickam & Co. vs. State of Tamil Nadu AIR 1977 SC 518, the Supreme Court held that an amendment which is by way of clarification of an earlier ambiguous provision can be useful aid in construing the earlier provision even though such amendment is not given retrospective effect. Independently of the amended provision, the Court came to the conclusion that refund of the sales-tax may be made to a dealer who sells goods in the course of inter-State trade, even though he did not himself pay the tax under the State Act, because, such a dealer would have purchased the goods at a price which included the sales-tax; the Court also referred to the relevant statutory rule governing the fact situation and thus found no ambiguity in the relevant provisions, prior to the amendment. The amendment, therefore, was considered as conveying the same, natural meaning attributable to the relevant provisions.

In CIT vs. Mohanlal Bhagwati Prosad (1993) 204 ITR 234 (Cal), the Court held that Explns. 2 and 3 of s. 40(b) of the Act are clarificatory in nature, and this was evident from the circular issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes; hence explanations were given retrospective effect by the Court. It should be noted here that a literal reading of s. 40(b) resulted in treating every kind of payment of interest, salary, bonus, commission or remuneration made by the firm, to the partners, as not deductible in computing the taxable income of the firm. This ignored bona fide payments and the different capacities in which the partners may receive the payment. In fact, this literal meaning of the words resulted in an unwarranted artificial situation, and therefore, when the Explanations were added to explain the real situation, Court thought it proper to apply those Explanations as giving the true meaning of s. 40(b) all along. In fact, one of us (K.S. Bhat, J.) is a party to a similar decision of the Karnataka High Court in CIT vs. Mangalore Ganesh Beedi Works (1992) 101 CTR (Kar) 128 : (1992) 193 ITR 77 (Kar).

After referring to the several decisions, the Karnataka High Court observed at page 87 : “We have quoted elaborately from several decisions to highlight the problem posed by the working of s. 40(b) without the Explanation now added to it. Again, as to the normal principle governing the Explanation, the Court held : “The normal principle in construing an Explanation is to understand it as explaining the meaning of the provision to which it is added; the Explanation does not enlarge or limit the provision, unless the Explanation purports to be a definition or a deeming clause; if the intention of the Legislature is not fully conveyed earlier or there has been a misconception about the scope of a provision, the Legislature steps in to explain the purport of the provision; such an Explanation has to be given effect to, as pointing out the real meaning of the provision all along.” In the instant case, the Expln. 2 in question, actually purports to be a provision defining the concept of entertainment expenditure, by including a few kinds of expenditures within its scope. Only because a provision attached to a section bears the nomenclature, as `Explanation’, it cannot always be considered as conveying the true and natural meaning of the words or the provisions of the Act. The meaning attributable to the relevant provisions of the Act without the Explanations shall have to be considered first, to find out whether, it created an artificial situation, or created ambiguity, and if so, the Explanation may be considered as having injected the true and real meaning to those provisions from the every inception of the provisions to which the Explanation is added. In CIT vs. S.R. Patton (1991) 92 CTR (Ker) 197 : (1992) 193 ITR 49 (Ker), the Kerala High Court was considering the effect of the Explanation to s. 9(i)(ii) of the Act. The Bench held at page 55 : “The mere use of the label “Explanation” is not decisive of the true meaning and scope of the provision. Ordinarily, the purpose of an Explanation in a statute is to clarify or explain or settle any doubt or ambiguity or controversy. It may even widen the scope of the main provision in rare cases. The words used alone can reflect the true intent and they should be construed on their own terms. In this regard, the context, background and history of the legislation may be looked into— See Aphali Pharmaceuticals Ltd. vs. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1989 SC 227 : 4 SCC 378, p. 393, paragraph 33—wherein the Supreme Court has analysed the entire law on the point.”

In CIT vs. P. Doraishwamy Chetty (1990) 86 CTR (SC) 192 : (1990) 183 ITR 559 (SC) the question was whether the husband was entitled to carry forward wife’s share of the loss when the Act includes wife’s share as the `income’ in the income of the husband. The Court held that the husband was entitled to carry forward such a loss, though during the relevant years, there was no specific provision. The Court posed the question at page 565 : “The basic question is whether the epression “income” in s. 64(1) includes “loss” also.” A similar provision in the earlier IT Act, 1922 had already been construed by the Supreme Court (without any similar explanation) in CIT vs. J.H. Gotla (1985) 48 CTR (SC) 363 : (1985) 156 ITR 323 (SC), wherein the Court held that the loss incurred by the wife could be taken into consideration in the hands of the husband for the purpose of carrying forward. It is in this background, the Court referred to the newly added Explanation as conveying the true meaning of the legislative intention. At page 566, the Court held : “The provisions dealt with in Gotla’s case (1985) 48 CTR (SC) 363 : (1985) 156 ITR 323 (SC) were, of course, the corresponding provisions of the 1922 Act. But the provisions of s. 64(1)(i) are substantially the same and the exposition of the law under the relevant provisions of the 1922 Act must be held to govern the corresponding provision under the 1961 Act as well. Expln. 2 inserted in s. 64 w.e.f. 1st April, 1980, though not retrospective in its operation, serves as the legislative exposition of the impor64(1)(i).” Though the Supreme Court looked into the Explanation, it had independently of it, construed the scope of the main section and followed the earlier ruling in Gotla’s case. The Supreme Court did not lay down any proposition that invariably, whenever an Explanation is added to a provision, it serves as the legislative exposition of the import of the provision. Keshavji Ravji & Co. vs. CIT (1990) 82 CTR (SC) 123 : (1990) 183 ITR 1 (SC) is also a decision of the Supreme Court. One of the questions that arose for consideration was whether Expln. 1 added to s. 40(b) of the Act in the year 1984 serves as the parliamentary exposition of the true purport of s. 40(b) or whether the said Explanation brought about a change in its meaning. This was considered at page 18 thus : “An Explanation, generally speaking, is intended to explain the meaning of certain phrases and expressions contained in a statutory provision. There is no general theory as to the effect and intendment of an explanation except that the purpose and intendment of the “Explanation” are determined by its own words. An Explanation, depending on its language, might supply or take away something from the contents of a provision. It is also true that an Explanation may—this is what Sri Ramachandran suggests in this case—be introduced by way of abundant caution in order to clear any mental cobwebs surrounding the meaning of a statutory provision spun by interpretative errors and to place what the legislature considers to be the true meaning beyond any controversy or doubt. Hypothetically, that such can be the possible purpose of an “Explanation” cannot be doubted. But the question is whether, in the present case, Expln. 1 inserted into s. 40(b) in the year 1984 has had that effect.

The “Notes on Clauses” appended to the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 1984, say that cl. 10 which seeks to amend s. 40 will take effect from 1st April, 1985, and will, accordingly, apply in relation to the asst. yr. 1985-86 and subsequent years. The express prospective operation and effectuation of the “Explanation” might, perhaps, be a factor necessarily detracting from any evincement of the intent on the part of the legislature that the Explanation was intended more as a legislative exposition or clarification of the existing law than as a change in the law as it then obtained.”

The above observation in no way advances the case of the Revenue before us. The effect to be given to an Explanatory amendment depends upon several factors, including its language. The concluding sentence in the above observation indicates that, when the legislature has made the Explanation operative prospectively by words expressed therein, its operation shall have to be confined to the future date. Same reasoning would govern the case when the Parliament limited the retrospectivity of the Explanation with effect from a particular date. In such a situation, giving further retrospectivity to the Explanation will be hijacking the intention of the legislature into an impermissible area.

The declaration and the clarification involved in the Expln. 2, are only for the purposes of assessments w.e.f. 1st April, 1976. This provision widens the concept of entertainment expenditure by including in its scope, such of the expenditures which are otherwise, traditionally understood as the routine business expenditures incurred in connection with the business hospitality. Therefore, the widened meaning cannot be extended to the past period when the amended Expln. 2 was not in operation.

Both, Mr. Aggarwal and Mr. Dua, the learned counsel for some of the assessees referred to the Notes on Clauses, attached to the Finance Bill, which introduced sub-s. (2B). The notes also state that the “amendment will take effect retrospectively from 1st April, 1976”. By the same amendment the allowable expenditure was also reduced by amending sub-s. (2A). Notes on clauses are found in 140 ITR (Statute) Pages 123 and 155.

The limited retrospectivity given to the declaratory and clarificatory provision in sub-s. (2B) seems to be deliberate and not accidental.

The questions referred to us in all these cases, therefore, are to be considered without reference to the Expln. 2 added to sub- s. (2A) of s. 37, which also covers sub-s. (2B).

18. In CIT vs. New Bank of India (1993) 109 CTR (Del) 288 : (1993) 201 ITR 878 (Del), the assessee was a commercial Bank. The assessee debited in its accounts certain sums by way of entertainment expenses, for the period relevant to the asst. yr. 1974-75. Most of this expense represented the expenditure incurred by the assessee in providing light refreshment like tea, cold drinks etc. to customers in the course of its business. Question was whether this expenditure was not in the nature of entertainment expenditure. The Bench followed the decision of the Gujarat High Court in CIT vs. Patel Bros & Co. Ltd. (1977) 106 ITR 424 (Guj) and of Bombay High Court in CIT vs. Shah Nanji Nagsi, 1978 CTR (Bom) 305 : (1979) 116 ITR 292 (Bom) and upheld the claim of the assessee to deduct such expenditure on customary courtesy extended to the customers, as not falling within the description of “entertainment expenditure”. Therefore, the expenditure did not fall within the bar enacted in s. 37(2B). This Court also referred to an earlier decision of this Court in Modi Spinning & Weaving Mills Co. Ltd. vs. CIT (1993) 109 CTR (Del) 40 : (1993) 200 ITR 544 (Del).

The question, again came up before this Court in Delhi Cloth & General Mills Co. Ltd. vs. CIT (1994) 118 CTR (Del) 109 : (1994) 208 ITR 785 (Del). In the said case, the expenses claimed as deduction by the assessee were incurred on providing transport by air, rail or road, boarding and lodging catering, decoration, shehnai, dance show etc. Some of the guests had come from abroad, and some from places outside Delhi to attend the inauguration ceremony at Kota. The expenses incurred were held as basically traditional. However, expenses incurred in providing alcoholic drinks and for dance show were held to be in the category of entertainment, but they were comparatively very small amount. Other expenses were held as not falling within the concept of entertainment expenses. In this connection, the Bench considered the concept of entertainment and `entertainment expenditure’ and pointed out that every act of entertainment includes hospitality but every act of hospitality does not constitute entertainment. One of us (D.K. Jain, J.) speaking for the Bench, held at page 792 : “Coming to the main question, the terms “entertainment” or “entertainment expenditure” have not been defined in the Act but these terms have been considered and interpreted by the Courts in the context of s. 37(2A) and (2B) of the Act. In CIT vs. Patel Bros. & Co. Ltd. (1977) 106 ITR 424 (Guj), the Gujarat High Court had the occasion to consider the question of allowability of an expenditure under s. 37(2A) and 37(2B) of the Act. The Court considered the meaning of the expressions “entertainment” and “hospitality” and came to the conclusion that every act of entertainment included hospitality but every hospitality did not constitute entertainment. The Court drew a fine distinction in the terms “hospitality” and “entertainment” and held that if the act of being hospitable consists of providing meals and drinks to : (i) employees as a term of service or engagement; and (ii) friends and strangers as a term and condition of contract or custom or usage of trade or by way of ordinary courtesy, it is not entertainment and such expenditure may be allowable and the bar of sub-s. (2B) would not apply. On the contrary, if the provision of food, drinks or any amusement to a client, customer or constituent is on a lavish and extravagant scale or is of wasteful nature, it would fall within the ambit of s. 37(2B) of the Act and could not be allowed as business expenditure. We are in respectful agreement with the view expressed by the Gujarat High Court in the said judgment. In fact, support is lent to this view by the legislature itself when we refer to the language of Expln. 2, wherein it is clarified that from 1st April, 1976, expenditure on provision of hospitality of every kind to any person is to be treated as “entertainment expenditure”, which, as a necessary corollary, would mean that this type of expenditure before 1st April, 1976, could be treated as a permissible deduction.” The Court also held that “there is little difference between the expression `entertainment expenditure’ and expenditure in the nature of entertainment”.

19. Thus, this Court has taken a consistent view regarding the answer to be given to the question raised. Expenditure incurred while extending a traditional hospitality to a customer has to be distinguished from the more ostensible expenses like arranging dances or serving alcoholic drinks. Offering a cup of coffee or tea, or soft drinks, with some snacks has been a customary hospitality found in almost all business and commercial establishments. In the case of Hotels (like Ashoka, Janpath, etc. run by India Tourism Development Corporation, the assessee in ITR No. 246 of 1977), offering free food or soft drinks or coffee, tea etc. is all the more customary. These hotels, not only serve beverages and food as in an ordinary restaurant, but, cater to large parties (like marriage parties or other functions) and provide other facilities to have the functions organised in their premises. To encourage the organisers or as a matter of routine courtesy, when the organisers come to book the premises and place orders for serving food, drinks etc., serving free food or soft drinks to the organisers cannot be considered as an act of `entertainment’. It will be stretching the ordinary meaning of the word `entertainment’ to hold that serving a cup of tea with snacks, is an act of entertainment. In this connection the Tribunal held, in the case of the assessee in ITR 246/77 : “In our view, in running top class hotels as in the instant case, it would become necessary occasionally to lose a part, to catch a whole. Delhi being the national metropolis, there is a large concentration here of special type of clientele e.g., the diplomatic cores. It is well known that this section of the population is prone to host lavish parties frequently. There are also numerous travel agents in the city who have a good business in arranging for various affluent grounds from abroad to visit India and to appeal sometime here as tourists. Hotels of the type run by the assessee would certainly be interested in cashing in on such opportunities provided by the embassies and the tourist trade. It is, therefore, not abnormal or unbusiness-like that these hotels should give a preview of their attractions to such prospective customers. We, therefore, see nothing wrong in the AAC looking upon such expenses, in the factual context of this case, more as sales promotion, plublioity or advertisement than as entertainment. It is true, that under these heads, entertainment expenses also might be included. The AAC has estimated the same at 1/5th and we do not see the estimate to be unreasonably low on the facts for this year.” We endorse this finding, since, the finding cannot be considered as unreasonable in the circumstances of the case.

In the result, the question referred in ITR I85/77 (wherein the reference is at the instance of the assessee), is answered in the negative and against the Revenue.

In other references, the questions are answered in the affirmative and against the Revenue. References answered accordingly.

No costs.

[Citation : 211 ITR 400]

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