High Court Of Kerala
CIT vs. Victory Aqua Farm Ltd.
Sections 32, 43(3)
Asst. Year 1994-95
S. Sankarasubban & Pius C. Kuriakose, JJ.
IT Appeal No. 82 of 2000
14th October, 2004
P.K.R. Menon & George K. George, for the Appellant : C. Kochunny Nair & Dale P. Kurien, for the Respondent
S. Sankarasubban, J. :
This appeal is filed by the CIT, Trivandrum. The assessee is a company doing business in aqua culture. Prawns are grown in specially designed ponds. According to the assessee, prawn ponds are tools to the business of the assessee and hence the same constitute âplantâ eligible for depreciation at the rates applicable to plant and machinery. The AO disallowed the claim of the assessee. The assessee went in appeal before the CIT(A). The CIT in view of the Full Bench decision of this Court in the case of CIT vs. Hotel Luciya (1998) 147 CTR (Ker)(FB) 322 : (1998) 231 ITR 492 (Ker)(FB) held that prawn pond should be treated as âplantâ and depreciation applicable to plant should be allowed. Against that order, the Revenue went in appeal before the Tribunal. The Tribunal applying the functional test laid down by the Kerala High Court in Hotel Luciyaâs case (supra) decided the issue in favour of the assessee and dismissed the appeal of the Revenue. The Tribunal held that depreciation on prawn ponds has to be allowed at the rate applicable to plant and machinery. According to the Revenue, the decision of the Tribunal is not correct. It is stated that the Supreme Court has in the case of CIT vs. Anand Theatres, Etc., Etc. (2000) 160 CTR (SC) 492, reversed the judgment of the Kerala High Court in (1998) 147 CTR (Ker)(FB) 322 : (1998) 231 ITR 492 (Ker) (FB) (supra) and has held that theatre building is not a plant. Applying the ratio of this decision, prawn ponds cannot be treated as a plant eligible for depreciation at the rate applicable to plant and machinery. It is against the above order that this appeal is filed. The Tribunal held that the prawn pond is a plant. The Tribunal held that the decision reported in Siemens India Ltd. vs. CIT (1995) 126 CTR (Bom) 282 cannot be applied in this case. According to Tribunal, as held by the Bombay High Court, the item would not qualify to be âplantâ even if it satisfies the “functional test”, if on application of “premises test” it is found to be used as or part of the premises or place upon which the business was conducted. In that case, a large number of items numbering 74, which include even stools, cycles, storage racks, wooden top, workman tables, etc. were classified by the assessee itself as “furniture and fixtures”. The assessee later reclassified the above items as âplantâ and development rebate was claimed in respect thereof. The reclassification was not accepted either by the taxing authority or by the Tribunal on the ground that the above items did not constitute âplantâ. The High Court upheld the view of the Department and the Tribunal. The Tribunal took the view that the decision of the Bombay High Court does not apply to the case of the assessee as it is distinguishable. It dismissed the appeal filed by the Revenue.
The question that arises is whether the pond is a plant. In CIT vs. Anand Theatres (supra), the Supreme Court held as follows : “Sec. 32 provides different rates of depreciation for building, machinery, plant or furniture, ships, buildings used for hotels, aeroplanes and other items mentioned therein. The word âplantâ is given an inclusive meaning under s. 43(3) which nowhere includes buildings. The rules prescribing the rates of depreciation specifically provide for grant of depreciation on buildings, furniture and fittings, machinery and plants and ships. Machinery and plant include cinematograph films and other films and other items and “building” is further given a meaning to include roads, bridges, culverts, wells and tube wells. For a building used as a hotel, there is a specific provision in s. 32 (1)(v) for granting additional depreciation allowance at specified rates depending upon fulfillment of the conditions mentioned therein. In the context of the legislative scheme under s. 32, even though the word âplantâ may include building or structure in certain set of circumstances as per the dictionary meaning, to say that a building used for running the business of hotel or a cinema would be “plant” under the Act would be inconsistent with the provisions of s. 32 and the legislative intent.” The Supreme Court further held as follows : “There is well-established distinction, in general terms, between the premises in which the business is carried on and the plant with which the business is carried on. The premises are not plant. It is proper to consider the function of the item in dispute. If it functions as part of the premises it is not plant. The fact that the building in which a business is carried on is by its construction particularly well-suited to the business, or indeed was specially built for that business, does not make it plant. Its suitability is simply the reason why the business is carried on there. But it remains the place in which the business is carried on and is not something with which the business is carried on except in some rare cases where it plays on essential part in the operations which take place. Hotel premises are not considered to be an apparatus or tool for running the hotel business but are merely a shelter or home or setting, in which business is carried on . The same would be the position with regard to a theatre in which cinema business is carried on. Therefore, even the functional test is not satisfied.”
In another decision reported in CIT vs. Karnataka Power Corporation (2000) 162 CTR (SC) 249 : (2001) 247 ITR 268 (SC), the Supreme Court held as follows : “The question whether a building can be treated as plant, basically, is a question of fact and where it is found as a fact that a building has been so planned and constructed as to serve an assesseeâs special technical requirements, it will qualify to be treated as a plant for the purposes of investment allowance. Accordingly, it was held that there was a finding by the fact-finding authority that the assesseeâs generating station building was so constructed as to be an integral part of its generating system. It was “plant” entitled to investment allowance.” In CIT vs. Victory Acqa Farm Ltd. (2003) 182 CTR (Ker) 193, a Division Bench of this Court held that pond cannot be treated as plant and is not eligible for depreciation at the rate applicable to plant and machinery. This was stated following the decision in CIT vs. Anand Theatres (supra).
4. In order to keep the water at the required level for the purpose of breeding shrimps and prawns, the pond is a must. The breeding of fish cannot be carried on within the ponds. As referred to by the Tribunal, water plays the role of a machine just like a timber merchant. If the timber merchant requires a sawing machine to cut and shape the log, such sawing machine constitutes a plant for him. Water in the case of the assessee plays same role. Water has to be stored within the ponds. Therefore, the ponds also constitute part of the machinery in the business of the assessee. Learned counsel for the Revenue submitted that it was only a natural pond. It is not correct. According to us, the decision in CIT vs. Victory Acqa Farm Ltd. (supra) was presumed to be covered as per the decision of the Supreme Court in CIT vs. Anand Theatres (supra). According to us, in the facts and circumstances of the case, the Tribunal was right in holding that the pond is a plant and hence, entitled to statutory depreciation. Appeal is dismissed.
[Citation : 271 ITR 530]