Madras H.C : whether the Tribunal was right in law in holding that the compensation of Rs. 1,00,000 received by the applicants/assessees from Shri Annapoorna Gowrishankar Hotels (P) Ltd. during the previous year ended 31st March, 1986, relevant to the asst. yr. 1986-87 constitute a revenue receipt assessable as income of the applicants.

High Court Of Madras

K. Ramasamy vs. CIT

Sections 4

Asst. Year 1986-87

R. Jayasimha Babu & K. Raviraja Pandian, JJ.

Tax Case Nos. 263 to 265 of 1997

25th September, 2002

Counsel Appeared

R. Meenakshisundaram, for the Applicant : T.C.A. Ramanujam, for the Respondent

ORDER

R. JAYASIMHA BABU, J. :

The question referred to us at the instance of the assessee is, as to whether the Tribunal was right in law in holding that the compensation of Rs. 1,00,000 received by the applicants/assessees from Shri Annapoorna Gowrishankar Hotels (P) Ltd. during the previous year ended 31st March, 1986, relevant to the asst. yr. 1986-87 constitute a revenue receipt assessable as income of the applicants.

2. The assessees were partners in the firm viz., M/s K. Damodaraswamy Naidu & Bros, which firm was carrying on business of running a chain of hotels under the name Annapoorna and Gowrishankar in the city of Coimbatore. On 5th July, 1984, the brothers formed a new company viz., Shri Annapoorna Gowrishankar Hotels (P) Ltd. The business of the hotel was leased to the newly formed company on 16th July, 1984, for a year exceeding Rs. 40 lakhs. On the same day, the company also entered into an agreement with the four brothers and it was styled as a deed of compensation under which the company agreed to pay a further sum of Rs. 20 lakhs payable in five equal instalments to the four brothers as consideration for their promise not to carry on the business or running hotels individually or in association with others in or around Coimbatore for a period of five years. The four brothers to whom compensation was to be paid were also the shareholders and directors of the newly formed company. On behalf of the company one of the brothers signed the agreement as a director. The claim by the brothers that the amount paid to them under the deed of compensation is a capital receipt, and not a revenue receipt did not find favour with the AO, CIT, as also the Tribunal, all the whom took the view that the totality of the circumstances would show that the payment of so-called compensation was in fact additional payment made to four brothers by the company which they owned and controlled and which company continued to carry on the very business which had hitherto been carried on by the four brothers as partners of the firm.

Learned counsel for the assessees pointed out that the Tribunal has held that the company is a genuine legal entity, and that the lease between the firm and the company is also genuine. It also further held that the deed of compensation was a genuine transaction, and that the consideration for the payment made by the company to the brothers was real. Counsel also submitted that the Tribunal should not have, after so holding, tried to pierce the veil of the company with a view to ascertain as to who the shareholders and directors were. Counsel submitted that the company had entered into that agreement with a view to protect itself from possible future competition from one or more of the brothers who had run these hotels earlier as partners of the firm, and that the payment so made a payment warranted by genuine business considerations. The assessee in these cases are partners in the firm which owned the buildings, equipments and also ran the hotels Annapoorna and Gowrishankar. Those same brothers floated a new company in which all of them were shareholders and all of whom together controlled the company and all of whom as directors also managed the company. Consequent to the lease entered into between the firm and the company, the company became entitled to run the business of the hotel, the ownership of the buildings and the equipment being retained by the firm. Despite the formation of the company and that agreement, the persons who ran the business in reality were the same. Instead of running the business of the hotels as partners of the firm, those same persons controlled and directed the hotel business as shareholders and directors of the company. The participation of the brothers in the running of the hotel business continued even after the formation of the company. The position of the brothers, therefore, did not charge in substance after the company was formed and the company was given a right to run the business. For the purpose of deciding the true character of the payment made by the company to the brothers, one must take note of the aforementioned facts. Having regard to the totality of the circumstances, piercing the veil of the company was a permissible exercise which the Tribunal undertook. It is well settled that the formation of a company and registration under the Companies Act does not preclude the lifting of the veil, particularly, where matters of taxation are concerned, if the circumstances of the case so warrant

The finding that the payment made by the company to these brothers is in the nature of revenue receipt in the hands of the brothers, would not negate the separate juristic existence of the company. The company continues to remain a legal entity with a right to hold property to contract, etc. The true character of the payment made by it to these brothers who are shareholders and directors and who as partners of the firm own the buildings and the equipment used by the company for running the hotel, has to be judged by looking at the reality after removing or piercing the veil of the company, as the circumstances of the case justify such an exercise. The purpose of the deed of compensation in reality was only to screen the payment made under that deed from liability to income-tax in the hands of the assessees. The Supreme Court in the case of Juggilal Kamalapat vs. CIT (1969) 73 ITR 702 (SC) held that in cases where the same persons entered into transactions though by introducing a corporate personality into some of those transactions, the IT authorities are entitled to pierce the veil of the corporate personality and look at the reality of the transaction. The Court in that case observed : “It is true that from juristic point of view the company is a legal personality entirely distinct from its members and the company is capable of enjoying rights and being subjected to duties which are not the same as those enjoyed or borne by its members. But in certain exceptional cases the Court is entitled to lift the veil of the corporate entity and to pay regard to the economic realities behind the legal facade.”

9. Our answer to the question referred is, therefore, in favour of the Revenue, and against the assessee.

[Citation : 261 ITR 358]

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