S.C : This appeal by certificate granted by the High Court of Madras is directed against the judgment of the High Court disposing of a reference in favour of the assessee and against the Revenue

Supreme Court Of India

CIT vs. South Arcot District Cooperative Marketing Society Ltd.

Section 80P

Asst. Year 1961-62

R.S. Pathak, C.J. & Ranganath Mishra, J.

Civil Appeal No. 1839 of 1975

25th January, 1989

Counsel Appeared

Dr. V. Gauri Shankar with Miss A. Subhasini for the Revenue : J. Ramamurthi with A.T.M. Sampath, for the Assessee

PATHAK, C.J.:

This appeal by certificate granted by the High Court of Madras is directed against the judgment of the High Court disposing of a reference in favour of the assessee and against the Revenue.

2. The respondent-assessee is a co-operative society registered under the Madras Co-operative Societies Act. The assessee entered into an agreement with the State Government during the previous year ending 30th June, 1960, relevant to the asst. yr. 1961-62, whereby the assessee agreed to hold a stock of ammonium sulphate belonging to, and on behalf of, the State Government, and to store it in godowns which, admittedly, belonged to the assessee. Under the agreement, the assessee was required further to take all necessary steps to enable such stocking and storage of the fertiliser, including taking delivery of the stock at the rail-head and transporting it to the godowns. During the previous year relevant to the asst. yr. 1961-62, the assessee received a sum of Rs. 31,316 on this account, the amount being described as commission.

In the assessment proceedings for the asst. yr. 1961-62, the assessee claimed exemption from tax under s. 14(3)(iv) of the Indian IT Act, 1922, in respect of the said sum of Rs. 31,316. The ITO denied the exemption, and on appeal, the AAC confirmed the denial. But, on second appeal by the assessee, the Tribunal held that the various terms of the agreement with the State Government constituted consideration for letting the godowns, and that any servicing done in that connection represented an insignificant part of the entire transaction. In the result, the Tribunal allowed the appeal and granted the exemption claimed by the assessee. At the instance of the Revenue, the Tribunal referred the following questions to the High Court of Madras:

“1. Whether, on the facts and in the circumstances of the case, the sum of Rs. 31,316 received by the assessee-society from the Madras Government under an agreement for stocking and distribution of ammonium sulphate was exempt under s. 14(3)(iv) of the Indian IT Act,1922 ?

Whether, on the construction of the agreement between the assessee and the State Government, the Tribunal’s finding that the receipts were mostly for letting out the godowns and that the servicing was an insignificant portion of the whole amount is reasonable and consistent with the material on record ?”

The High Court endorsed the view taken by the Tribunal and answered the reference against the Revenue and in favour of the assessee.

We have considered the matter carefully and to our mind, it seems clear that the Tribunal and the High Court are right in the view adopted by them. As was observed by the Gujarat High Court in CIT vs. Ahmedabad Maskati Cloth Dealers Co-operative Warehouses Society Ltd. (1986) 50 CTR (Guj) 283 : (1986) 162 ITR 142 (Guj) : TC26R.843, while considering the analogous provision of s. 80P(2)(e) of the IT Act, 1961, the provision for exemption was intended to encourage co-operative societies to construct warehouses which were likely to be useful in the development of rural economy and exemption was granted from income-tax in respect of income derived from the letting of such warehouses for the storage of fertilisers and other related commodities concerned with co-operative marketing. Having regard to the object with which the provision has been enacted, it is apparent that a liberal construction should be given to the language of the provision and that, therefore, in the circumstances of the present case, it must be regarded that what the assessee did was to let out its godowns for the purpose of storing the ammonium sulphate handed over to it by the State Government. The remaining services performed by the assessee were merely incidental to the essential responsibility of using the godowns for the storage of that stock. It is true that a certain sum was paid to the assessee and described as commission for the services performed by it, but having regard to the totality of the circumsntances and to the true substance of the agreement, it seems to us plain that the amount was paid merely by way of remuneration for the use of the goowns. In the result, the assessee is entitled to the exemption claimed by it.

5. Accordingly, the appeal fails and is dismissed. There is no order as to costs.

[Citation : 176 ITR 117]

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