Punjab & Haryana H.C : Tribunal has no express power to review its earlier order

High Court Of Punjab And Haryana

Raja Malwinder Singh Vs. Commissioner Of Wealth-Tax

Assessment Year : 1972-73 to 1984-85

Section : 24

M. M. Kumar And H.S. Bhalla, JJ.

W.T. Appeal Nos. 7 To 19 Of 2003

January  20, 2009

JUDGMENT
 
M. M. Kumar, J.-This petition shall dispose of W.T. A. Nos. 7, 8 to 19 of 2003, as common question of law and facts have been raised. All the appeals have been preferred by the assessees under section 27A of the Wealth-tax Act, 1957 (for brevity “the Act”) against the order dated February 4, 2003 passed by the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Chandigarh Bench “B” (for brevity “the Tribunal”) in Wealth-tax Appeal Nos. 277 to 285/Chandi/91 for the assessment years 1972-73 to 1980-81, Wealth-tax Appeal No. 95/Chandi/90 for the assessment year 1981-82, Wealth-tax Appeal Nos. 286 to 288/Chandi/97 for the assessment years 1982-83 to 1984-85.

2. The assessee has claimed that the following questions of law would emerge from the impugned order of the Tribunal :

“(i) Whether in the facts and circumstances of the case, the order of the Tribunal dated February 4, 2003, is based on misappreciation of the prior findings of the same points and of facts and law involved in the case and liable to be set aside ?

(ii) Whether in the facts and circumstances of the case, the order of the Tribunal dated February 4, 2003 is legally sustainable ?

(iii) Whether in the facts and circumstances of the case, the classification of the residential property and lands appurtenant to the residential property for the purpose of valuation under the Wealth-tax Act and not valuing the residential property and lands appurtenant to the residential property as per the provisions of section 7(4) of the Wealth-tax Act is legally sustainable ?”

3. The brief facts of the case are that the appellant is an individual and belongs to the royal family of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Patiala. The Tribunal had initially decided these appeals on October 21, 1998. One of the common issues involved in these appeals has been about the valuation of the then residential property located at Leela Bhawan, Patiala, which has been used by the appellant as such. For the purpose of valuation, the Department had bifurcated the residential land bounded by four walls of the property into different segments and adopted different rates of land. The house has been in existence over the past 70 years and in the earlier years ending on March 31, 1970 and March 31, 1973, the Tribunal in Wealth-tax Appeal Nos. 275 and 276/Chandi/91 had adopted the uniform rate of land for the entire land within the boundary wall of the residential property.

4. In the earlier impugned order dated October 21, 1998, the Tribunal had considered the facts of the case and the arguments of both the parties. It then proceeded to hold in paragraph 2.7 that the value of the residential house and the land appurtenant to the residential house may be valued as per the provisions of section 7(4) of the Act. It would be necessary to peruse paragraph 2.7 of the order which reads as under :

“We have carefully considered the rival submissions and have perused the orders of the Departmental authorities. It is observed that the first prayer of the learned counsel is that the value of the residential house may be determined as on March 31, 1971, and its value may be frozen in terms of section 7(4) of the Wealth-tax Act. He has referred to the order of the Tribunal for the assessment years 1970-71 and 1971-72, whereby it held that the multiplier should have been the age of the building divided by the life of the building in terms of number of years and directed the Assessing Officer to allow depreciation on the said basis and work out the value of the property as on March 31, 1970 in respect of different portions, mentioned in the report. It is observed that the Commissioner of Wealth-tax (Appeals) has already held that the tubewell should be treated as a part of the residential house and its value be frozen as on April 1, 1971. Similarly, the Commissioner of Wealth-tax (Appeals) has directed that the boundary wall be treated as a part of the residential house and its value be frozen as on April 1, 1971. He has thus accepted in principle that value of certain assets which formed part of the residential house should be frozen as on April 1, 1971. The Department is not in appeal on this issue. Thus, having regard to the provisions of section 7(4), whereunder the value of a house belonging to the assessee and exclusively used by him for residential purposes throughout the period of twelve months immediately preceding the valuation date may at the option of the assessee be taken to be the price which, in the opinion of the Assessing Officer, it would fetch if sold in the open market on the valuation date next following the date on which he became the owner of the house or on the valuation date relevant to the assessment year commencing on April 1, 1971, whichever valuation date is later, and the aforesaid orders of the Commissioner of Wealth-tax (Appeals), we find force in the submission made by learned counsel. We, therefore, direct the Assessing Officer to work out the value of the residential house as on March 31, 1971, in the light of the aforesaid order of the Tribunal and adopt the same value for all the subsequent years under consideration.”

5. However, in paragraph 2.9 of the same order, the Tribunal proceeded to hold that the classification of land into different categories, area of land and valuation of land, is fair and reasonable. Therefore, the residential property and the land appurtenant to it be classified into different categories and so valued differently. It would also be necessary to reproduce in extenso paragraph 2.9, which reads as under :

“The further submission made by the learned counsel pertained to rate of land, area of land and classification. The assessee is agitated mainly about bifurcation of land into two categories with reference to adoption of rate of land. It has been urged that there was no change in the nature of the property or use and that the value as on March 31, 1971, may be adopted. In the written submissions, it is pointed out that the Valuation Officer reserved an area of 1,425 sq.yds. as land appurtenant to the residential house and the assessee represented to the Inspecting Assistant Commissioner that the total area covered was 2,706 sq. yds. and the property had metallic road measuring 981 meters and CC pavements measuring 1,135 meters and brick pavements measuring 1,239 meters, value whereof had been included in valuation of the property. The assessee is also agitated that oral representation was made to the Inspecting Assistant Commissioner, who assured to issue necessary instructions and the letter placed at page 77 of the paperbook Vol. 1 only confirms the said discussion and there was no agreement to the viewpoint of the Valuation Officer with reference to classification of land into categories 4 and 5. It is observed that in paragraph 2 of the said letter, it has been mentioned that the bifurcation between first two categories is imaginary and is not supported by any law. However, this matter has finally been settled at the time of discussion held by the undersigned with you in the presence of Sh. B. S. Dahia, Inspecting Assistant Commissioner, Central Range, Ludhiana, in the office of the Income-tax Officer, CC, Patiala. As regards commercial land, the same has already been sold and the assessee possesses only one plot measuring 577 sq. yds. The said letter has been written to the Valuation Officer on behalf of learned counsel and Sh. Jagmohan Singh. We feel that the reasoning given by the Commissioner of Wealth-tax (Appeals) for classification of land into different categories, area of land and valuation of land is not only based on the aforesaid letter but is otherwise fair and reasonable and his orders do not call for any interference. Apart from the reasons given by the Commissioner of Wealth-tax (Appeals), which have been upheld by us, the aforesaid letter on the part of learned counsel is nothing short of an agreement insofar as classification of land into different categories made by the Valuation Officer is concerned. It is also observed from paragraph 19 of the impugned order that in subsequent years, the assessee did convert lands appurtenant to residential house into commercial plots and sold them as such. The said observations had not been controverted before us.”

6. The assessee-appellant felt aggrieved by the apparent contradictions in paragraphs 2.7 and 2.9 of the order. Accordingly, miscellaneous applications were filed with the grievance that the observation in the aforesaid paragraphs were contrary to each other inasmuch as in paragraph 2.7, the Tribunal had taken note of the fact that the Department had conceded the tubewell and the boundary wall to be part of the residential property. The Tribunal then went on to make observations that the valuation of the properties should be frozen on April 1, 1971. However, in paragraph 2.9, the Tribunal had accepted the classification of land into different categories as made by the Valuation Officer by taking into consideration the letter of the assessee to which reference has been made in paragraph 2.9 of the order. Accordingly miscellaneous petitions filed were accepted by the Tribunal on February 1, 2002 by observing as under :

“On carefully going through the observations of the Bench made in paragraphs 2.7 and 2.9 of its order referred to by the assessee in these applications, we find that the observations regarding classification of land into different categories made by the Bench in paragraph 2.7 and 2.9 are contrary to each other because from the observations made in paragraphs 2.7, it appears that the residential house and land appurtenant thereto according to the Bench is to be valued as residential property whereas as per paragraph 2.9 it seems that the land appurtenant to residential house is to be valued at different rates as per the different categories of land classified by the Valuation Officer in his order. Since these two observations in paragraphs 2.7 and 2.9 are contrary, we are of the opinion that this mistake apparent from the record which has crept into the order of the Bench, requires to be rectified by recalling the order for the limited purpose of valuation of land appurtenant to the residential house. Accordingly all the above applications moved by the assessee are allowed and the orders passed in the abovementioned appeals, are hereby recalled for a limited purpose of determining the valuation of land appurtenant to the residential house in question.”

7. It is, thus, evident that the Tribunal recalled the order dated October 21, 1998 (P-3) for a limited purpose of determining the valuation of land appurtenant to the residential house in question.

8. When the appeals were listed for hearing, the same Bench of the Tribunal vide order dated February 4, 2003 concluded that there was no contradiction in the findings recorded by the Tribunal in paragraphs 2.7 and 2.9 of the order dated October 21, 1998. The view of the Tribunal is discernible from a perusal of paragraph 5.1, which reads as under :

“We have also observed that the issue raised before the Tribunal not only related to the value of residential house but also to the value of land. The total area covered by Leela Bhawan was 52,100 sq. yds. While valuing the residential house, the Valuation Officer had also allowed rebate at 20 per cent of the total area on account of providing road, pathways, etc., which required to be frozen as on April 1, 1971. Thus, the value of the land appurtenant to the residential house was taken at 13,689 sq. yds. The value of such land was held to be frozen because of section 7(4) of the Wealth-tax Act. As regards the remaining land, the Valuation Officer had categorized the same as commercial land and residential land sold in the subsequent years. Margin for providing roads, pathways, etc., was also provided. The said land was valued at different rates. Such bifurcation of the land and the value thereof was upheld by the Tribunal after taking into account the rival submissions made by both parties. This is clear from the finding recorded in paragraphs 2.9 and 2.10 of the aforesaid order. Thus, we do not find any merit in the submissions of the learned counsel that there was contradiction in the findings recorded by the Tribunal in paragraphs 2.7 and 2.9 of its aforesaid order. In fact, the land merits in paragraph 2.9 of the aforesaid order has not been treated and considered as part of the residential house. We, therefore, do not find any ambiguity or contradiction in the aforesaid finding of the Tribunal. Therefore, the finding recorded by the Tribunal does not call for any modification. We order accordingly.”

9. Mr. Akshay Bhan, learned counsel for the appellant, has argued that contradiction in the impugned order dated February 4, 2003 (P-5) is writ large. According to the learned counsel, the approach of the same Bench of the Tribunal is very strange inasmuch as at one time it has concluded that paragraphs 2.7 and 2.9 are contradictory to each other and later it refuses to accept any contradiction. Learned counsel has maintained that both things cannot be right and the mutually destructive approach cannot be permitted in the orders of the Tribunal. He has submitted that the impugned order in fact amounts to reviewing the order dated February 1, 2002 and dismissal of the miscellaneous petitions filed by the assessee which have been earlier allowed.

10. Ms. Urvashi Dugga, learned State counsel for the Revenue has attempted to support the impugned order and has argued that the value of the land appurtenant to the residential house Leela Bhawan belonging to the assessee was taken to be 13,689 sq. yds. The value of the land was held to be frozen by taking into account section 7(4) of the Wealth-tax Act. The remaining land has been categorized as commercial land and residential land sold in subsequent years. The aforesaid land was valued at different rates. However, the learned State counsel has not been able to clarify and explain the apparent contradiction in paragraph 2.7 which clearly states that the value of the residential house and land appurtenant to it was to be made as per the provisions of section 7(4) of the Act. Whereas in paragraph 2.9, the Tribunal has asked for the classification of the land into two different categories.

11. Having heard the learned counsel for the parties, we are of the view that the Tribunal has not proceeded on a sound reasoning. It amounts to blowing hot and cold in the same breath. It has come on record in the order dated February 1, 2002 (P-4) that in paragraph 2.7 and paragraph 2.9, there are mutual contradictions which were required to be reconciled. The aforesaid contradictions were pointed out at the instance of the assessee when he filed miscellaneous petitions. However, when the main appeals were taken up, the Tribunal recorded a finding that there was, in fact, no contradiction which would be evident from the perusal of paragraph 5.1. The Tribunal has recorded “we do not find any merit in the submissions of the learned counsel that there was contradiction in the findings recorded by the Tribunal in paragraphs 2.7 and 2.9 of its order”. We cannot endorse this line of reasoning. The same paragraphs of the order dated October 21, 1998, were found to be contradictory by the same Bench of the Tribunal in its order dated February 1, 2002 and it changes its view on February 4, 2003, by stating that there was no contradiction.

12. The approach adopted by the Tribunal in the impugned order smacks of review of the earlier order passed on February 1, 2002. There is no express power of review and therefore the impugned order is not sustainable in the eyes of law. We are further of the view that the Tribunal should have made efforts to reconcile paragraphs 2.7 and 2.9 figuring in the order dated October 21, 1998, instead of writing a perfunctory order. We wish that the Tribunal should have applied its mind closely to the whole controversy and had creased out paragraphs 2.7 and 2.9 in the order dated October 21, 1998.

13. In view of the above, the order dated February 4, 2003 is set aside. The Tribunal is directed to reconsider the matter in accordance with law and decide the issues on the merits. The needful shall be done within a period of three months as the issue pertains to the assessment years of 1971-72 onwards.

14. The appeals stand disposed of in the above terms.

[Citation : 334 ITR 115]

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