DCIT vs. Ace Multi Axes Systems Ltd (Supreme Court)

CORAM: , ,
DATE: December 5, 2017 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: December 7, 2017 (Date of publication)
AY: -
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S. 80-IB: The incentive meant for small scale industrial undertakings cannot be availed by undertakings which do not continue as small scale industrial undertakings during the relevant period. Each assessment year is a different assessment year. The fact that the object of legislature is to encourage industrial expansion does not mean that the incentive should remain applicable even where on account of industrial expansion, the small scale industrial undertakings ceases to be small scale industrial undertakings. The fact that in the initial year eligibility was satisfied is irrelevant

The Supreme Court had to consider the following question in an appeal filed by the Department:

“When once the eligible business of an assessee is given the benefit of deduction under Section 80 IB on the assessee satisfying the conditions mentioned in sub-sec. (2) of Section 80 IB, can the assessee be denied the benefit of the said deduction on the ground that during the said 10 consecutive years, it ceases to be a small scale industry?”

HELD by the Supreme Court:

(i) Section 80 IB is in Chapter VI A of the Act which provides for deductions to be allowed from total income which is to be computed under the relevant provisions. The scheme is to provide incentives for purposes mentioned in different provisions of the said Chapter. Section 80 IB provides for deductions of specified percentage from the profits and gains of the specified industrial undertakings other than infrastructure development undertakings (which are separately dealt with under Section 80 IA). The clause relevant for purposes of this appeal is Clause 2 which makes the deductions permissible in respect of industrial undertakings fulfilling the conditions specified therein. The scheme applies to small scale industrial undertakings as defined in Clause 14(g) which in terms refers to Section 11 B of the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951. The extent of deduction permissible is mentioned in Clause 3 which is 25% (30% in the case of a company) of the profits and gains derived from such industrial undertakings for 10 consecutive assessment years beginning with the initial assessment. The ‘initial assessment year’ is defined in Clause 14 (c) as the year in which manufacturing/production commences.

(ii) As already noted, the question for consideration is whether deduction under Clause 3 for 10 consecutive assessment years remains permissible irrespective of compliance of conditions subject to which the said deduction is permitted in the relevant assessment years. For purposes of deduction, the industrial undertakings covered by Section 80 IB are of different categories. Under the second proviso to Clause 2, disqualification applicable to industrial undertaking, other than small scale industrial undertakings, i.e., not being in 8th Schedule is not applicable. The small scale industrial undertakings eligible are only those which begin manufacture or produce, articles or things during the beginning of 1st day of April, 1995 and ending on 31st day of March, 2002 [Clause 3(ii)]. For other categories of industrial undertakings, different periods are prescribed, e.g. under sub-clause (i) of Clause (3).

(iii) The scheme of the statute does not in any manner indicate that the incentive provided has to continue for 10 consecutive years irrespective of continuation of eligibility conditions. Applicability of incentive is directly related to the eligibility and not de hors the same. If an industrial undertaking does not remain small scale undertaking or if it does not earn profits, it cannot claim the incentive. No doubt, certain qualifications are required only in the initial assessment year, e.g. requirements of initial constitution of the undertaking. Clause 2 limits eligibility only to those undertakings as are not formed by splitting up of existing business, transfer to a new business of machinery or plant previously used. Certain other qualifications have to continue to exist for claiming the incentive such as employment of particular number of workers as per sub-clause 4(i) of Clause 2 in an assessment year. For industrial undertakings other than small scale industrial undertakings, not manufacturing or producing an article or things specified in 8th Schedule is a requirement of continuing nature.

(iv) On examination of the scheme of the provision, there is no manner of doubt that incentive meant for small scale industrial undertakings cannot be availed by industrial undertakings which do not continue as small scale industrial undertakings during the relevant period. Needless to say, each assessment year is a different assessment year, except for block assessment

(v) The observations in the impugned order are that the object of legislature is to encourage industrial expansion which implies that incentive should remain applicable even where on account of industrial expansion small scale industrial undertakings ceases to be small scale industrial undertakings. We are unable to appreciate the logic for these observations. Incentive is given to a particular category of industry for a specified purpose. An incentive meant for small scale industrial undertaking cannot be availed by an assessee which is not such an undertaking. It does not, in any manner, mean that the object of permitting industrial expansion is defeated, if benefit is not allowed to other undertakings. On this logic, incentive must be given irrespective of any condition as the incentive certainly helps further expansion by reducing the tax burden. The concept of vertical equity is well known under which all the assessees need not be uniformally taxed. Progressive taxation is a well known element of tax policy. Higher slabs of tax or higher tax burden on an assessee having higher income or higher capacity cannot in any manner, be considered unreasonable.

(vi) The principle of law considered in Bajaj Tempo (1992) 196 ITR 188 (SC) = (1992) 3 SCC 78 is certainly a valid principle of interpretation where there is ambiguity or absurdity or where conditions of eligibility are substantially complied. In the present case, the scheme of the statute is clear that the incentive is applicable to a small scale industrial undertaking. The intention of legislature is in no manner defeated by not allowing the said incentive if the assessee ceases to be the class of industrial undertaking for which the incentive is provided even if it was eligible in the initial year. Each assessment year is a separate unit.

(vii) In Citizen Cooperative Society Limited versus Assistant Commissioner of Income Tax, Circle-9(1), Hyderabad 391 ITR 1 = (2017) 9 SCC 364 this Court considered the incentive under Section 80-P meant for a primary agricultural credit society or a primary cooperative agricultural and rural development bank. The assessee was held not to be entitled to the said incentive as business of the assessee was held to be finance business to which the incentive was not 2 391 ITR 1 = (2017) 9 SCC 364 21 admissible even though the principle of liberal interpretation in terms of Bajaj Tempo (supra) was applied.

(viii) In State of Haryana versus Bharti Teletech Ltd.3, eligibility of an assessee to get benefit of exemption from tax was an issue. It was observed that while the exemption notification should be liberally construed, the beneficiary must fall within the ambit of the exemption and fulfill the conditions thereof. In case such conditions are not fulfilled, the issue of application of the notification does not arise.

(ix) In view of the above judgments, we do not see any difference in the situation where the assessee, is not initially eligible, or where the assessee though initially eligible loses the qualification of eligibililty in subsequent assessment years. In both such situations, principle of interpretation remains the same.

(x) Thus, while there is no conflict with the principle that interpretation has to be given to advance the object of law, in the present case, the assessee having not retained the character of ‘small scale industrial undertaking’, is not eligible to the incentive meant for that category. Permitting incentive in such case will be against the object of law.

(xi) For the above reasons, we hold that the assessee is not entitled to benefit of exemption if it loses its eligibility as a small scale industrial undertaking in a particular assessment year even if in initial year eligibility was satisfied.

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