DIT vs. Balaji Shipping UK Ltd (Bombay High Court)

DATE: (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: August 23, 2012 (Date of publication)

Click here to download the judgement (balaji_slot_hire_article_9.pdf)

Article 9: Income from “slot charter” is exempt as income from “operation of ships”

The assessee, a UK company, engaged in the international transportation of goods by sea, entered into Slot Hire Agreements with Orient Express Lines Mauritius (“OEL”), under which OEL provided container slot spaces to the assessee on its ships. Availing the slot hire facility, the assessee arranged for the transportation of the goods from ports in India to their international destinations. The assessee claimed that the income from the “slot hire charges” was exempt under Article 9 of the India-UK DTAA. The AO rejected the claim on the ground that Article 9 dealt with “income from the operation of ships” and that slot hire charges were not covered. However, the CIT(A) and the Tribunal allowed the claim. On appeal by the department to the High Court, HELD dismissing the appeal:

There is no distinction in principle between a slot charter and a voyage charter of a part of a ship. They are both in a sense charterers of a space in a ship. The phrase “operation of ships” in Article 9 must be understood in the context of the phrase “the business of operation of ships” in s. 44B. As income from slot hire agreements falls within s. 44B it must be held to be within the ambit of Article 9(1). Article 9 does not require the ship to be owned by an the assessee. It merely requires the income to be “from the operation of ships in international traffic”. A charter is certainly contemplated by Article 9 and an enterprise that controls the management/operation of the ship would be included in Article 9 even if it does not own the ship (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 178 Taxman 291 (Del) followed)

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