Fibre Boards (P) Ltd vs. CIT (Supreme Court)

DATE: August 11, 2015 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: August 12, 2015 (Date of publication)
AY: 1991-92
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S. 54G does not require that the machinery etc has to be acquired in the same AY in which the transfer takes place. It is sufficient if the capital gain is “utilized” towards purchase of P&M by giving advances to suppliers. Section 24 of the General Clauses Act applies also to ‘omissions’ along with `repeals’ and saves rights given by subordinate legislation

The assessee, a private limited company, had an industrial unit at Majiwada, Thane, which was a notified urban area. With a view to shift its industrial undertaking from an urban area to a non-urban area at Kurukumbh Village, Pune District, Maharashtra, it sold its land, building and plant and machinery situated at Majiwada, Thane to Shree Vardhman Trust for a consideration of Rs.1,20,00,000/-, and after deducting an amount of Rs.11,62,956/-, had earned a capital gain of Rs.1,08,33,044/-. Since it intended to shift its industrial undertaking from an urban area to a non-urban area, out of the capital gain so earned, the appellant paid by way of advances various amounts to different persons for purchase of land, plant and machinery, construction of factory building etc. Such advances amounted to Rs.1,11,42,973/- in the year 1991-1992. The appellant claimed exemption under Section 54G of the Income Tax Act on the entire capital gain earned from the sale proceeds of its erstwhile industrial undertaking situate in Thane in view of the advances so made being more than the capital gain made by it. The AO & CIT(A) rejected the claim though the Tribunal upheld it. The High Court reversed the Tribunal and held that as the notification declaring Thane to be an urban area stood repealed with the repeal of the Section under which it was made, the appellant did not satisfy the basic condition necessary to attract Section 54G, namely that a transfer had to be made from an urban area to a non urban area. Further, the expression “purchase” in Section 54G cannot be equated with the expression “towards purchase” and, therefore, admittedly as land, plant and machinery had not been purchased in the assessment year in question, the exemption contained in Section 54G had to be denied. On appeal by the assessee HELD reversing the High Court:

(i) On a conjoint reading of the aforesaid Budget Speech, notes on clauses and memorandum explaining the Finance Bill of 1987, it becomes clear that the idea of omitting Section 280ZA and introducing on the same date Section 54G was to do away with the tax credit certificate scheme together with the prior approval required by the Board and to substitute the repealed provision with the new scheme contained in Section 54G. It is true that Section 280Y(d) was only omitted by the Finance Act, 1990 and was not omitted together with Section 280ZA. However, we agree with learned counsel for the appellant that this would make no material difference inasmuch as Section 280Y(d) is a definition Section defining “urban area” for the purpose of Section 280ZA only and for no other purpose. It is clear that once Section 280ZA is omitted from the statute book, Section 280Y(d) having no independent existence would for all practical purposes also be “dead”. Quite apart from this, Section 54G(1) by its explanation introduces the very definition contained in Section 280Y(d) in the same terms. Obviously, both provisions are not expected to be applied simultaneously and it is clear that the explanation to Section 54G(1) repeals by implication Section 280Y(d).

(ii) From a reading of the notes on clauses and the Memorandum of the Finance Bill, 1990, it is clear that Section 280Y(d) which was omitted with effect from 1.4.1990 was so omitted because it had become “redundant”. It was redundant because it had no independent existence, apart from providing a definition of “urban area” for the purpose of Section 280ZA which had been omitted with effect from the very date that Section 54G was inserted, namely, 1.4.1988. We are, therefore, of the view that the High Court in not referring to Section 24 of the General Clauses Act has fallen into error.

(iii) It is clear that even an implied repeal of a statute would fall within the expression “repeal” in Section 6 of the General Clauses Act. This is for the reason given by the Constitution Bench in M.A. Tulloch & Co. that only the form of repeal differs but there is no difference in intent or substance. If even an implied repeal is covered by the expression “repeal”, it is clear that repeals may take any form and so long as a statute or part of it is obliterated, such obliteration would be covered by the expression “repeal” in Section 6 of the General Clauses Act.

(iv) On omission of Section 280ZA and its re-enactment with modification in Section 54G, Section 24 of the General Clauses Act would apply, and the notification of 1967, declaring Thane to be an urban area, would be continued under and for the purposes of Section 54A.

(v) A reading of Section 54G makes it clear that the assessee is given a window of three years after the date on which transfer has taken place to “purchase” new machinery or plant or “acquire” building or land. We find that the High Court has completely missed the window of three years given to the assessee to purchase or acquire machinery and building or land. This is why the expression used in 54G(2) is “which is not utilized by him for all or any of the purposes aforesaid….”. It is clear that for the assessment year in question all that is required for the assessee to avail of the exemption contained in the Section is to “utilize” the amount of capital gains for purchase and acquisition of new machinery or plant and building or land. It is undisputed that the entire amount claimed in the assessment year in question has been so “utilized” for purchase and/or acquisition of new machinery or plant and land or building.

(vi) The aforesaid construction by the High Court of Section 54G would render nugatory a vital part of the said Section so far as the assessee is concerned. Under sub-section (1), the assessee is given a period of three years after the date on which the transfer takes place to purchase new machinery or plant and acquire building or land or construct building for the purpose of his business in the said area. If the High Court is right, the assessee has to purchase and/or acquire machinery, plant, land and building within the same assessment year in which the transfer takes place. Further, the High Court has missed the key words “not utilized” in sub-section (2) which would show that it is enough that the capital gain made by the assessee should only be “utilized” by him in the assessment year in question for all or any of the purposes aforesaid, that is towards purchase and acquisition of plant and machinery, and land and building. Advances paid for the purpose of purchase and/or acquisition of the aforesaid assets would certainly amount to utilization by the assessee of the capital gains made by him for the purpose of purchasing and/or acquiring the aforesaid assets. We find therefore that on this ground also, the assessee is liable to succeed.

(CIT v. Venkateswara Hatcheries (P) Ltd., (1999) 3 SCC 632, Poonjabhai Vanmalidas v. Commissioner of Income Tax, Ahmedabad, 1992 Supp. (1) SCC 182, State of Punjab v. Harnek Singh, (2002) 3 SCC 481, Rayala Corporation (P) Ltd. and M.R. Pratap v. Director of Enforcement, New Delhi, (1969) 2 SCC 412, Kolhapur Canesugar Works Ltd. & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors., (2000) 2 SCC 536 referred)

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