|COURT:||Delhi High Court|
|CORAM:||Badar Durrez Ahmed J, Vibhu Bakhru J|
|SECTION(S):||10(23C)(iv), 11, 2(15)|
|CATCH WORDS:||Charitable purpose|
|COUNSEL:||M S Syali|
|DATE:||January 22, 2015 (Date of pronouncement)|
|DATE:||January 23, 2015 (Date of publication)|
|FILE:||Click here to download the file in pdf format|
|S. 2(15)/ 10(23C)(iv): If the definition of "charitable purpose" is construed literally, it is violative of the principles of equality & unconstitutional. If the dominant object is not to carry on business or trade or commerce, then an incidental or ancillary activity for which a fee is charged does not destroy the character of a charitable institution|
The DGIT (E) passed an order stating that though the assessee is engaged in “the advancement of any other object of general public utility” as per s. 2(15) of the Act, its object could not be regarded as “charitable purposes” due to the new proviso to s. 2(15) and that it was not eligible for exemption u/s 10(23C)(iv). It was held that as the assessee had huge surpluses in banks, it had given its space for rent during Trade Fairs and Exhibitions, it had received income by way of sale of tickets and income from food and beverage outlets in Pragati Maidan, etc, the assessee was rendering service to a large number of traders and industrialists in relation to trade, commerce and business and was, therefore, hit by the expanded list of activities contained in the proviso to Section 2(15). It was further observed that the service of allotting space and other amenities like water, electricity and security, etc. to the traders to conduct their exhibitions fell within the ambit of any activity of rendering any service in relation to trade, commerce or business. The assessee filed a writ petition claiming that the First Proviso to s. 2(15), as amended by the Finance Act, 2008, is arbitrary and unreasonable and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India. HELD by the High Court:
(i) It is apparent that merely because a fee or some other consideration is collected or received by an institution, it would not lose its character of having been established for a charitable purpose. It is also important to note as to what is the dominant activity of the institution in question. If the dominant activity of the institution was not business, trade or commerce, then any such incidental or ancillary activity would also not fall within the categories of trade, commerce or business. It is clear from the facts of the present case that the driving force is not the desire to earn profits but, the object of promoting trade and commerce not for itself, but for the nation – both within India and outside India. Clearly, this is a charitable purpose, which has as its motive the advancement of an object of general public utility to which the exception carved out in the first proviso to Section 2(15) of the said Act would not apply;
(ii) If a literal interpretation were to be given to the said proviso, then it would risk being hit by Article 14 (the equality clause enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution). It is well-settled that the courts should always endeavour to uphold the Constitutional validity of a provision and, in doing so, the provision in question may have to be read down;
(iii) Section 2(15) is only a definition clause. The expression “charitable purpose” appearing in Section 2(15) of the said Act has to be seen in the context of Section 10(23C)(iv). When the expression “charitable purpose”, as defined in Section 2(15) of the said Act, is read in the context of Section 10(23C)(iv) of the said Act, we would have to give up the strict and literal interpretation sought to be given to the expression “charitable purpose” by the revenue;
(iv) Conclusion: The expression “charitable purpose”, as defined in Section 2(15) cannot be construed literally and in absolute terms. It has to take colour and be considered in the context of Section 10(23C)(iv) of the said Act. It is also clear that if the literal interpretation is given to the proviso to Section 2(15) of the said Act, then the proviso would be at risk of running foul of the principle of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution India. In order to save the Constitutional validity of the proviso, the same would have to be read down and interpreted in the context of Section 10(23C)(iv) because, in our view, the context requires such an interpretation. The correct interpretation of the proviso to Section 2(15) of the said Act would be that it carves out an exception from the charitable purpose of advancement of any other object of general public utility and that exception is limited to activities in the nature of trade, commerce or business or any activity of rendering any service in relation to any trade, commerce or business for a cess or fee or any other consideration. In both the activities, in the nature of trade, commerce or business or the activity of rendering any service in relation to any trade, commerce or business, the dominant and the prime objective has to be seen. If the dominant and prime objective of the institution, which claims to have been established for charitable purposes, is profit making, whether its activities are directly in the nature of trade, commerce or business or indirectly in the rendering of any service in relation to any trade, commerce or business, then it would not be entitled to claim its object to be a ‘charitable purpose’. On the flip side, where an institution is not driven primarily by a desire or motive to earn profits, but to do charity through the advancement of an object of general public utility, it cannot but be regarded as an institution established for charitable purposes (Info Parks Kerala v. Deputy Commissioner of Income-tax (2010) 329 ITR 404 (Ker) and Andhra Pradesh State Seed Certification Agency v. Chief Commissioner of Income-tax-III, Hyderabad 256 CTR 380 (AP) dissented from).
good judgment and clarifying the exact law on the point
I have gone through the aforesaid judgment in the case of India Trade Promotion Organization vs. DGIT (E) (Delhi High Court) in W.P. (c) 1872/2013 order dated 22.01.2015 and also the decision of Kolkata ITAT in the case of Indian Chamber of Commerce vs ITO in ITA Nos. 1491/2012 & 1284/2012. Both these judgments are clear the doubt of newly inserted proviso in section 2(15) of the Income Tax Act and explained the meaning of trade, commerce …………………….. The revenue should have taken the recourse of these judgments while dealing with the cases of exemption u/s 10,11 & 12 of the Act.