Mangalore Ganesh Beedi Works vs. CIT (Supreme Court)

DATE: October 15, 2015 (Date of pronouncement)
DATE: October 19, 2015 (Date of publication)
AY: 1995-96
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S. 32: Even prior to the insertion of "intangible assets" in s. 32, intellectual property rights such as trademarks, copyrights and know-how constitute "plant" for purposes of depreciation. The department is not entitled to rewrite the terms of a commercial agreement

The Supreme Court had to consider whether in AY 1995-96, when s. 32 did not make any distinction between tangible and intangible assets, the Assessee was entitled to any benefit under Section 32 of the Act read with Section 43(3) thereof for the expenditure incurred on the acquisition of trademarks, copyrights and know-how. HELD by the Supreme Court upholding the claim:

(i) The definition of ‘plant’ in Section 43(3) of the Act is inclusive. A similar definition occurring in Section 10(5) of the Income Tax Act, 1922 was considered in Commissioner of Income Tax v. Taj Mahal Hotel (1971) 3 SCC 550 wherein it was held that the word ‘plant’ must be given a wide meaning. The question is, would intellectual property such as trademarks, copyrights and know-how come within the definition of ‘plant’ in the ‘sense which people conversant with the subject-matter with which the statute is dealing, would attribute to it’? In our opinion, this must be answered in the affirmative for the reason that there can be no doubt that for the purposes of a large business, control over intellectual property rights such as brand name, trademark etc. are absolutely necessary. Moreover, the acquisition of such rights and know-how is acquisition of a capital nature, more particularly in the case of the Assessee. Therefore, it cannot be doubted that so far as the Assessee is concerned, the trademarks, copyrights and know-how acquired by it would come within the definition of ‘plant’ being commercially necessary and essential as understood by those dealing with direct taxes.

(ii) Section 32 of the Act as it stood at the relevant time did not make any distinction between tangible and intangible assets for the purposes of depreciation. The distinction came in by way of an amendment after the assessment year that we are concerned with. That being the position, the Assessee is entitled to the benefit of depreciation on plant (that is on trademarks, copyrights and know-how) in terms of Section 32 of the Act as it was at the relevant time. We are, therefore, in agreement with the view taken by the Tribunal in this regard that the Assessee would be entitled to the benefit of Section 32 of the Act read with Section 43(3) thereof;

(iii) The Act does not clothe the taxing authorities with any power or jurisdiction to re-write the terms of the agreement arrived at between the parties with each other at arm’s length and with no allegation of any collusion between them. ‘The commercial expediency of the contract is to be adjudged by the contracting parties as to its terms.’ (D. S. Bist & Sons v. CIT [1984] 149 ITR 276 (Delhi) referred);

(iii) There is a clear finding of fact by the Tribunal that the legal expenses incurred by the Assessee were for protecting its business and that the expenses were incurred after 18th November, 1994. There is no reason to reverse this finding of fact particularly since nothing has been shown to us to conclude that the finding of fact was perverse in any manner whatsoever. That apart, if the finding of fact arrived at by the Tribunal were to be set aside, a specific question regarding a perverse finding of fact ought to have been framed by the High Court. The Revenue did not seek the framing of any such question. The High Court was not justified in upsetting a finding of fact arrived at by the Tribunal, particularly in the absence of a substantial question of law being framed in this regard (K. Ravindranathan Nair v. Commissioner of Income Tax [2001] 247 ITR 178 (SC) followed)

One comment on “Mangalore Ganesh Beedi Works vs. CIT (Supreme Court)
  1. the judgement is right, tax man cannot rewrite commercial agreements once done, that stands, see macro economics is as Condorset on voting paradox said ‘democracy might run into some problems, while trying to choose one of the outcomes.’

    Economics study choices of people what they make and the resultants are inter action they have made with one and another – that is where ‘agreements’ are based invariably.

    Once agreements are made that stands as it is, taxman has has no choices to interpret differently what the basic agreement interprets, so hon court rightly said facts are facts.

    In macro economics, there are two positions – positive and normative – positive (examining the language, economists play with) . then what is ‘normative’, indeed prescriptive.

    Policy here is , copyrights, trade marks, etc… that is intellectual property, as per laid down laws already in place.

    Normative – what is the prescription – tax sections as they are. sec 32(did not make any distinction between tangible and intangible, at that particular time in question r/w s.43(3) (expenditure)(towards acquisition towards trademarks, copyrights, etc). Only that much is with tax man . He cannot exceed his powers by his so called ‘interpretation’ – after ll interpretation is to abide by rules of interpretation of statutes and none could exceed in that limitation, that tax man is controlled is obvious.

    Intellectual property is vital component for any business activity that could not be tampered with by tax man is obvious corollary .

    that way Condorset paradox works.

    then again macro economics do work under policy, and prescription.

    Tax man could not interfere in the realms of business domain.

    So he needs to restrict himself with his prescriptive permissions per sections, he cannot cross his limits by his so called running riot interpretations.

    Therefore, the hon court rightly prescribed Is there any Question of Law, obviously not there, facts are already decided by hon tribunal..No agitation by Revenue is permissible.

    Behavioral economics is rightly examined y the honorable court, by permitting the intellectual property rights, as court rightly stated.

    High court erred . I never expected how High court went into facts, when rightly decided by hon tribunal. sorry

    Revenue ought to fail. that is what happened here.

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