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Satya Nand Munjal vs. CGT ( Supreme Court )
May, 13th 2013

Taxability of a revocable transfer as deemed gift u/s 4(1)(c) of the Gift-tax Act

The assessee owned 6000 shares of Hero Cycles. On 20.02.1982, he executed a deed of revocable transfer in favour of M/s Yogesh Chandra. The deed permitted the assessee to, after completion of 74 months from the date of transfer but before the expiry of 82 months from the said date, exercise the power of revoking the gift. In other words, there was a window of 8 months within which the gift could be revoked. The deed of revocable transfer specifically stated that the gift shall not include any bonus shares or right shares received and/or accruing or coming to the transferee from Hero Cycles by virtue of ownership of the said shares. Effectively, therefore, only a gift of 6000 equity shares was made by the assessee to the transferee. On 29.09.1982 & 31.5.1986, the company issued 4000 and 10,000 bonus shares to the transferee. On 15.6.1988, the assessee revoked the gift with the result that the 6000 shares gifted to the transferee came back to the assessee. However, the 14,000 bonus shares allotted to the transferee while it was the holder of the equity shares of the company continued with the transferee. In AY 1982-83, the GTO relied on McDowell 154 ITR 148 (SC) and held that the revocable transfer was only for the purpose of reducing the wealth tax liability and was void. He, however, made a protective gift-tax assessment. The Tribunal and the High Court (CGT vs. Satya Nand Munjal 256 ITR 516 (P&H)) reversed the AO and held that a revocable transfer was valid even if its object was to avoid wealth-tax. The assessee was held liable to pay gift-tax u/r 11 of the Gift-tax Act. In AY 1989-90 the AO & CIT(A) held that the 14,000 shares belonged to the assessee and as the revocation was only with respect to the 6,000 shares and the 14,000 bonus shares continued with the transferee, there was a chargeable gift to that extent. The Tribunal reversed the AO & CIT(A). On appeal by the department, the High Court reversed the Tribunal and held that the assessee was liable to gift tax on the value of the bonus shares gifted by him to the transferee applying the principles of Escorts Farms (Ramgarh) 222 ITR 509 (SC). On appeal by the assessee to the Supreme Court, HELD:

The fundamental question is whether there was in fact a gift of 14,000 bonus shares made by the assessee to the transferee. The answer to this question lies in s. 4(1)(c) of the Gift-tax Act which provides that “where there is a release, discharge, surrender, forfeiture or abandonment of any debt, contract or other actionable claim or of any interest in property by any person, the value of the release, discharge, surrender, forfeiture or abandonment to the extent to which it has not been found to the satisfaction of the AO to have been bona fide, shall be deemed to be a gift made by the person responsible for the release, discharge, surrender, forfeiture or abandonment“. On facts, the assessee had made a valid revocable gift of 6000 equity shares in the company on 20.2.1982 to the transferee. The only event that took place in AY 1989-90 was the revocation of the gift by the assessee on 15.6.1988. The question whether the revocation of the gift of the original shares in AY 1989-90 constitutes a gift of the bonus shares that were allotted to the transferee on 29.09.1982 and 31.05.1986 requires to be answered in the light of s.4(1)(c). The question of applicability of Escorts Farms has to be decided after a finding is reached on the applicability of the first part of s. 4(1)(c) (matter remanded).

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