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Joshi Technologies International Inc vs. UOI (Supreme Court)
June, 02nd 2015

S. 42: Scope of deduction available in the context of a Production Sharing Contract entered into with the Govt explained

(i) First and foremost aspect which has to be kept in mind while answering this issue is that the Income Tax Authorities while making assessment of income of any assessee have to apply the provisions of the Income Tax Act and make assessment accordingly. Translating this as general proposition contextually, what we intend to convey is that the Assessing Officer is supposed to focus on Section 42 of the Act on the basis of which he is to decide as to whether deductions mentioned in the said provision are admissible to the assessee who is claiming those deductions. In other words, the Assessing Officer is supposed to find out as to whether the assessee fulfills the eligibility conditions in the said provision to be entitled to such deductions. We have already reproduced the language of Section 42, which deals with special provisions of deductions in the case of business for prospecting, etc. for mineral oil. Since, the appellant herein, in its income tax returns for the assessment year in question, i.e., Assessment Year 2005-06, had claimed the deductions mentioned in Section 42(1)(b) and (c) of the Act, we should take note of the nature of these deductions. Section 42(1) (b) provides for deductions of expenditure incurred in respect of drilling or exploration activities or services or in respect of physical assets used in that connection, except for those assets on which allowance for depreciation is admissible under Section 32. Section 42(1)(c) speaks of allowances pertaining to the depletion of mineral oil in the mining area. In order to be eligible to the deductions, certain conditions are stipulated in this very section which have to be satisfied by the assessees.

(ii) From the nature of allowances specified in this provision, it is clear that such allowances are otherwise inadmissible on general principles, for e.g. allowances relating to diminution or exhaustion of wasting capital assets or allowances in respect of expenditure which would be regarded as on capital account on the ground that it brings an asset of enduring benefit into existence or constitutes initial expenditure incurred in setting up the profit earning machinery in motion. It is for this reason this Section itself clarifies that the provisions of this Act would be deemed to have been modified to the extent necessary to give effect to the terms of the agreement, as otherwise, the other provisions of the Act specifically deny such deductions. A fortiorari, the PSC entered into between the parties becomes an independent accounting regime and its provisions prevail over generally accepted principles of accounting that are used for ascertaining taxable income (See – Commissioner of Income Tax, Dehradun & Anr. v. Enron Oil and Gas India Limited (2010) 327 ITR 626). Thus, by virtue of this Section, it is the PSC which governs the field as without it, such deductions are not permissible under the Act. IF PSC also does not contain any stipulation providing for such allowances, the Assessing Officer would be unable to give the benefit of these deductions to the assesee.

(iii) This Court held in CIT v. Enron Expat Service Inc. (2010) 327 ITR 626 that the mere fact that the assessee had offered to pay tax under Section 44 (BB) of the Act in some of the earlier years will not operate as an estoppel to claim the benefit of Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), where the assessee operates under the same PSC which was before the Court. While holding so, the Court had followed its earlier judgment in the case of Enron Oil and Gas India Limited (2008) 15 SCC 33 (Supra).

(iv) In the present case, it is an admitted fact that conditions mentioned in Section 42 of the Act are not fulfilled. In the two PSCs, no provision is made for making admissible the aforesaid allowances to the assessee. It is obvious that the Assessing Officer could not have granted these allowances/deductions to the assessee in the absence of such stipulations, a mandatory requirement, in the PSCs.

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