S. 40(a)(ia): When there are conflicting judgements of non-jurisdiction High Courts, the Tribunal is not permitted to choose based on its perception of what the correct law is because it will amount to sitting in judgement over the High Courts’ views. Instead, it has to follow the view which is in favour of the assessee even if it believes that this view is not the correct law. Second proviso to s. 40(a)(ia) inserted by FA 2013 should be treated as retrospectively applicable from 1st April 2005
The Tribunal had to consider whether the second proviso to section 40(a)(ia) is declaratory and curative in nature and it has retrospective effect from 1st April, 2005, being the date from which sub clause (ia) of section 40(a) was inserted by the Finance (No. 2) Act, 2004 in view of the conflict of opinion between the Delhi High Court in CIT Vs Ansal Landmark Townships Pvt Ltd [(2015) 377 ITR 635 (Del)] and the Kerala High Court in Thomas George Muthoot Vs CIT [(2015) 63 taxmann.com 99 (Kerala)]. HELD by the Tribunal:
(i) Undoubtedly, there are conflicting decisions by the Delhi High Court in CIT Vs Ansal Landmark Townships Pvt Ltd [(2015) 377 ITR 635 (Del)] and the Kerala High Court in Thomas George Muthoot Vs CIT [(2015) 63 taxmann.com 99 (Kerala)] on the issue of restrospectivity of second proviso to Section 40(a)(ia). It is thus evident that views of these two High Courts are in direct conflict with each other. Clearly, therefore, there is no meeting ground between these two judgments. The difficulty arises as to which of the Hon’ble non jurisdictional High Court is to be followed by us in the present situation. It will be wholly inappropriate for us to choose views of one of the High Courts based on our perceptions about reasonableness of the respective viewpoints, as such an exercise will de facto amount to sitting in judgment over the views of the High Courts something diametrically opposed to the very basic principles of hierarchical judicial system. We have to, with our highest respect of both the Hon’ble High Courts, adopt an objective criterion for deciding as to which of the Hon’ble High Court should be followed by us. We find guidance from the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of CIT vs. Vegetable Products Ltd. [(1972) 88 ITR 192 (SC)]. Hon’ble Supreme Court has laid down a principle that “if two reasonable constructions of a taxing provisions are possible, that construction which favours the assessee must be adopted”. This principle has been consistently followed by the various authorities as also by the Hon’ble Supreme Court itself. In another Supreme Court judgment, Petron Engg. Construction (P) Ltd. & Anr. vs. CBDT & Ors. (1988) 75 CTR (SC) 20: (1989) 175 ITR 523 (SC), it has been reiterated that the above principle of law is well established and there is no doubt about that. Hon’ble Supreme Court had, however, some occasions to deviate from this general principle of interpretation of taxing statute which can be construed as exceptions to this general rule. It has been held that the rule of resolving ambiguities in favour of taxpayer does not apply to deductions, exemptions and exceptions which are allowable only when plainly authorised. This exception, laid down in Littman vs. Barron 1952(2) AIR 393 and followed by apex Court in Mangalore Chemicals & Fertilizers Ltd. vs. Dy. Commr. of CT (1992) Suppl. (1) SCC 21 and Novopan India Ltd. vs. CCE & C 1994 (73) ELT 769 (SC), has been summed up in the words of Lord Lohen, “in case of ambiguity, a taxing statute should be construed in favour of a tax-payer does not apply to a provision giving tax-payer relief in certain cases from a section clearly imposing liability”. This exception, in the present case, has no application. The rule of resolving ambiguity in favour of the assessee does not also apply where the interpretation in favour of assessee will have to treat the provisions unconstitutional, as held in the matter of State of M.P. vs. Dadabhoy’s New Chirmiry Ponri Hill Colliery Co. Ltd. AIR 1972 (SC) 614. Therefore, what follows is that in the peculiar circumstances of the case and looking to the nature of the provisions with which we are presently concerned, the view expressed by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Ansal Landmark (supra), which is in favour of assessee, is required to be followed by us. Revenue does not, therefore, derive any advantage from Hon’ble Kerala High Court’s decision in the case of Thomas George Muthoot (supra).
(ii) The second issue is with respect to the second proviso to Section 40(a)(ia) being held to be retrospective, without corresponding enabling provision in the rules being held to be retrospective. That is a hyper technical argument and too pedantic an approach. The second proviso to Section 40(a)(ia) was held to be retrospective in in the context of finding solution to the problem to the taxpayer, and the matter was set aside to the file of the Assessing Officer with certain directions about factual verifications on the recipient having included the same in the receipts based on which taxable income is computed, and the income having been offered to tax. It is this action of the coordinate bench that was upheld by the Tribunal and the course of action so adopted by the coordinate bench approved by Their Lordships. It is impermissible to pick up one of the aspects of the decision of the judicial authority and read the same in isolation with other aspects. The decision is not on the retrospectivity of the proviso alone, its also on deletion of disallowance in the event of the recipient having taken into account these receipts in the computation of income. The judge made law is as binding on the authorities below as is the legislated statue. The hyper technical stand of the Departmental Representatives, therefore, does not merit our approval.
(iii) As regards lack of guidance from Hon’ble jurisdictional High Court, that can not be reason enough to disregard the decisions from non-jurisdictional High Courts. Hon’ble Courts above, being a higher tier of the judicial hierarchy, bind the lower forums not only in the jurisdiction of respective High Courts, but unless, there is anything contrary thereto by the jurisdictional High Courts, other jurisdictions as well. There cannot be any dispute on the fundamental proposition that in the hierarchical judicial system that we have, better wisdom of the Court below has to yield to higher wisdom of the Court above, and therefore we have to humbly bow before the views expressed by Hon’ble Courts above. Such a High Court being a non-jurisdictional High Court does not alter the position as laid down by Hon’ble Bombay High Court in the matter of CIT vs. Godavari Devi Saraf ([1978) 113 ITR 589 (Bom)] and as analysed by a coordinate bench of this Tribunal in the case of ACIT Vs Aurangabad Holiday Resorts Pvt Ltd [(2009) 118 ITD 1 (Pune)].