The assessee declared sale of a residential property vide sale agreement dated 8/12/2009 for a total consideration of Rs.1,02,55,000/-. After considering the indexed cost of acquisition of Rs.14,17,904/-, the long term capital gain was computed at Rs.88,37,096/-. The relevant capital gain was claimed as exempt under section 54 of the Act on the strength of having acquired a new residential house. The investment in acquisition of the new residential house was claimed by the assessee based on an advance of Rs.1.00 crore given to the builder as booking advance through a cheque dated 6/2/2010. The AO denied the claim for exemption on the ground that the provisions of section 54 of the Act require the assessee to purchase a new residential house either within a period of one year before the date on which the transfer of original asset took place or two years after date on which such transfer take place. He held that as even after two years of the date of transfer of old house the construction of the new property was not completed and that assessee had not gained possession of the new premises also. He, therefore, held that assessee did not comply with the requirements of section 54 of the Act in as much as it could not be said that assessee had purchased a new residential house within the period prescribed therein. This was confirmed by the CIT(A). On appeal by the assessee to the Tribunal HELD allowing the appeal:
(i) It is not disputed by the Revenue that the sum of Rs.1.00 crore has been invested by the assessee towards acquiring new property. Of course, the legal title in the said property has not passed or transferred to the assessee within the specified period and it is also quite apparent that the new property was still under construction. So however, the allotment letter by the builder mentions the flat number and gives specific details of the property. The word ‘purchase’ used in Section 54 of the Act should be interpreted pragmatically. The intention behind Section 54 was to give relief to a person who had transferred his residential house and had purchased another residential house within two years of transfer or had purchased a residential house one year before transfer. It was only the excess amount not used for making purchase or construction of the property within the stipulated period, which was taxable as long term capital gain while on the amount spent, relief should be granted. Principle of purposive interpretation should be applied to subserve the object and more particularly when one was concerned with exemption from payment of tax (CIT vs. Kuldeep Singh, 270 CTR 561 (Del), Smt. Ranjeet Sandhu vs. DCIT, 49 SOT 7 (Chandigargh) & Sanjeev Lal v. CIT  46 taxmann.com 300 referred)
(ii) The plea of the Revenue is that no purchase deed was executed by the builder and that there was only an allotment letter issued. As per the Revenue the advance could be returned at any time and, therefore, the assessee may lose the exemption under section 54 of the Act. In our considered opinion, the aforesaid does not militate against assessee’s claim for exemption in the instant assessment year, as there is no evidence that the advance has been returned. In case, if it is found that the advance has been returned, it would certainly call for forfeiture of the assessee’s claim under section 54 of the Act. In such a situation, the proviso below section 54(2) of the Act would apply whereby it is prescribed that such amount shall be charged under section 45 as income of the previous year, in which the period of three years from the date of the transfer of the original asset expires. The aforesaid provision also does not justify the action of the Assessing Officer in denying the claim of exemption under section 54 in the instant assessment year.