Vishwakarma Puja by a company cannot be allowed any deduction under s. 37(1): Chhtisgarh High Court

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Vishwakarma Puja by a company cannot be allowed any deduction under s. 37(1): Chhtisgarh High Court

Para 18 of the order of Hira Ferro Allys Ltd vs DCIT, reads as under:

 

“We are in respectful agreement with the law laid down by the Karnataka High Court in the matter of Sanghameshwar Coffee Estates Ltd. (supra) and the Bombay High Court in Kolhapur Sugar Mills Ltd. (supra) and accordingly, we hold that the expenditure incurred in Puja/ Vishwakarma Puja by a company cannot be treated as expenditure incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of business or profession of a company, and the assessee cannot be allowed any deduction under s. 37(1) of the Act towards such expenditure. We find no illegality or infirmity in the order of the Tribunal restoring the order of the AO”.

COMPLETE ORDER:

HIRA FERRO ALLOYS LTD. vs. DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INCOME TAX

HIGH COURT OF CHHATTISGARH

Dhirendra Mishra & R.N. Chandrakar, JJ.

IT Appeal No. 23 of 2001

7th August, 2009

(2009) 77 CCH 0716 ChattHC

(2009) 227 CTR 0508 : (2009) 31 DTR 0020 : (2010) 326 ITR 0261

Legislation Referred to

Section 37(1)

Case pertains to

Asst. Year 1992-93

Decision in favour of:

Revenue

In favour of :

Revenue

Counsel appeared:

Neelabh Dubey, for the Appellant : S. Rajeshwara Rao, for the Respondent

DHIRENDRA MISHRA, J. :

ORDER

This income-tax appeal under s. 260A of the IT Act, 1961 (for brevity “the Act”) has been admitted on the following substantial question of law :

“Whether in the facts and circumstances of the case, appellant/company is entitled for the benefit/deduction of s. 37 of IT Act, 1961 ?”

2. Briefly stated, facts of the case are that the appellant/company is engaged in the business of manufacture and sale of ferro manganese and silico manganese utilized for production of various grades of steel by the steel plants. The appellant filed return for the asst. yr. 1992-93 showing income of Rs. 13,35,910. However, assessment was made at a total income of Rs. 15,79,780. Claim of the appellant of Rs. 9,097 as expenditure incurred towards performing Puja during the financial year including expenditure of Rs. 6,181 incurred towards Vishwakarma Puja, was disallowed by the AO on the ground that the appellant being a company cannot profess any religion and therefore, performance of Puja cannot be said to be need of the business; the expenditure might be the personal expenses of the director.

3. The Commissioner of Income-tax (Appeals) [in short “CIT(A)”] allowed the appeal of the assessee and deleted the disallowance of Rs. 9,097. However, on appeal by the respondent/Revenue, the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal (for brevity “Tribunal”) restored the order of AO and maintained the disallowance of Rs. 9,097.

4. Mr. Neelabh Dubey, learned counsel appearing for the appellant submitted that it is common knowledge that Vishwakarma Puja is performed by the workers/labourers of every industrial house; the expenditure was, in fact, in respect of labours’ welfare; the AO was not correct in holding that the assessee was a company and therefore, not a real person and as such, cannot profess any religion and performance of Puja cannot be said to be need of the business of the company. The company is run by the management and labourers-skilled or unskilled; the expenditure on Puja acts as a moral booster for the employees and labourers associated with the company and thus, it is clearly associated with the assessee’s business. The Puja expenditure was not directly or indirectly connected with the personal expenditure of the director and the same was purely connected with the business of the company and as such, deductible under s. 37 of the Act.

5. Reliance is placed on the judgment in the matter of CIT vs. Chandulal Keshavlal & Co. (1960) 38 ITR 601 (SC) wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court while dealing with the deductible allowances under s. 10(2)(xv) of the IT Act, 1922 has held thus :

“(i) that in cases such as this case, in order to justify deduction the sum must be given up for reasons of commercial expediency : it might not be voluntary, but so long as it was incurred for the assessee’s benefit the deduction was allowable;

(ii) that as the Tribunal had found that the amount was expended for reasons of commercial expediency, and was not given as a bounty but to strengthen the managed company so that if the financial position of the managed company became strong the assessee would benefit thereby, the Tribunal rightly came to the conclusion that it was a deductible expense under s. 10(2)(xv).”

6. Reliance is placed on the judgment in the matter of CIT vs. Malayalam Plantations Ltd. (1964) 53 ITR 140 (SC) wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court interpreting the expression “for the purpose of business” occurring in s. 10(2)(xv) of the IT Act, 1922, has held thus :

“The expression ‘for the purpose of business’ is wider in scope than the expression ‘for the purpose of earning profits’. Its range is wide; it may take in not only the day to day running of a business but also the rationalization of its administration and modernization of its machinery; it may include measures for the preservation of the business and for the protection of its assets and property from expropriation, coercive process or assertion of hostile title; it may also comprehend payment of statutory dues and taxes imposed as a precondition to commence or for the carrying on of a business; it may comprehend many other acts incidental to the carrying on of the business. However wide the meaning of the expression may be, its limits are implicit in it. The purpose shall be for the purpose of business, that is to say, the expenditure incurred shall be for the carrying on of the business and the assessee shall incur it in his capacity as a person carrying on the business. It cannot include sums spent by the assessee as agent of a third party, whether the origin of the agency is voluntary or statutory.”

7. Reliance is also placed on the judgment in the matter of Brijraman Das & Sons vs. CIT (1982) 31 CTR (All) 224 : (1983) 142 ITR 509 (All) in which the High Court of Allahabad held that Ganeshji ki Puja expenses, which Hindu traders in a customary way at the time of Mahurat or opening of their account books on the auspicious occasion of Diwali, incur, are to be treated as expenditure laid out wholly and exclusively for the purposes of assessee’s business. Such expenses are generally of the nature of advertisement with a view to securing new business and are incurred in the interests of business. Therefore, it is an expenditure which is allowable under s. 37(1) of the IT Act, 1961.

8. Further, reliance is placed on the judgment in the matter of Atlas Cycle Industries Ltd. vs. CIT (1981) 21 CTR (P&H) 123 : (1982) 134 ITR 458 (P&H) in which it was held that “no curbs can be placed on the discretion of the assessee to provide the type of recreation, which, according to it, would best advance the interests of its business. If the recreation provided, even if it is in the nature of a religious activity, has a direct nexus with the welfare of a class of workers engaged by the assessee, it is wholly immaterial if the recreation provided is directly or indirectly connected with the religious tenets of a section of the society.”

9. On the other hand, Mr. S. Rajeshwara Rao, learned junior standing counsel for the respondent/Revenue, relying upon the judgments in the matters of Sanghameshwar Coffee Estates Ltd. vs. State of Karnataka (1986) 55 CTR (Kar) 232 : (1986) 160 ITR 203 (Kar) and Kolhapur Sugar Mills Ltd. vs. CIT (1979) 119 ITR 387 (Bom) argued that Puja is performed by the followers of a particular religion or faith. A company, which is only a juristic person, cannot claim to profess, practise or follow any religion or faith. The argument that the expenditure towards Vishwakarma Puja is a welfare measure and helps in keeping the employees/workers satisfied is farfetched argument and the same cannot be treated as expenditure incurred wholly and exclusively for the purpose of business or profession of the company under s. 37(1) of the Act.

10. We have heard learned counsel for the respective parties.

11. The short question involved in this appeal is, whether the assessee, a limited company registered under the Companies Act, can claim deduction towards expenditure incurred by the company in Puja functions, including Vishwakarma Puja performed in the factory premises under s. 37(1) of the Act ?

12. The AO relying upon the judgment in the matters of Sanghameshwar Coffee Estates Ltd. (supra) and Kolhapur Sugar Mills Ltd. (supra) held that the company, which is a creation by legal fiction and not a real person made up of flesh and blood, cannot profess any religion and therefore, performance of Puja cannot be said to be need of the business and disallowed the deduction towards Puja expenditure. However, the CIT(A) relying upon the law laid down in Atlas Cycle Industries Ltd. (supra) held that the expenditure incurred in Puja is deductible under s. 37(1) of the Act and accordingly, deleted the disallowance. However, the Tribunal relying upon the decision of Nagpur Bench of the Tribunal in the case of Patrakar Prakashan (P) Ltd. in ITA No. 490/Nag/1997, held that performance of Puja cannot be considered as an expenditure related to the conduct of the business of the assessee.

13. In Chandulal Keshavlal & Co. (supra) the assessee-managing agent was entitled to get a particular sum as commission from the managed company as per agreement between them. However, the assessee agreed to accept a part of the commission due to him, which was credited to his account. The AO as well as the CIT(A) held that the total amount, which accrued as commission to the managing agent, was income of the assessee and deduction was not permissible. However, the Tribunal held that if the managing agent had foregone a part of his commission in the interest of managed company, the same would be allowed as expenditure under s. 10(2)(xv) of the Act. The above finding of the Tribunal was confirmed by the High Court. The finding of fact recorded by the Tribunal and confirmed by the High Court, was subsequently again confirmed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court with the observations as detailed above in para 5.

14. In the case of Malayalam Plantations Ltd. (supra) the assessee debited the amount paid by him towards estate duty, which was payable on the death of certain shareholders, who were not domiciled in India, to Revenue in its accounts in ascertaining the profits and gains of its business for the said year. However, the ITO as also the appellate authority included the said amount in the income of the company. The Tribunal held that the assessee was entitled to deduct the said amount in computing income, and set aside the order of the appellate authority. The High Court confirmed the order of the Tribunal. However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court interpreting the expression “for the purpose of business”, as reproduced above in para 6, allowed the appeal of the Revenue and held that the expenditure incurred by the assessee was not allowable under s. 10(2)(xv) of the Act as business expenditure because payments were not for the purpose of business.

15. The case of Brijraman Das & Sons (supra) relates to expenditure incurred by a Hindu trader in Ganeshji ki Puja performed at the time of Mahurat or opening of their account books on the auspicious occasion of Diwali, whereas, in the instant case, the expenditure was incurred by a company incorporated under the Companies Act in Puja and Vishwakarma Puja and as such, the same is distinguishable on facts.

16. The facts of the present case are almost similar to the facts of Sanghameshwar Coffee Estates Ltd. (supra).

17. In the latest judgment in the matter of CIT & Ors. vs. Saravana Spinning Mills (P) Ltd. (2007) 211 CTR (SC) 281 : (2007) 7 SCC 298 the Hon’ble Supreme Court while considering the scope of deductions under s. 37 of the Act, has held in para 21 of the judgment that a particular item of expenditure may be deductible if the expenditure does not fall within ss. 30 to 36; that it should have been incurred in the accounting year; that it should be in respect of a business carried on by the assessee; that it should not be on personal account of the assessee; that it should not be in the nature of capital expenditure and that it should be spent wholly and exclusively for business.

18. We are in respectful agreement with the law laid down by the Karnataka High Court in the matter of Sanghameshwar Coffee Estates Ltd. (supra) and the Bombay High Court in Kolhapur Sugar Mills Ltd. (supra) and accordingly, we hold that the expenditure incurred in Puja/ Vishwakarma Puja by a company cannot be treated as expenditure incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of business or profession of a company, and the assessee cannot be allowed any deduction under s. 37(1) of the Act towards such expenditure. We find no illegality or infirmity in the order of the Tribunal restoring the order of the AO.

19. In the result, the appeal being devoid of substance deserves to be dismissed and is, accordingly, dismissed.

 

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