w w w . L a w y e r S e r v i c e s . i n



Municipal Corporation of Delhi v/s M/s Pradeep Oil Mills P. Ltd.


Company & Directors' Information:- N K OIL MILLS PVT LTD [Active] CIN = U15201GJ1994PTC022669

Company & Directors' Information:- B P OIL MILLS LIMITED [Active] CIN = U15142UP1965PLC003232

Company & Directors' Information:- K P L OIL MILLS PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U15142KL1983PTC003685

Company & Directors' Information:- N K B OIL MILLS PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U15142KL1999PTC013095

Company & Directors' Information:- K K K OIL MILLS PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U15142KL2000PTC013621

Company & Directors' Information:- S N OIL MILLS PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U15142HR1986PTC025702

Company & Directors' Information:- G. B. OIL MILLS PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U15326HR1985PTC019817

Company & Directors' Information:- R. OIL MILLS PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U15141DL1992PTC047883

Company & Directors' Information:- J K OIL MILLS COMPANY LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U15143UP1955PLC002570

Company & Directors' Information:- N N OIL MILLS PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U15147MH1999PTC117989

Company & Directors' Information:- J & T OIL MILLS PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U15141KL2006PTC019754

Company & Directors' Information:- A AND R OIL MILLS PVT LTD [Strike Off] CIN = U15315CH1994PTC014265

Company & Directors' Information:- DELHI OIL MILLS PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U15142DL1969PTC005062

    LPA Nos.52-58 of 1987

    Decided On, 15 January 2009

    At, High Court of Delhi

    By, THE HONOURABLE CHIEF JUSTICE MR. AJIT PRAKASH SHAH
    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE SANJIV KHANNA & THE HONOURABLE DR. JUSTICE S. MURALIDHAR

    For the Appellant: Ms.Madhu Tewatia, Advocate. For the Respondent: Mr.B.B. Jain, Advocate.



Judgment Text

AJIT PRAKASH SHAH, CHIEF JUSTICE,


This matter has been remitted by the Supreme Court for recording finding on the following two questions:


(i) Whether the erection of storage tanks on the lands in question amounts to erection of a building which is taxable under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act?


(ii) If the answer to question (i) above is in the affirmative, whether those storage tanks and other structures raised on the lands in question are exempted as plant and machinery under Section 116 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act?


2. Before adverting to the questions involved, we may notice the basic facts of the matter.


The respondent had been granted separate and distinct licenses by the President of India acting through Superintendent of Northern Railway Delhi for the purpose of maintaining depot for storage of petroleum products at a yearly license fee of Rs.20640/- and Rs.31000/- per annum respectively.


3. The properties in question were assessed at a rateable value which was sought to be increased. Objections were filed by the respondent. A contention was raised that the storage tanks would not come within the purview of the definition of 'building' as provided in Section 2(3) of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act (for short ?the Act?) and thus no tax would be leviable as provided under Section 114 of the Act. The proposal of enhancement of rateable value was confirmed with effect from 1.4.1978.


4. Being aggrieved the respondent filed House Tax Appeal nos.590 to 596/1984 before the Additional District Judge, Delhi.


In the appeals, the following questions were raised.


(a) Whether such steel structure are buildings within the meaning of Delhi Municipal Corporation Act or not?

(b) Whether such structures can be termed as a land within the meaning of Delhi Municipal Corporation Act or not?


5. Relying on a judgment of the Bombay High Court titled Indian Oil Corporation v. Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay reported in 77 (1974) Bombay Law Reporter 314, it was held that such structures are not building within the meaning of Delhi Municipal Corporation Act. The learned Additional District Judge also came to the conclusion that the respondent is not a person primarily responsible for payment of property tax within the meaning of Section 120 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act and thus the orders of assessment impugned before him were held to be not sustainable. The appeals preferred by the respondent were, therefore, allowed by the learned Additional District Judge.


6. Questioning the order of the learned Additional District Judge, Civil Writ Nos.86/1986, 179/1986, 180/1986, 181/1986, 182/1986, 183/1986, 274/1986 were filed by the appellant which were disposed of by Mahinder Narain, J (as the learned Judge then was). The learned Judge held that oil storage tanks would not be a building within the meaning of ?building? under the Act. The learned Judge further held that as the instrument had been executed on behalf of the President of India, which is termed to be a licence, Section 120(1)(c) of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act would not be attracted in relation thereto.


7. The appellant ? Corporation challenged the decision of the single Judge by preferring LPA Nos.52-58/1987. A Division Bench of this Court noticing the difference in opinion in two Division Bench judgments of this Court referred the matter to the Full Bench in terms of order dated 12.2.2000 which reads as under


?These are nine Letters Patent Appeals directed against the judgment of learned Single Judges of this Court. LPAs 52 to 58/87 (MCD v. Pradeep Oil Mills) are directed against the judgment of Mahinder Narain, J. dated 5.8.1996 while LPAs 227 to 228/96 (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. v. MCD) are directed against the judgment of Mohd. Shamim, J. dated 11.9.1996. It has been brought to our notice that the judgment in Pradeep Oil Mills' case has been affirmed by a Division Bench of this Court in Gas Authority of India Ltd. v. MCD, 1999(2) AD 371. The other judgment of this Court in the case of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited has been affirmed by another Division Bench of this Court in MCD v. Batra Brothers, 1997 (4) AD 317. One of the issues involved in all these cases is as to whether the document whereby interest in land is purported to have been created is a lease or license. The appellants are challenging the findings of the learned Single Judges in the respective cases. In our view the appellants are entitled to challenge the findings contained in judgments under appeal and cannot be denied this right for the reason that Division Benches of the Court in some matters between other parties have affirmed the findings of the learned Single Judges. In the event of this Court agreeing with the appellants, the observations of the two Division Benches of this Court by which both the judgments under appeal have already been approved may lead to an anomalous situation. Therefore, we deem it appropriate that these appeals be heard and decided by a larger Bench.?


8. The Full Bench heard the matter and was pleased to hold that the document in question constitutes a lease in favour of the respondent. As to the question whether such an oil storage tank would be a building or not, it was held that the issue is no longer res integra in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay v. Indian Oil Corporation, AIR 1991 SC 686. LPAs were accordingly allowed by the Full Bench (reported as 100 (2002) DLT 442).


9. Against the decision of the Full Bench, the respondent approached the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal Nos.6546- 6552/2003 titled Pradeep Oil Corporation v. Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The Supreme Court vide order dated 15.9.2005 was pleased to partly remit the matter to this Court for recording its finding on the two questions mentioned above.


10. We have heard Ms.Madhu Tewatia, learned counsel appearing for the appellant ? Corporation and Mr.B.B. Jain, learned counsel for the respondent.


11. Before adverting to the submissions made at the Bar, we may notice the relevant provisions of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act. Section 2(3) and Section 2(24) of the Act, which define the terms ?building? and ?land? respectively read as follows:


?Section 2(3) "building" means a house, out-house, stable, latrine, urinal, shed, hut, wall (other than a boundary wall) or any other structure, whether of masonry, bricks, wood, mud, metal or other material but does not include any portable shelter;


Section 2(24) "land" includes benefits to arise out of land, things attached to the earth or permanently fastened to anything attached to the earth and rights created by law over any street;?


12. Chapter VIII of the Act deals with taxation. Section 114 of the Act in no uncertain terms empowers the Corporation to levy tax both on ?land? and ?building?. Section 115 provides that property tax shall be levied in respect of all lands and buildings subject to the exceptions made therein. Section 116 provides for determination of rateable value of land and building assessable to property tax and reads as follows:


116. Determination of rateable value of lands and buildings assessable to property taxes :- (1) The rateable value of any land or building assessable to property taxes shall be the annual rent at which such land or building might reasonably be expected to let from year to year less -


(a) a sum equal to ten per cent of the said annual rent which shall be in lieu of all allowances for costs of repairs and insurance, and other expenses, if any, necessary to maintain the land or building in a state to command that rent, and


(b) the water tax or the scavenging tax or both, if the rent is inclusive of either or both of the said taxes:


..... ..... .... .... .... .... .... ...

..... ..... .... .... .... .... .... ...


(2) ..... ..... .... .... .... .... ....


(3) All plant and machinery contained or situate in or upon any land or building and belonging to any of the classes specified from time to time by public notice by the Commissioner with the approval of the Standing Committee, shall be deemed to form part of such land or building for he purpose of determining the rateable value thereof under sub-section(1) but save as aforesaid no account shall be taken of the value of any plant or machinery contained or situated in or upon any such land or building.?


13. Section 119 of the Act exempts the lands and buildings, which are the properties of the Union of India, from the property tax as specified in Section 114.


Re. Question (i)


14. The definition of the expression ?building? in Section 2(3) of the Act shows that it is of very wide import and encompasses ?any other structure? excluding only portable structure. The question is whether the petroleum storage tanks in question are 'structure' within the meaning of Section 2(3) of the Act.


15. The facts are not in dispute. The respondent had been granted the exclusive right to use railway land by the Union of India for constructing and maintaining thereon depot for storage of petroleum products. The respondent had been granted right to erect / construct ?Petroleum Installation Building? consisting of petroleum tanks, buildings and other conveniences for receiving and storing therein petroleum in bulk. The respondent submitted layout plans for the construction of the Oil Depot and the Standing Committee of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi vide resolution number 248 dated 24.8.1978 approved the layout plan for the construction of 10 oil storage tanks of petroleum products.


Consequently the respondent had raised constructions comprising of an administration block along with huge petroleum storage tanks for storing petroleum products. The petroleum / oil storage tanks erected by the respondent rest on a foundation of sand having a height of more than 2 ft. and there is a four inch thick asphalt layer (bituminous pitch) to retain the sand. The steel plates are spread on the asphalt layer and the tanks are put on the steel plates that act as the bottom of the tanks and the tanks remain in the same position by virtue of their weight. In order to serve as storage for the oil, each tank has a staircase along the side and the tanks are connected with the pump house with the pipes for receiving the oil in the tanks.


16. Ms.Madhu Tewatia, learned counsel appearing for the appellant, submitted that erection of storage tanks amounts to erection of building as defined under Section 331 of the Act and, therefore, the requisite sanctions are required to be taken under Sections 332, 333 and 336 of the Act. Accordingly the respondent had applied for requisite sanction and the Standing Committee of the MCD approved the layout plan for the construction of the depot/10 oil storage tanks of petroleum products. Learned counsel further submitted that by scientific process the tanks stand on their own weight on the earth at the place of erection as a permanent structure and are not temporary or portable so as to be able to easily shifted or removed from one place to another. The tanks have to be dismantled before they can be removed and erected at another place. Learned counsel also submitted that the question whether a storage tank of this kind would be a building or not is no longer res integra in view of the direct decision of the Supreme Court in Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay v. Indian Oil Corporation (supra). Learned counsel also referred to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Indian City Properties Ltd. and another v. Municipal Commissioner of Greater Bombay and another (2005) 6 SCC 417.


17. On the other hand, Mr.B.B. Jain, learned counsel appearing for the respondent, submitted that the definition of the building in Section 2(3) of the Act is different than the one which is contained in Bombay Municipal Corporation Act and the decisions in Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay v. Indian Oil Corporation (supra) and Indian City Properties Ltd. And another v. Municipal Commissioner of Greater Bombay and another (supra) are clearly distinguishable. He submitted that meaning of the word ?building? would take colour from the word ?shelter? in Section 2(3) of the Act and the storage tanks cannot be regarded as a structure for the purpose of Section 2(3) of the Act.


18. In The Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay v. Indian Oil Corporation (supra) an identical question arose in respect of oil tanks for storage of petrol and petroleum products. The Court noticed that each tank rested on a foundation of sand having a height of 2 ft. 6 inches. There was a four inches thick asphalt layer to retain the sand. The steel plates were spread on the asphalt layer and the tank was put on the steel plates which acted as bottom of the tanks which rested freely on the asphalt layer. There were no bolts and nuts for holding the tanks on to the foundation. The tanks remained in the position by its own weight. Each tank was about 30 ft. in height and 50 ft. in diameter weighing about 40 tons. The total weight of the tank filled with petroleum products would be about 7,160 tons. Each tank had a staircase along the side. Each of the tanks was connected with the pump house with the pipes for pumping petroleum products into the tank and sending them back to the pump house having a diameter of 8? x 14?. The distance between the pump house and tanks varied between 50 fts. to 300 fts. The question before the Supreme Court was whether these storage tanks of petroleum products are 'building' within the meaning of Section 3(s) of Bombay Municipal Corporation Act and are assessable to property tax. Section 3(s) of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act defines ?building? to include ?a house, out-house, stable, shed, hut and every other such structure whether of masonry, bricks, wood, mud, metal or any other material whatever.? The Court observed that since the enactment of the Act, enormous research and scientific development has taken place in the construction technology of storage tanks etc. The petroleum products are highly inflammable and highly dangerous liquid which cannot successfully be stored without taking careful precautions with modern technology for its storage. The erection and storage must be according to law or relevant rules. If it could be possible to give an interpretation consistent with the purpose and scheme of the Act and the nature of the property sought to be assessed for rateable value, the Court could always endeavour to give that interpretation which would sub-serve the purpose of the Act. The Court after referring to the dictionary definition of the word ?building? as well as the word ?structure? and certain English cases, concluded as follows:


?29. These depots or tanks are formed as they are sometimes called to have very large capacities, in some cases containing tanks upto 2,300 water tons capacity (about 150 ft. in diameter by 50 ft. height). There are invariably numerous smaller tanks for the storage of refined products awaiting distribution. Such depots frequently cover many acres of land, the tanks being well dispersed as a fire precautionary measure. Necessarily there are miles of pipe lines with diameter of from 6 inches to 36 inches or greater and furthermore a net work of fire protection lines. These are called tanks with modern equipment and exigible to rateable value.


30. In the light of the above discussion it is undoubted that if the tanks are situated within a Plant they would be integral parts of the plant and get exempted from assessment under Section 154 of the Act but there exist no such plant on the demised site. It is also equally undoubted that harmonious construction must be adopted consistent not only with the principles of taxation to make rateable value but also those relating to income-tax, wealth-tax etc. .........


31. ..... ..... .... .... .... .... .... ...


32. The tanks, though, are resting on earth on their own weight without being fixed with nuts and bolts, they have permanently been erected without being shifted from place to place, permanency is the test. The chattel whether is movable to another place of use in the same position or liable to be dismantled and re-erected at the later place? If the answer is yes to the former it must be a movable property and thereby it must be held that it is not attached to the earth. If the answer is yes to the latter it is attached to the earth. For instance a shop for sale of merchandise or eatables is a structure. The same could be sold by keeping in a push cart which has its mobility from place to place. Merely it is stationed at a particular place and business was carried on, it cannot be said that push cart is a shop. The fact that no nuts and bolts were used to imbed the tank to the earth by itself is not conclusive. Though the witness stated that the tank is capable of being shifted, as a fact the tanks were never shifted from the places of erection. By scientific process, the tanks stand on their own weight on the earth at the place of erection as a permanent structure.


33. The petroleum products are being stored through pipes and are taken out by mechanical process. The operational mechanisation also though relevant is not conclusive. The rateable is based on the rent, which the building or land is capable to fetch. Due to erection of the tanks whether the value of the demised property had appreciated or not is also yet another consideration. Undoubtedly, when the tanks are erected and used for commercial purposes, the value of the demised property would get appreciated. The annual letting value is capable of increase. However, the rate of increase is a question of fact but the fact remains that the value of the land gets increased by virtue of erection of the storage tanks. Considering from this perspective we have no hesitation to hold that the petroleum storage tanks are structures or things attached to the land within the definition of Sections 3(s) and 3(r) of the Act. Thereby they are exigible to property tax.....? (emphasis supplied)


19. The Judgment in Indian Oil Corporation v. Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay (supra) was followed in Indian City Properties Ltd. and another v. Municipal Commissioner of Greater Bombay and another (supra). The question in that case was whether the land in the appellant's premises which was sought to be affected by the notice under Section 299 of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act is "not occupied by any building" or occupied by "some other structure external to a building"? In terms of the said Section, if the land is occupied by a building it is outside the scope of Section 299; but if there are only structures external to a building, action may be taken under Section 299 by the Corporation to take possession of the land and demolish the structure. The notice was challenged by the appellants under Article 226 of the Constitution contending that the former was true in its case. The Court then noted that there are six structures including an underground RCC tank with cylinder shape precast tank on top. The Court following its earlier judgment of Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay v. Indian Oil Corporation (supra) held as follows:


11. The definition itself is in terms an inclusive one and is therefore to be widely construed. It seems to indicate that a structure would be a building if it has been erected by the use of whatever material, which may or may not be used by human beings since it specifies stables and tanks as buildings. The respondent's submission is that the servant quarters, security cabin, the pump room, underground RCC Tank with Cylinder shape precast tank and the AC Plant are temporary building and are ancillary to the main residential building and not buildings for the purposes of exclusion from Section 299.


..... ..... .... .... .... .... .... ...


14. This Court in Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay v. Indian Oil Corporation Limited 1991 Suppl. (2) SCC 18, construed the words "every other such structure" in Section 3(s) in the context of Section 143(a) of the Act (which authorizes a levy of general tax on building and land) and held that a petrol storage tank although not fixed to the earth was such a structure, holding that permanency is the test.


..... ..... .... .... .... .... .... ...


19. The word ?'structure? is used as a generic term so that while all buildings may be structures, all structures are not buildings. That structure which is not a building and is a platform, verandah, step, or some other such structure external to a building may be taken over by the Commissioner under Section 299(1) if it is within the regular line of the street. The words "some other such" must be construed as structures similar or like platform, verandah and step. The words must be read ejusdem generis with the preceding words since the word 'such' means "of the type previously mentioned" (See Concise Oxford English Dictionary (10th Edn.)). The word "other" has also been held to indicate that it must be construed ejusdem generis (Siddeshwari Cotton Mills (P) Ltd. v. Union of India: (1989) 2 SCC 458, Assistant Collector of Central Excise v. Ramdeo Tobacco Co. (1991) 2 SCC 119. The underlying characteristic of platforms, verandas and steps is that they are not independent structures and are external to a building, that is they are attached to the outside and form an inessential part of a building. In our opinion, therefore in order to be a building for the purpose of Section 299 the structure would have to be an independent, permanent structure. Thus there is no repugnancy if one were to read the definition of building and Section 299 and in our opinion the word ?building? has been used in Section 299 in the sense defined in Section 3(s).


20. Of the six items listed by the Commissioner in his report, learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents has, as we have noted earlier, already conceded that the part of the main structure described against serial No. 6 would be excluded from the purview of the action proposed in the impugned notice under Section 299. Even without the concession in our view, applying the test of independence and permanence each of the items falls within the definition of ?building? in Section 3(s) of the Act, and therefore, fall outside the purview of Section 299.? (emphasis supplied)


20. In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India and others (2006) 3 SCC 399, the Supreme Court in para 21 has noticed that the definition of the expression ?building? in Delhi Municipal Corporation Act is very wide and encompasses any structure only excluding portable shelter. Though the definition of building is not an inclusive definition, the use of the words ?any other structure? makes the definition inclusive by bringing within its ambit amongst others 'any other structure'. The storage tanks in question cannot be termed as portable shelters because these storage tanks are not temporary or portable so as to be able to be shifted or removed from one place to another. These tanks have been permanently erected without being shifted from place to place. Considering the fact that the storage tanks have been permanently erected without being shifted from place to place and are permanently stationed at the present place since last several decades, in our opinion they are building within the meaning of the Act. Accordingly, our answer to the first question is that the erection of storage tanks in question amounts to erection of building which is taxable under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act.


Re. Question (ii)


21. The next question is whether these storage tanks and other structures raised on the land are exempted as plant and machinery under Section 116 of the Act. Mr.B.B.Jain, learned counsel appearing for the respondent, contended that there is no definition of plant in the Act but in its ordinary sense it would include whatever apparatus used by a businessman for carrying on his business and since storage tanks are apparatus for carrying on business, they should be regarded as ?plant? within the meaning of Section 116 of the Act. He placed reliance on the classic definition given by Lord Justice Lindley in Yarmouth v. France, 1887(19) QBD 647 observing that the word ?plant? in its ordinary sense would include ?whatever apparatus is used by a businessman for carrying on his business .... not his stock in trade which he buys or makes for sale; but all goods and chattels, fixed or movable, live or dead, which he keeps for permanent employment in his business.? Learned counsel referred to the decision in Jarrold v. John Good & Sons, (1963)1 All E.R. 141, where the Court of Appeal, relying upon the decision in Yarmouth's case held the partitions as ?plant? on the basis that the same served as a part of the building in which tax payers' business was carried on. He also relied upon in Inland Revenue v. Barclay Curle, (1969) 1 ALL E.R.732, where House of Lords followed the definition of plant, as given in Yarmouth's case holding Dry Dock to be a plant by applying the functional test, being an integral part of the business of the assessee. He next referred to Cooke v. Beach Stations Caravans Ltd.,(1974) 3 All E.R. 159, where a swimming pool being a structure was held to be a plant by applying the functional test that the same was used by the assessee for his trade or business and was part of the apparatus used by the tax payer company for carrying on its business as a Caravans Park Operator. He also referred to decisions of the Supreme Court in CIT, Andhra Pradesh v. Taj Mahal Hotel, Secunderabad, (1971) 3 SCC 550 and Scientific Engineering House (P) Ltd. v. C.I.T., Andhra Pradesh, (1986) 1 SCC 11, where the Court referred to with approval the observations of Lindley, L.J. in Yarmouth v. France.


22. We are unable to accept the submissions of Mr.B.B. Jain. The words ?plant and machinery? in Section 116 of the Act cannot be interpreted so widely. In our opinion, the object and scheme of the Act do not permit such a wide interpretation. The decisions cited by Mr.B.B.Jain were in the context of the Income Tax Act and, therefore, not of universal application. If plant is defined differently under a different provision or if the context so requires it may have to be given a different and narrower meaning. There is no definition of the plant in the Act. A contextual interpretation and meaning will have to be given to ?plant and machinery? in the light of object and scheme of the Act. Under the Act all lands and buildings are taxable unless exempted by the Statute. As noticed earlier, 'land' and 'building' are defined in wide terms. The term ?plant and machinery? occurs in Section 116 of the Act. For erection of a building it is necessary to obtain a sanction under Section 332 of the Act and the Building Bye-Laws framed thereunder while for installing plant and machinery no such sanction is required. The respondent has been granted the right to erect / construct ?petroleum installation buildings? consisting of petroleum tanks, buildings and other conveniences for receiving and 'storing' therein petroleum in bulk. Such constructions are admittedly to be raised so as to enable the grantee the right of extensive user for a long time. We have already demonstrated that the storage tanks have been permanently erected without being shifted from place to place and are permanently stationed at the present place and they are building within the meaning of Section 2(3) of the Act. Obviously for running almost all industries or for carrying on any trade or business building is required. On occasions building may be designed and constructed to suit the requirements of a particular trade, industry or business. But that would not make such building a plant. It only shelters running of such business. In this connection it will be useful to refer to a decision of the Supreme Court in C.I.T., Trivandrum v. M/s Anand Theatres (2000) 5 SCC 393. The question involved in that case was whether a building which was used as a hotel or cinema theatre could be considered to be a plant or whether it remained a building for the purposes of depreciation. The High Court held that the hotel building was a plant and was entitled to a depreciation at the rate applicable to plant and that a theatre building was also a plant. The respondent assessee relying upon the very decisions, cited by Mr.B.B.Jain, contended that the building and structure could also be considered to be a plant provided they fulfill the functional test i.e. they were part of the whole apparatus with which the trade carried on as opposed to the place or setting where the same was carried on. Rejecting the contention, the Court held as follows:


?Further, in the context for the legislative scheme under Section 32, which provides for depreciation at different rates, inter alia, for building, machinery and plant, building used for certain specified purposes and machinery or machines used for the specified purposes, even though the word ?plant? may include building or structure in a certain set of circumstances as per the dictionary meaning, but to say that building used for running the business of hotel or a cinema would be ?plant? under the IT Act would be inconsistent with the said provisions and would be against the legislative intent. One has, therefore, to gather the meaning of the words ?building? and ?plant? in the context of the scheme of Section 32 rather than to adopt a judge-made meaning which is artificial and imprecise in application, given to the word ?plant? in the context of different statutory provisions. The scheme of Section 32 unequivocally leads to the conclusion that ?building? and ?plant? are treated separately for the purpose of grant of depreciation. Higher rate of depreciation is granted to ?machinery? and ?plant? as against ?building? which has more durability. The word ?plant? is given a wider meaning under Section 43(3) to include ships, vehicles, books, scientific apparatus and surgical equipment used for the purposes of the business or profession, but that would not mean that it includes building which is treated separately from machinery and plant. The business of a hotelier is carried on in a building or premises but the building is not an apparatus for running such business. The same would be the position with regard to a theater in which cinema business is carried on. Moreover, such buildings cannot be termed as tools for running business but are mere shelter for carrying on such business activities. Therefore, even functional test, which would not be conclusive in all cases, is also not satisfied.?


23. In State of Bihar v. Steel City Beverages Ltd. (1999) 1 SCC 10, the question, which arose for consideration, was whether investment made by the respondent company in bottles and crates can be said to be investment in "Plant" so as to amount to "Fixed Capital Investment" under the Bihar Sales Tax Supplementary (Deferment of Tax) Rules, 1990. The High Court after considering that under the Deferment Rules "fixed capital investment" means investment in land, building, plant and machinery and that they do not define the word "Plant", observed that it was required to be construed according to its dictionary meaning or as understood in common parlance and not in its technical sense. It held that the word "Plant" would include whatever apparatus is used by a businessman for carrying on his business; not his stock in trade which he buys or makes for sales, but all goods and chattels fixed or movable which he keeps for employment in his business and which have some degree of durability. Considering the nature of business of the Company, namely, manufacturing soft drinks and beverages, the High Court held that bottles and crates employed by it for its business are also 'Plant' and, therefore, the Company is entitled to get the benefit of deferment on the investment made in them. Allowing the appeal, the three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held as follows:


?5. Therefore, what we have to consider is whether under the Deferment Rules "plant" would include bottles and crates employed by an industrial unit manufacturing soft-drinks and beverages for carrying on its business. The word plant has a very wide meaning and a variety of articles, objects or things have been held to be plant. Dictionaries have defined plant as land, building, fixtures, machinery, implements and tools, and apparatus used in carrying on a mechanical operation or an industrial process. This Court in C.I.T. v. Taj Mahal Hotel (1971) 3 SCC 550 and Scientific Engineering House P. Ltd. v. CIT, (1986) 1 SCC 11 referred to with approval the observations of Lindley, L.J. in Yarmouth v. France, (1887) 19 QBD 647 that in its ordinary sense plant includes whatever apparatus is used by a businessman for carrying on his business, - not his stock-in-trade which he buys or makes for sale, but all goods and chattels, fixed or movable, live or dead, which he keeps for permanent employment in his business. In that case, this Court further held that the test to decide whether a particular thing is plant would be: "Does the article fulfill

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the function of a plant in the assessee's trading activity? Is it a tool of his trade with which he carries on his business? If the answer is in the affirmative, it will be a plant". Learned counsel for the respondents, heavily relying upon this decision, submitted that the High Court was right in interpreting the word plant in the Deferment Rules as including bottles and crates also as they are used by the Company for carrying on its business. We cannot agree with this contention as we are of the view that the High Court was wrong in interpreting the word plant in Rule 2(v) so widely. It failed to consider whether the object and scheme of the Deferment Rules permit such a wide interpretation. The High Court also failed to appreciate that the decisions of this Court in Taj Mahal Hotel (supra) and Scientific Engineering House (supra) were under the Income Tax Act and the observations made and the test indicated therein were in the context of the wide definition of the word plant given in that Act and, therefore, not of universal application. Obviously, if plant is defined differently under a different provision or if the context so requires, it may have to be given a different and a narrower meaning. The Deferment Rules do not define plant and, therefore, what should have been considered by the High Court was what meaning should be given to it in the context of the Deferment Rules.? 24. We may also refer to the definition of ?building? in Building Bye-Laws, 1983, which reads as follows: ?2.10 Building - Any structure for whatsoever purpose and of whatsoever material constructed and every part thereof whether used as human habitation or not and includes foundation, plinth, walls, roofs, chimneys, plumbing and building services, fixed platforms, verandahs, balcony, cornice or projection part of a building or anything affixed thereto or any wall enclosing or intended to enclose any land or space and signs and outdoor display structures, monuments, memorials or any contrivance of permanent nature / stability built under or over ground.? Buildings have been classified under different heads and the storage tanks would fall under clause 2.54.8, which reads as follows: ?2.54.8 Storage Buildings ? These shall include any building or part of a building used primarily for the storage or sheltering of goods, wares or merchandise, like warehouses, cold storages, freight depot, transit sheds, store houses / garages, hangars, truck terminals, grain elevators, barns and stables.? 25. The storage tanks of the respondent are mere shelters for carrying on business activities of storing the petroleum products / stock in trade which are permanent constructions. The business of storing oil of the respondent is being carried on in these installations / storage tanks which are shelters or a home for carrying on the business and cannot be termed as an apparatus fur running such business. If the contention of Mr.Jain is accepted, then virtually all buildings, which are used for commercial / industrial user, would be considered to be a plant and the meaning assigned to ?building? in the Act would be completely negated. Such an interpretation will be totally inconsistent with the object and scheme of the Act. 26. In the result, we record our findings on the two questions as follows: (i) The erection of storage tanks in question amounts to erection of building, which is taxable under the Act. (ii)The storage tanks in question and other structures raised on the land in question are not exempted as plant and machinery under Section 116 of the Act. 27. Registry to transmit these findings to the Supreme Court.
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