December 2, 2008

Union Of India And Anr. VS. Azadi Bachao Andolan And Anr.

CASE NO.: Appeal (civil) 8161-8162 of 2003 Appeal (civil) 8163-8164 of 2003
PETITIONER: Union of India and Anr.
RESPONDENT: Azadi Bachao Andolan and Anr.
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/10/2003
BENCH: Ruma Pal & B.N. Srikrishna.
JUDGMENT: J U D G M E N T (Arising out of S.L.P.(C) Nos.20192-20193 of 2002) (@ S.L..P.(C) Nos. 22521-22522 of 2002)
Leave granted.
These appeals by special leave arise out of the judgment of the Division Bench of Delhi High Court allowing Civil Writ Petition (PIL)No.5646/2000 and Civil Writ Petition No.2802/2000.
The High Court by its judgment impugned in these appeals quashed and set aside the circular No.789 dated 13.4.2000 issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (hereinafter referred to as
"CBDT") by which certain instructions were given to the Chief Commissioners/Directors General of Income-tax with regard to the assessment of cases in which the Indo - Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Convention, 1983 (hereinafter referred to as
'DTAC') applied. The High Court accepted the contention before it that the said circular is ultra vires the provisions of Section 90 and Section 119 of the Income-tax Act, 1961(hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') and also otherwise bad and illegal.
It would be necessary to recount some salient facts in order to appreciate the plethora of legal contentions urged.
A: The Agreement The Government of India has entered into various Agreements (also called Conventions or Treaties) with Governments of different countries for the avoidance of double taxation and for prevention of fiscal evasion. One such Agreement between the Government of India and the Government of Mauritius dated April 1, 1983, is the subject matter of the present controversy. The purpose of this Agreement, as specified in the preamble, is "avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and capital gains and for the encouragement of mutual trade and investment". After completing the formalities prescribed in Article 28 this agreement was brought into force by a Notification dated 6.12.1983 issued in exercise of the powers of the Government of India under Section 90 of the Act read with Section 24A of the Companies (Profits) Surtax Act, 1964. As stated in the Agreement, its purpose is to avoid double taxation and to encourage mutual trade and investment between the two countries, as also to bring an environment of certainty in the matters of tax affairs in both countries.
Some of the salient provisions of the Agreement need to be noticed at this juncture. The Agreement defines a number of terms used therein and also contains a residuary clause. In the application of the provisions of the Agreement by the contracting States any term not defined therein shall, unless the context otherwise requires, have the meaning which it has under the laws in force in that contracting State, relating to the words which are the subject of the convention. Article 1(e) defines 'person' so as to include an individual, a company and any other entity, corporate or non-corporate "which is treated as a taxable unit under the taxation laws in force in the respective contracting States". The Central Government in the Ministry of Finance (Department of Revenue), in the case of India, and the Commissioner of Income Tax in the case of Mauritius, are defined as the "competent authority". Article 4 provides the scope of application of the Agreement. The applicability of the Agreement is determined by Article 4 which reads as under;
"Article 4 Residents 1. For the purposes of the Convention, the term
"resident of a Contracting State" means any person who under the laws of that State, is liable to taxation therein by reason of his domicile, residence, place or management or any other criterion of similar nature. The terms "resident of India" and "resident of Mauritius" shall be construed accordingly.
2. Where by reason of the provisions of paragraph 1, an individual is a resident of both Contracting States, then his residential status for the purposes of this Convention shall be determined in accordance with the following rules: (a) he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State in which he has a permanent home available to him; if he has a permanent home available to him in both Contracting States, he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State with which his personal and economic relations are closer (hereinafter referred to as his
"centre of vital interests");
(b) if the Contracting State in which he has his centre of vital interest cannot be determined, or if he does not have a permanent home available to him in either Contracting State he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State in which he has an habitual abode;
(c) if he has an habitual abode in both Contracting States or in neither of them, he shall be deemed to be a resident of the Contracting State of which he is a national;
(d) if he is a national...

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