From tax benefit to conversion of currency, here are the key court orders

Topics Supreme Court

T ax benefit for expansion of unit

Manufacturers who have carried out “substantial expansion” of their units will get income tax deduction for an extended period, counted from the date of expansion, the Supreme Court has ruled while quashing the judgment of the Himachal Pradesh High Court in the case, Mahabir Industries vs Principal Commissioner. This benefit was introduced in the Income Tax Act in 2003. The company, in this case, manufactures polythene in its Shimla factory. It claimed tax benefit under Section 80-IC. This provision grants deduction at the rate of 100 per cent for 10 years to industries in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Northeastern states. The deduction is gradually reduced over the years. The dispute, in this case, was whether the period should start from the expansion or before. The Supreme Court allowed the appeal stating that the company became entitled to the deduction from the “initial year”, which is the year when the substantial expansion was completed.

Row over conversion of currency

When a decree is passed in favour of a person in foreign currency converted into Indian rupees, disputes arise over the conversion rate because of the fluctuation in the value of the currencies. Since the rate changes, the date of conversion becomes the staple of litigation. The Supreme Court had earlier laid down five rules to decide the issue. However, the question arose again in the appeal case, Meenakshi Saxena vs ECGC Ltd. She had taken out a policy from the insurance company, earlier known as Export Credit Guarantee Corporation. The goods were sent to France, but the purchaser did not pay. So the exporter moved the Panipat consumer forum. It asked the corporation to pay the insured amount. Though the insurer paid part of the decreed amount, it was less than the claim. The insurer paid in rupees at the value of euros at the time of the shipment. The exporter insisted that it should be according to the exchange rate at the time of the payment. This dispute continued in the consumer courts for over a decade. The National Consumer Commission ultimately ruled in favour of the insurer. Therefore, the exporter appealed to the Supreme Court. It dismissed the appeal as the contract had specified that the payment shall be converted into Indian currency at the bank buying rate at Mumbai on the date of the invoice.

Arbitration team flies to Singapore

In a rare instance, the Bombay High Court has permitted the sole arbitrator and a team of lawyers and representatives to go to Singapore to examine a witness as he is not willing to visit Mumbai which is the venue of arbitration. The arbitrator, who is a Mumbai lawyer, will act as court commissioner. The High Court has also issued a Letter of Request to facilitate the Singapore court to conduct the proceedings, namely examination and cross-examination. The issue involving procedures of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, the Civil Procedure Code and Singapore laws arose in the case, Stemcore (SEA) Pte vs Mideast Integrated Steel Ltd. Stemcore is registered in Singapore and the opposite company in Mumbai. The contract stated that Indian law will apply in arbitration and the venue will be Mumbai. However, the managing director of Stemcore declined to visit Mumbai, allegedly because of investigations against him by the Enforcement Directorate and his apprehension of detention in India. The High Court resolved imbroglio by passing a 10-point direction enabling the legal team to visit Singapore. If the arbitrator is not willing to become the commissioner, the Singapore court has been asked to appoint a “fit and proper” person there to act as commissioner. If the Indian team goes there the Singapore firm will take all their expenses including “accommodation and extra luggage charges".

Govt units take battle to court

Courts in the country have frequently admonished government entities for fighting fratricidal legal battles — with little impact. Now, it was the turn of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court to reprimand the State Road Transport Corporation and the state government over an e-tender for transporting food grains. Private firms and the state corporation challenged the tender floated by the Civil Supplies Department. While dismissing all of them, the judgment in the case, Ladakh Roadlines vs State, made strong remarks. It said: “It is neither appropriate nor permissible for two departments of a State to fight litigation in a court of law. Indeed, such a course cannot be but detrimental to the public interest as it also entails avoidable wastage of the public money and time.”

Arbitrary condition on NGOs quashed

The Delhi High Court last week struck down a tender condition which insisted that non-government organisations bidding for providing mid-day meals in corporation schools should have at least an annual turnover of Rs 30 million. The NGOs argued that most of the 32 groups running the scheme for the past five years did not have the annual billing of that scale. The government argued that the NGOs should have the financial capacity to sustain themselves for at least four months. The judgment in the case, Allied Integrated Society vs NCT of Delhi, quashed the criterion as arbitrary and unreasonable, and made stinging observations: “What the government is saying is that its existing administrative capability is so inefficient that the bills of every NGO would take at least four months for processing which is the reason why the eligibility condition needs to be factored in. It is an extraneous and entirely unreasonable factor. In fact, it amounts to placing a premium on its own inefficiency in the guise of pragmatism.”

Compensation with compassion

The Supreme Court has observed that in road accident claims cases, courts should not take a “hyper-technical approach but has to discharge the role of parens patriae (caretaker of citizens who need protection)". In this case, Mohar Sai vs Gayatri Devi, the tribunal had awarded a compensation of Rs 385,000 to the wife and family of the deceased who died when the over-speeding bike overturned. While the wife maintained that the bike was driven by its owner, the Chhattisgarh High Court ruled that the deceased was driving it. On the principle of contributory negligence, the compensation was reduced by half. The wife and family did not approach the Supreme Court to oppose it, but the owner appealed and asserted that no compensation was due as the deceased himself drove the bike. The Supreme Court stated that the High Court committed a manifest error and selectively relied on statements of interested witnesses to halve the compensation rightly computed by the tribunal on the evidence before it. 


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