This judgement was announced in case of Union of India v. Exide Industries Ltd. (116 taxmann.com 378) Dt 24.04.2020 wherein Hon’ble Supreme court rejected respondent’s claim where it was challenging the constitutional validity of including leave encashment u/s 43B and was of the view that leave encashment was not any statutory liability or any other liability created for the welfare of employees and hence should not be covered under this section.
Also the contention of respondent was supported by decision of the High Court at Calcutta (For short, “the High Court”) vide order dated 27.06.2007 in APO No. 301 of 2005, wherein it is held that the said clause is arbitrary and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India on various counts.
According to the respondents, the exception under Section 43B comes into operation only in a limited set of cases covering statutory liabilities like tax, duty, cess etc. and other liabilities created for the welfare of employees and therefore, the liability under the leave encashment scheme being a trading liability cannot be subjected to the exception under Section 43B of the 1961 Act.
It is the case of the respondents that the judgment of this Court in Bharat Earth Movers v. Commissioner of Income Tax, Karnataka  6 SCC 645 holds the field of law as far as the nature of the liability of leave encashment is concerned. The said judgment, while dealing with the principles of accounting under Section 37, conclusively holds that if a business liability has arisen definitely, deduction may be claimed against the same in the previous year in which such liability has accrued, even if it has not been finally discharged. The Court further held that the liability in lieu of leave encashment scheme is a present and definite liability and not a contingent liability. As regards the nature of the leave encashment liability, the respondents urge that this liability is carved in the nature of a beneficial provision and leave can only be encashed by the employees in accordance with the terms and conditions of employment. It is further contended that since the due date for encashment of leave does not arise in the same accounting year in which provision is made, there is no question of subjecting the deductions against such liability upon actual payment.
Having stated that all the clauses under Section 43B, barring clause (f), cover liabilities of a statutory nature and those driven by concerns of employees’ welfare, the respondents would urge that the liability covered by clause (f) is of a completely distinct nature and without specifying clear objects and reasons for the inclusion of this liability under Section 43B, it cannot be slipped into the main section. Further, the nature of this liability is neither in sync with the objects and reasons of the original section nor with those of other clauses enacted from time to time in different assessment years.
Hon’ble Supreme Court’s observation:
Section 43B, however, is enacted to provide for deductions to be availed by the assessee in lieu of liabilities accruing in previous year without making actual payment to discharge the same. It is not a provision to place any embargo upon the autonomy of the assessee in adopting a particular method of accounting, nor deprives the assessee of any lawful deduction. Instead, it merely operates as an additional condition for the availment of deduction qua the specified head.
Section 43B bears heading “certain deductions to be only on actual payment”. It opens with a non obstante clause. As per settled principles of interpretation, a non obstante clause assumes an overriding character against any other provision of general application. It declares that within the sphere allotted to it by the Parliament, it shall not be controlled or overridden by any other provision unless specifically provided for. Out of the allowable deductions, the legislature consciously earmarked certain deductions from time to time and included them in the ambit of Section 43B so as to subject such deductions to conditionality of actual payment. Such conditionality may have the inevitable effect of being different from the theme of mercantile system of accounting on accrual of liability basis qua the specific head of deduction covered therein and not to other heads. But that is a matter for the legislature and its wisdom in doing so.
With the passage of time, the legislature inserted more deductions to Section 43B including cess, bonus or commission payable by employer, interest on loans payable to financial institutions, scheduled banks etc., payment in lieu of leave encashment by the employer and repayment of dues to the railways. Thus understood, there is no oneness or uniformity in the nature of deductions included in Section 43B. It holds no merit to urge that this section only provides for deductions concerning statutory liabilities. Section 43B is a mix bag and new and dissimilar entries have been inserted therein from time to time to cater to different fiscal scenarios, which are best determined by the government of the day.
The leave encashment scheme envisages the payment of a certain amount to the employees in lieu of their unused paid leaves in a year. The nature of this payment is beneficial and pro-employee. However, it is not in the form of a bounty and forms a part of the conditions of service of the employee. An employer seeking deduction from tax liability in advance, in the name of discharging the liability of leave encashment, without actually extending such payment to the employee as and when the time for payment arises may lead to abhorrent consequences. When time for such payment arises upon retirement (or otherwise) of the employee, an employer may simply refuse to pay. Consequently, the innocent employee will be entangled in litigation in the evening of his/her life for claiming a hard-earned right without any fault on his part. Concomitantly, it would entail in double benefit to the employer – advance deduction from tax liability without any burden of actual payment and refusal to pay as and when occasion arises. It is this mischief clause (f) seeks to subjugate.
At the outset, we observe that both the grounds are ill-founded. In the basic scheme of Section 43B, there is no direct or indirect limitation upon the power of legislature to include only particular type of deductions in the ambit of Section 43B. To say that Section 43B is restricted to deductions of a statutory nature would be nothing short of reading the provision in a purely imaginative manner.
Accordingly, the impugned judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court is reversed and clause (f) in Section 43B of the 1961 Act is held to be constitutionally valid and operative for all purposes.
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