National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC): The Coram of Dinesh Singh (Presiding Member) and Justice Karuna Nand Bajpayee (Member) expressed that in the ‘service’ of ‘housing construction’, if, in a particular case, “compensation” is computed “by way of interest” on the deposited amount it shall not be differently treated than the other cases in which the term “interest” may not at all be used in computing the compensation.

Background

This Commission had by an earlier order directed that OP shall refund the entire principal amount of Rs 2,74,79, 831,48 to the complainant alongwith compensation in form of simple interest at the rate of 11% and OP shall also pay a sum of Rs 25,000 as the cost of litigation.

Both sides admitted that the entire amount paid by the decree holder to the judgment debtors has been refunded along with the cost of litigation.

Issue for Consideration

Whether or not compensation which was computed by way of interest on the deposited amount, attracts TDS?

Analysis, Law and Decision

Coram stated that the only issue was in respect of deduction of tax at source on the “compensation” awarded, which in the present case was computed “in the form of simple interest” on the deposited amount.

Certainly, tax is not deducted at source if the compensation is awarded in the form of a lumpsum amount, or when the formula or yardstick, if and as any adopted for the purposes of computation, does not involve or refer to the term “interest”. It will therefore be erroneous to deduct tax at source just because in a particular case the formula or yardstick adopted for computation alludes to the term “interest”.

Commission clarified that it is neither adding to nor subtracting from the Income Tax Act. If a person is responsible to pay income tax on any revenue or capital receipt under the aid Act, he will be so liable.

Adding to the above, Coram stated that compensation awarded under the Consumer Protection Act is for the loss or injury suffered and is universally applicable to both goods and services inclusive of the service relating to housing construction.

The context and meaning of the term “interest” if used in the mode of calculation or a formula or yardstick adopted for computing compensation under section 2(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act is identifiably different from the context and meaning as used in Section 194A of the Income Tax Act.

Hence, there was no justification for deducting tax at source in the instant case.

Concluding the matter, the Commission observed that the tax deducted at source on compensation appeared to be a mistake with no malafide and even though the tax ought not to have been deducted it is also seen that the same has not been retained by the judgment debtors and deposited in the account of the decree-holder in the Income Tax Department.

In view of the above discussion, the matter was closed. [Rita Bakshi v. M3M India Ltd., 2022 SCC OnLine NCDRC 40, decided on 2-3-2022]


Advocates before the Commission:

For the Appellant: Mr. Deepak Narayana, Advocate

For the Respondent: Mr. A. K. Takkar, Advocate with Ms. Syashee Pesswani, Advocate

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: In the instant case where the issue revolved around the applicability of TDS on interest in Motor Accident Claims; the Single Judge Bench of N. Anand Venkatesh, J., while observing that the issue has become complicated owing to the fact that there are conflicting decisions on the same, decided that the matter must be referred to a larger Bench for resolution and clarity, as all the stakeholders have serious interests requiring immediate attention.

As per the facts, the present appeal was filed against an award for Rs 10, 46,200 with interest at 9% p.a. from date of claim, in favour of the victim/ claimant who suffered grievous injury. The appellants drew the attention of the Court to their dilemma regarding the applicability of TDS under Section 194 A of the Income Tax Act, 1961. It was contended by the appellants that while satisfying the award, the interest liability would be subject to Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) under the aforementioned statutory provision. It was brought before the Court that the legal position in Tamil Nadu suggests that in cases where the insurer satisfies the award and deducts TDS, they face the prospect of attachment by way of execution petitions. On the other hand, if the insurer does not apply TDS, they run the risk of facing penalty under Section 201 of Income Tax Act, 1961. Therefore the appellants sought the guidance of the Court in getting them out of this “between the devil and the deep sea” situation and to make it clear as to which of the two courses they should embrace in this case.

The Court sought the assistance from R. Sankaranarayanan, V. Lakshminarayanan, M.B. Raghavan and N.P. Vijayakumar, all acting in the capacity of amicus curiae. The Court referred to it’s previous decision in New India Assurance v. Mani 270 (2004) ITR 394 Mad, where the order of attachment and direction to pay the TDS amount were set aside. Then in TNSTC v. Chinnadurai, 2016 SCC OnLine Mad 3494, ruled that TDS in Motor accident claims was inapplicable; however the Income Tax Department which had a vital interest in the issue was not heard in the case. The Court also took into consideration the decisions of other High Courts and pointed out that there was a lack of consistent application of the law. The Court noted the submissions made by the Income Tax Department counsel J.Narayanaswamy that there was no judgment of a larger bench on this tax issue and clarity is required with regard to the interpretation and applicability of Section 194 A, as it would help not only the claimants but also the respective insurance companies, other entities and also the Income Tax department for a consistent and uniform approach.

Observing the stakes involved and lack of uniformity in the application of Section 194 A, the Court was convinced that the matter needs to be resolved by a Larger Bench of this Court. The Court also put forth a suggestion for the Larger Bench to consider the changes introduced by the Parliament, in Chapter XI of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 for the benefit of the accident victims. Keeping in mind the peculiar circumstances of the case, the Court directed the insurance company to deposit the entire award sum without applying any TDS; and that all pending Execution Petitions in Tamil Nadu relating to issue of TDS under Section 194 A, irrespective of their stage, shall stand stayed to await orders from the larger bench on the issue.[Cholamandalam General Insurance Co. Ltd. v. M. Ashok Kumar, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 1011, decided on 14-05-2020