Involuntary presence rules out resident status: DHC

The Delhi High Court recently ruled that the assesse is to be considered as non-resident Indian for the purposes of the Income Tax Act for the period for which he was in India ‘involuntarily’ on account of his passport having been impounded.

“His involuntary stay during the period that followed till the passport was restored under Court’s directive, thus, must be excluded for calculating the period under Section 6(1)(a) of Income Tax Act”, the Court ordered.

“…the Income Tax Act leaves the choice to the citizen to be in India and be treated as a resident for purposes of taxation or be not in India so as to avail the status of a non-resident. The simple test the muster of which is to be passed is the minimum prescribed period of presence in India in a particular financial year. It naturally follows that the option to be in India, or the period for which an Indian citizen desires to be here is a matter of his discretion. Conversely put, presence in India against the will or without the consent of the citizen, should not ordinarily be counted adverse to his chosen course or interest, particularly if it is brought about under compulsion or, to put it simply, involuntarily. There has to be, in the opinion of this Court, something to show that an individual intended or had the animus of residing in India for the minimum prescribed duration. If the record indicates that – such as for instance omission to take steps to go abroad, the stay can well be treated as disclosing an intention to be a resident Indian. Equally, if the record discloses materials that the stay (to qualify as resident Indian) lacked volition and was compelled by external circumstances beyond the individual’s control, she or he cannot be treated as a resident Indian”, the Court opined.

The Court, however, cautioned that this ruling cannot be treated as a thumb rule to the effect that each period of involuntary stay must invariably be excluded from computation for purposes of Section 6(1)(a) of Income Tax Act. It all depends on the facts and circumstances of a case.

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