17 June 2017

Archana / अर्चना

A dear friend shared this poem by Shri Rabindranath Tagore ji. It inspired me to write the following:

Swirling and twirling in the gentle breeze,
The centre of attraction of all bees;
Hanging from the अमलतास*,
Oh, these flowers wondrous!

Should I pluck them for my offering?
Or will that invite sin and suffering?
The sight is perfect and pure delight,
Disturbing it does not feel right.

But beauty has never lasted forever,
Sooner or later, all ties sever;
So too, it will be released,
Better to take now, before the dust('s) siege.

Does it want to touch the feet of God?
Or be attached to the birth cord?
I don't know the answers to these,
My ramblings continue, please read!

I sowed hundreds of seeds,
Yet, only a few took the lead;
Sun, manure and water I gave to all,
Then, why did only a few grow tall?

By God's grace, the seed germinates,
By God's grace, it doesn't terminate;
By God's grace, the flower shines,
And so to serve God, they're all in line!

There's nothing that is not His,
He doesn't need anything, He is bliss;
He accepts a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even water**,
Like a mother from her toddler***.

What matters is devotion,
And not donation;
My धर्म, my study and my prayer,
Are to understand myself sans these layers.

I am back to the start,
Should I pluck or simply depart?
I am still unsure and so will give it a miss,
But, I will recite His name - to me, that is the simplest route to bliss!

*Laburnum; Do read The Laburnum Top by Ted Hughes. You may find traces of it in this poem.
**Bhagwad Gita Chapter 9, Verse 26
***Taken from the commentary on the aforesaid verse by Swami Maheshanand Giri ji Maharaj


15 June 2017


My cousin sister passed away a few days ago. She was in her early thirties. Her death has left me unsettled and shocked. She died in a car accident. It could have been anyone. It could have been me. Something like this can happen to anyone, anytime. There wasn't disease. There wasn't illness. There was nothing anyone could do to prevent it. In a matter of seconds, everything came to an end. You imagine life in a particular way and then something happens out of the blue and then that alignment gets completely distorted. My perception of life got altered significantly.

The incident had a sobering effect on me, albeit temporarily. The rigours of everyday life make it too easy to not think and reflect. Her death made me realise that the feeling that I am alive, in itself, should be a source of happiness. I should be happy and grateful for every breath that I am able to take. I should be happy and grateful for every second that I am alive. Everything else is a top-up, sort of like a bonus.

It is true that I believe in the concept of a soul and that it is the soul that is permanent and blissful. I also believe that objects are not a source of happiness. If they were, then they would always give happiness and would give happiness to everyone. That is certainly not the case. Therefore, by implication, the body cannot be a source of happiness. However, (currently) I do not have enough conviction in the first premise i.e.: I am a soul (which is bliss) and not the body. Given this limitation, for me, the body is important as most of the time I identify with the body.

And thus, for me, the gift of the human body is immense. The human body is filled with a vast set of equipments and they enable us to do so many things. I can't type this article without the assistance of my fingers, my brain, my eyes and perhaps some other parts of the body I am not even aware of. The fact that the body remains with us for one additional second is, in itself, a blessing. A dear friend of mine once told me that the human body is the most spectacular piece of machinery. I couldn't agree more. Being able to use it for one more second, oh what a fortune!

I realised that most of the time I ignore this magnificent blessing. I am trying to consciously focus on it now. When I am a little low or when things don't go my way, I try to focus on the experience of being alive and that this experience, in itself, is something to be happy about. Everyday, I come across news and information of lives lost - in accidents, through disease, through crime, in natural calamities and what not.  I realise that at any given point in time I will either live or I will not. The fact that I survived should make me happy. I should not take being alive as a given. 

I hope I am able to cultivate this feeling of gratitude.

आंधी मे दीपक की तरह,
बारिश की बूंद की तरह,
भुकंप मे कांच के घर की तरह,
तूफान मे झोपडी की तरह,
तेज लेहर पर तेरती हुई पंखुडी की तरह,
पत्तझड की पत्ती की तरह,
 है  यह जीवन।


Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/Early_morning_view_of_Varanasi_city_from_opposite_bank.jpg

14 May 2017

If I were the Examiner...

Perhaps, in all of us lies a closet valedictorian. However, in a very few of us, lies the closet examiner. I have my taxation exam on the 17th. Tax happens to be my interest area. So if I had the chance to draft the tax question paper, it would look something like this:

Attempt any 5 questions. 
All questions carry equal marks.

  1. Shantaram belongs to a religious order called Ram Matha. Shantaram has renounced the world. According to the tenets of his religion, he cannot own and acquire any property and everything he has (or had) belongs to the religious institution (i.e.: Ram Matha) to which he is attached. Ram Matha has an educational institute where Shantaram teaches Sanskrit. The educational institute receives funding from the Government. The Government disburses Shantaram's salary to the educational institution. According to the tenets of his religion, Shantaram cannot own and acquire any property and hence the salary is never disbursed to Shantaram and it remains with the educational institution (which in turn is owned by a religious institute - Ram Matha).

    By applying the concept of application and diversion of income, determine if the income is taxable in the hands of Shantaram.

  2. In the foothills of the Himalayas grows a wonderful and savoury mushroom called Guchi. The mushrooms cannot be farmed and grow sporadically in forests, meadows and orchards. They grow best during the monsoons and it takes months before enough can be collected for the market. The mushrooms are sold at an exorbitant price of Rs 15,000 per kilogram. Shroomchand is in the business of collecting and distributing Guchi. He employs several persons who go into the forest and collect the produce. It several weeks for the workers to collect sufficient produce. A lot of time and effort is put in.

    Determine if the income earned by Shroomchand qualifies as agricultural income under the Income Tax Act, 1961.

  3. "Our courts must send a clear signal that India is not a banana republic where foreign companies can be invited to loot our resources and even avoid paying taxes on their windfall gains from the sale of those resources."

    "The courts merely interpret the law and if a transaction is not liable to Indian income tax, one must graciously accept the result."

    Analyse the correctness of the above statements with respect to the Supreme Court's decision in Vodafone International Holdings v. Union of India (2012) 6 SCC 613.

  4. (a) Pinty works with a mobile-application based taxi service business called Ubla. Pinty is a driver and owns her own car. Pinty receives cab requests through Ubla's mobile-application, which works through a Global Positioning System (GPS). As a driver, Pinty can decide when she wants to work and when she does not want to work. However, when she decides to work, she cannot refuse a cab request that is sent to her. During any day, certain hours are dedicated as peak hours. If a driver, completes 3 rides/cab requests during the peak hour then the driver receives Rs 3000/- as incentive from Ubla. This is called the Peak Hour incentive. Further, the driver receives 5% of the revenue generated by such driver through all her cab rides/requests. This is called the Revenue Incentive. 

    Are these incentives (Peak Hour and Revenue) taxable for Pinty under the Head of Salaries under the Income Tax Act, 1961?

    (b) Haweli Kumar is a wealthy man and owns several properties. His wife Padma and son Bhanu also own several residential properties. Haweli Kumar dies. In his will, he bequeaths his mansion to Padma for her life and after her death to Bhanu i.e.: he creates a life interest in favour of his wife Padma. The terms of the will provided that Padma had a right to stay in the mansion but she could rent or lease or sell it. She only had a right to stay in it. After, Haweli Kumar's death, Padma did not reside in the bequeathed mansion and it remained empty till her death. 

    Is the income from the bequeathed mansion taxable? If yes, in whose hands is it taxable?

  5. To curb the air pollution in Delhi, the Delhi Government (with the consent of the Lt. Governor) instituted a policy of carbon credits for industries situated in Delhi. According to the policy, each industry was allocated a specific quota of air pollution emissions. An industry could not discharge air pollutants beyond that quota. However, if the industry discharged less than the allocated emissions, then it would earn 'Carbon Credits'. Such an industry would be free to sell these 'Carbon Credits' to industries that had crossed their quota. The idea of the policy was to control the overall emissions. 

    M/s MC Mehta purchased certain carbon credits from M/s Shriram. M/s MC Mehta showed the purchase of Carbon Credits as revenue expenditure. The ITO treated the same as capital expenditure. Decide.

  6. Mr. Satyavan was pursuing LL.B. from Faculty of Law, University of Salwa. During his LL.B., he was working as a part-time editor with Yama Law Publications. The Publication used to publish books on law. Satyavan used to receive a stipend/salary in return for his part-time services. Ms. Savitri was the sole-proprietor of  Yama Law Publications. During his stint at Yama Law Publications, Satyavan and Savitri fell in love and got married after Satyavan's second year of LL.B. After their marriage, Satyavan continued to work at Yama Law Publications and drew the same amount of salary/stipend. After his graduation, Satyavan joined Yama Law Publications as a full-time editor. He now drew a higher salary.

    The ITO has sought to club the salary/stipend received by Satyavan with the income earned by his wife Savitri. Determine if the same is possible for the following three time periods:

    (a) When Satyavan was in his first year of LL.B.
    (b) When Satyavan was in his third year of LL.B.
    (c) After Satyavan's graduation

  7. "The power conferred upon the ITO by Sections 147 and 148 is not an unbridled one. It is hedged in with several safeguards conceived in the interest of eliminating room for abuse of this power by the AOs." Discuss.

  8. Explain any two:
  • N. Bagavathy Ammal v. CIT [JT 2003 (1) SC 363]
  • Whatever is a proper outgoing by way of expenditure must be debited irrespective of whether there is receipt of income or not.

  • Bad and doubtful debts as deduction under the Head of Profits/Gains from Business and Profession.