Eminent lawyer KH Kaji passed away at the age of 95 on May 1, 2021.
Kaji was born in Bombay on October 26, 1926. After having passed his LLB (First Class) at Bombay University in 1945 and having passed the Advocates (OS) Examination of the Bombay High Court, standing first in his class in 1948, Shri Kaji started his legal career in practice on the Original Side at the Bombay High Court in 1948.
He also offered his services as part-time Professor of Law at Sydenham College in Bombay (1947-1960), at Government Law College in Bombay (1947-1960), and at HA College of Commerce in Ahmedabad (1965-1971).
He shifted to Gujarat in 1960 upon bifurcation of Bombay State and practiced before the Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court.
Kaji was a personal friend of mine. In 1969, we had house over the plot No. 22, Saurabh Society. In that house that he built, his love for books and library was reflected. Being a next door neighbor, I always went to his house and referred the books. After he undertook the Chardham Yatra, he named his residential house 'Gangotri'.
Kaji and his wife, Kalindiben were simple and innocent and enjoyed simple pleasures of life. His love for ice-cream can never be forgotten. He used to take me along with MD Pandya and BR Shah to a restaurant near the old High Court building for sharing ice-cream with him in the beginning of my career.
During court hours, if somebody offered him ice-cream any time, he had no hesitation in accepting the same. He always called me over for breakfast when Kalindiben prepared fast food including Panipuri of our choice.
Kaji served as Acting Advocate General of Gujarat in 1966-67, Standing Counsel for the Income Tax Department of Gujarat (1971-77), Founder President and President Emeritus of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Bar Association and the All-Gujarat Federation of Tax Consultants, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Apang Manav Mandal.
In Orient Club vs. Sales Tax Officer [123 ITR 395], the Gujarat High Court was persuaded by Kaji to take a view that the club cannot be considered as legal entity under the Wealth Tax Act. The club could be considered as unregistered association and it cannot be assessed as such.
The view which was taken by the Gujarat High Court has been approved and confirmed by the Supreme Court in M/s. Bangalore Club vs. Commissioner of Income Tax and anr. [JT 2013(1) SC 428] in which the top court held that a person cannot make a profit for himself. An amount received from oneself is not regarded as income and is therefore not subject to tax.
Further, this year, in Bangalore Club vs. Commissioner of Sales Tax, after the amendment, the Supreme Court took the same view and delivered judgments upholding the same view.
I had several opportunities to appear against Kaji in income-tax matters when I was the Standing Counsel for the Income Tax Department in 1990. I also had opportunities to oppose him in several matters of importance as also challenging the Sales Tax Act and the Rules when I was the Advocate General.
He was the Editor of the 16th to 19th Editions of TR Desai’s Indian Contract Act, Sales of Goods Act and Partnership Act, the Editor of the Digest of Direct Tax Cases decided by the Gujarat High Court from 1960 to 2014, and the Editor of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (Ahmedabad Bench) Decisions (1968-2014).
He also authored the book, Search, Seizure & Survey – Tax Planning via Wills & Family Settlements, and numerous articles on tax topics such as HUF, Hindu Law Amendment Act, 2005 and Reassessment.
One of his foremost qualities was his sense of integrity. In the Income Tax Department, for instance, his opinion was respected at all levels not only because of his mastery over the law and practice of income tax cases and his outstanding success in that field, but also his personal integrity. He was a man who was simple in his tastes and habits and without pretense. He was free from rancor, bitterness and resentment. He did not speak ill of anyone and if someone said something nasty about him, he would not take it ill.
His presentation of case was clear and simple and his arguments convincing. His fairness and integrity were such that he would never make a wrong legal proposition and he would even cite cases against himself.
Kaji would often tell judges that if they wanted to decide against him they should rest their judgement on the ground that he was suggesting. He said that advocates cannot run away from difficulties and that there are only three ways of dealing with cases - you can distinguish the case or you can tell the judge that you are going further, but if it is the judgement of final court, there is nothing more to be done.
His advocacy was persuasive and forceful and his superiority over others was his stupendous memory, which helped him to have thorough grasp over facts. He had an unerring mastery over legal principles and a rare talent in presenting facts.
Kaji's long and distinguished earthly sojourn came to an end when he answered the final summons of his maker in May 2021 at the ripe age of 95. Kaji left behind his son Manish, daughter Madhavi and their children. Manish practices on taxation side. Madhvi is a resident of U.S.
Kaji's juniors revered him, his colleagues and friends held him in high esteem and the Bench respected him. He was adored by one and all.
The country has lost a great human and an eminent lawyer. His life was a testimony to the importance of values in life.
The author is a Senior Advocate and former Advocate General of Gujarat.