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Commissioner of Sales Tax Vs. Hind Matches Sales Depot - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectDirect Taxation
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberS.T.R. No. 49 of 1976 with S.T.R. No. 50 to 52 of 1976
Judge
Reported in(1978)7CTR(Bom)254; [1978]41STC108(Bom)
ActsBombay Sales Tax Act, 1959 - Sections 61(1)
AppellantCommissioner of Sales Tax
RespondentHind Matches Sales Depot
Excerpt:
.....clearly suggests that according to the legislature, there was some matches which could ordinarily is used as fireworks. we fail to see what other matches there are which could be used as fireworks if not bengal light matches. we fail to see how bengal sight matches could ordinarily be used for a purpose other than entertainment or amusement;.....is as follows : 'whether the tribunal erred in holding that the coloured matches known as bengal light matches sold by the respondent are covered by entry 22 of schedule e to the bombay sales tax act, 1959 ?'2. the assessment periods to which these references relate are 1st april 1960, to 31st march, 1961, 1st april, 1961, to 31st march, 1962, 1st april, 1962, to 31st march 1963, and 1st april, 1963, to 31st march, 1964, respectively. 3. the facts giving rise to these reference are as follows : the respondent firm is registered as a dealer under the said act and deals in matches including safety matches and coloured matches known as bengal light matches. the dispute in these references relates to the tax to be levied on the sales of bengal light matches by the respondent. the sales tax.....
Judgment:

M.H. Kania, J.

1. These are four references under S. 61(1) of the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959 (hereinafter referred to as 'the said Act') made at the instance of the Commissioner of Sales Tax. The question which has been referred to us for our determination in these references is as follows :

'Whether the Tribunal erred in holding that the coloured matches known as Bengal light matches sold by the respondent are covered by Entry 22 of Schedule E to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959 ?'

2. The assessment periods to which these references relate are 1st April 1960, to 31st March, 1961, 1st April, 1961, to 31st March, 1962, 1st April, 1962, to 31st March 1963, and 1st April, 1963, to 31st March, 1964, respectively.

3. The facts giving rise to these reference are as follows : The respondent firm is registered as a dealer under the said Act and deals in matches including safety matches and coloured matches known as Bengal light matches. The dispute in these references relates to the tax to be levied on the sales of Bengal light matches by the respondent. The Sales Tax Officer, who assessed the respondent, held that these Bengal light matches were covered by Entry 43 of Schedule C to the said Act and were liable to be taxed at the rates provided therein. The respondent preferred appeals to the Appellate Assistant Commissioner of Sales Tax, who dismissed the same and confirmed the view taken by the Sales Tax Officer. The respondent then went by way if second appeals to the Sales Tax Tribunal. The Tribunal following its decision in Ishwardas & Bros. vs. State of Maharashtra (Second Appeal No. 348 of 1965 decided on 22nd October, 1966) took the view that the said Bengal light matches were covered by Entry 22 of Schedule E of the said Act and not by Entry 43 of Schedule C thereto. It is the correctness of this view which is sought to be tested by way of the question referred to us.

4. Before going into the controversy raised before us it may be useful to take note of the relevant entries in Schedule C to the said Act. The descriptive part of Entry 43 of Schedule C consists of the expression 'fireworks.' Entry 9 of Schedule C runs thus :

'Safety matches (excluding matches ordinarily used as fireworks).'

5. Entry 22 of Schedule E to the said Act is the residuary entry. The rate of sales tax prescribed in Entry 43 of Schedule C at the relevant time was eight paise in the rupee, which was higher than the rates prescribed in Entry 22 of Schedule E or Entry 9 of Schedule C to the said Act.

6. The contention of Mr. Kotwal, the learned Advocate for the applicant, is that Bengal light matches must be regarded as fireworks within the meaning of the said expression in Entry 43 of Schedule C to the said Act. It is urged by Mr. Kotwal that Bengal light matches are a kind of matches which emit coloured light when rubbed on a rough surface or a specially prepared surface. These matches are used not for domestic purposes but for amusement particularly during Diwali and on other festive occasions. It is submitted by him that in view of this, these matches must be regarded as 'fireworks' covered by entry 43 of Schedule C to the said Act. Our attention is drawn by Mr. Kotwal to the decision of a Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court in Commissioner of Sales Tax vs. India Cutlery Stores. In this case, the Gujarat High Court has taken the view that Bengal light matches are fire works and are covered by Entry 44E of Schedule C of the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959, as applicable to the State of Gujarat. The descriptive part of that entry is the same as descriptive part of entry 43 of Schedule C to the said Act with which we are concerned. A question arose in that case as to whether Bengal light matches were fireworks covered by entry 44E of Schedule C or were covered by the residuary entry and it was on this question that the Gujarat High Court took the aforesaid view. It has been pointed out in that judgment that it was common ground there that Bengal light matches are a kind of matches which emit colours when rubbed on a rough surface or a specially prepared surface. There matches are commonly known as 'Baporia.' These matches as well as paper caps were devices used mostly by children for excitement and pleasure during festivities. The Gujarat High Court has taken the view that in popular parlance 'fireworks' mean and include all those devices which, when exploded or burned, produce noise or brilliant light and which are usually displayed or exhibited for celebrating occasions of national, religious or social rejoicing or family festivals. According to its popular meaning, therefore, 'fireworks' would mean and include any contrivance used on a festive occasion which, when exploded or burned, produces noise or a brilliant lighting effect. The Gujarat High Court has pointed out that it is fortified in the aforesaid view by the dictionary meaning of the word 'fireworks' contained in Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Third Edition, at page 703 and Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Second Edition, Volume I, at page 690. The Gujarat High Court has also held that it would not be proper to ascertain the meaning of the word 'fireworks' in the said entry by reference to some other statute passed for different objects. The meaning of the word must be found from the definition given in the statute or from other indication, if any, given in the statute or, in the case of a taxing statute where the word is not defined from its use in popular parlance.

7. It appears to us that the dictionary meaning of the word 'firework' most applicable to the case before us would be that set out in Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary, New Edition 1972, at page 491, which runs as follows :

'... a contrivance for producing sparks, jets, flares, or glowing pictorial designs in fire for amusement.'

8. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Third Edition, at page 703, inter alia, defines the word 'fireworks' as 'any contrivance for producing with fire a pleasing or scenic effect; especially a rocket, squib, etc.' We are in respectful agreement with the view taken by the Gujarat High Court that the meaning of the word 'fireworks' in entry 43 of Schedule C to the said Act must be gathered from popular parlance and that in popular parlance 'fireworks' would mean and include all those devices which when exploded or burden, produce noise or brilliant light and which are used on festival occasions or entertainment. If this test is to be adopted there is no doubt that Bengal light matches must be regarded as fireworks. These are not matches which are used for any domestic purpose but for the purpose of producing brilliant and coloured light on festive occasions and are mainly used by children or amusement or entertainment on such occasions.

9. We are fortified in the view which we are taking, to some extent, by the wording of the descriptive part of entry 9 of Schedule C to the said Act, which we have already set out above. The brackets of portions in this entry clearly suggests that according to the legislature, there was some matches which could ordinarily is used as fireworks. We fail to see what other matches there are which could be used as fireworks if not Bengal light matches. We asked Mr. Patel, the learned Advocate for the respondent, as to whether there was any other kind of matches which he could think of which could be used as fireworks apart from Bengal light matches, and he admitted that he was unable to point out any kind of matches at all which could be used as fireworks. We may make it clear that the aforesaid consideration is not determinative of the matter and is only one the indications suggesting that according to the legislative intent Bengal light matches should be covered by the word 'fireworks in entry 43 of Schedule C of the said Act.

10. The submission of Mr. Patel is that Bengal light matches cannot be regarded as fireworks, because there is brilliant display of light produced by them. It is not disputed by him that when struck these Bengal light matches do produced very bright light, but, according to him, this light could not be regarded as 'brilliant', and hence these matches could not be regarded as fireworks. We are able to accept this argument. Once beyond dispute that the light produced Bengal light matches is a very bright light, we feel that it is not material whether a particular person would regard it as brilliant because that would be dependent on subjective factors. When the dictionary meanings factors. When the dictionary meanings refer to brilliant light being produced, all that is intended to be conveyed is that light produced should be bright tough to create amusement or entertainment.

11. It was next submitted by Mr. Patel that Bengal light matches were merely safety matches and were covered by entry of Schedule C to the said Act. It was pointed out by him that by a safety match was meant a match which got ignited only on being rubbed against a surface specially prepared. As Bengal light matches can who be ignited on a surface specially prepared, they must be regarded as safety matches. It is not possible to accept this contention either. There is no material on record to show that Bengal light matches can be ignited only on a specially prepared surface. Moreover, regarding the two entries together, viz. entries 9 and 43 of Schedule C of the said Act, we are of the view that Bengal light matches fall with the meaning of the word 'fireworks' in entry 43 and are hence included from the scope of the term 'safety matches' in Entry 9 of Schedule c, as the descriptive part of Entry 9 makes it quite clear that matches ordinarily used as fireworks are excluded from the scope of the said entry. We fail to see how Bengal sight matches could ordinarily be used for a purpose other than entertainment or amusement; hence we are unable to accept the contention that they must be regarded as safety matches falling in Entry 9 of Schedule C of the said Act.

12. Reliance was then placed by Mr. Patel on the decision of the High Court of Saurashtra in commissioner of Sales Tax vs. Ratilal Nanchand, where a view has been taken that Bengal light matches are understood in common parlance not as 'fireworks' but as 'matches' and cannot, therefore, be included in Entry 5 in the Schedule to the Saurashtra Sales Tax Ordinance (18 of 1950), the descriptive part of which mentioned 'crackers and fireworks of all kinds.' We are with respect unable to agree with the view taken by Division Bench of the Saurashtra High court in the aforesaid case for the reasons which have been given by the Gujarat High court in Commissioner of Sales Tax vs. India Cutlery Stores. We may point out that the Saurashtra High Court in the above case has placed reliance on the meaning given to the word 'fireworks' in the Railway Rules and the Explosive Rules, 1940, whereas, in our view, it is not possible to place reliance on the meaning given to the said word in other statues and rules, the object of which is quite different from that of the sales tax legislation.

13. In the result, we answer the question referred to us in the affirmative. As far as the costs are concerned, in view of the fact that all the four reference have been heard together, we direct the respondent to pat to the applicant an aggregate sum of Rs. 300 as the costs of all these references.


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