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Commissioner of Sales Tax, Maharashtra State, Bombay Vs. Fairdeal Corporation Ltd. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSales Tax Reference No. 20 of 1961
Judge
Reported in[1962]13STC750(Bom)
ActsBombay Sales Tax Act, 1953 - Sections 10
AppellantCommissioner of Sales Tax, Maharashtra State, Bombay
RespondentFairdeal Corporation Ltd.
Appellant AdvocateH.M. Seervai, Advocate-General, i/by., Little & Co.
Respondent AdvocateR.V. Patel and ;J.K. Seth, Advs.
Excerpt:
sales tax - goods - section 10 of bombay sales tax act, 1953 - whether absorbent cotton wool sold by respondents was raw cotton falling within item no. 1 of schedule b to act of 1953 as amended by bombay act of 1954 or whether the same was liable to tax under residuary entry covered by item no. 80 of said schedule - raw cotton after been subjected to certain processes of preparation becomes surgical cotton wool - surgical cotton is a finished product from cotton wool which was raw material - raw cotton after it is changed into surgical cotton wool would neither in its appearance or qualities give same results - such finished products clearly outside ambit of item no. 1 of schedule b - held, surgical cotton liable to be taxed under residuary entry covered by item no. 80 of schedule b. -..........as cotton after the above process and 2. whether the sale of the said goods known as absorbent cotton wool falls within item 1 of schedule b to the bombay sales tax act, 1953, as amended by bombay act 10 of 1954, or whether the same is liable to tax under the residuary entry covered by item 80 of the said schedule ?' 2. the respondents are dealers and were at all material times registered under the bombay sales tax act, 1953. during the period from 1st april, 1954, to 31st march, 1955, the respondents had effected sales of absorbent cotton wool of the value of rs. 2,23,475-6-2. in their assessment for the said period, these sales were held by the sales tax officer as taxable under item 80 of schedule b to the bombay sales tax act, 1953, and not under item 1 of the said schedule as.....
Judgment:

V.S. Desai, J.

1. The questions raised in the present reference at the instance of the Commissioner of Sales Tax are as follows :-

'1. Whether the cotton which was subjected to process of cleaning, boiling, bleaching and drying and carding, remained as cotton after the above process and

2. Whether the sale of the said goods known as absorbent cotton wool falls within item 1 of Schedule B to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953, as amended by Bombay Act 10 of 1954, or whether the same is liable to tax under the residuary entry covered by item 80 of the said Schedule ?'

2. The respondents are dealers and were at all material times registered under the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953. During the period from 1st April, 1954, to 31st March, 1955, the respondents had effected sales of absorbent cotton wool of the value of Rs. 2,23,475-6-2. In their assessment for the said period, these sales were held by the Sales Tax Officer as taxable under item 80 of Schedule B to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953, and not under item 1 of the said Schedule as contended by the respondents. The Assistant Collector of Sales Tax in appeal upheld this view of the Sales Tax Officer, and the Additional Collector of Sales Tax also confirmed it in the revision application which was filed before him. The respondents then filed a revision application before the Sales Tax Tribunal. The Tribunal upheld the respondents' contention that the sales were taxable under item 1 and not under item 80. It accordingly allowed the revision application, and set aside the assessment levied by the Sales Tax Authorities on the basis that the sales were taxable under item 80 of Schedule B. At the instance of the Commissioner of Sales Tax, it then drew up a statement of the case, and referred to this Court the two questions which we have already set out. The main dispute to be decided is whether absorbent cotton wool is taxable under item No. 1 or under item No. 80 of Schedule B to the Act of 1953, as the entry stood at the material time. The questions framed by the Tribunal are for the purpose of facilitating an answer to the said dispute between the parties, but the questions do not appear to be properly framed. We will like to reframe the two questions framed by the Tribunal into a single question, namely :

'Whether the goods known as absorbent cotton wool sold by the respondents during the relevant period were raw cotton (ginned) falling within item No. 1 of Schedule B to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953, as amended by Bombay Act 10 of 1954, or whether the same was liable to tax under the residuary entry covered by item No. 80 of the said Schedule ?'

3. Item 1 of Schedule B, as it stood at the material time, read as follows : 'Raw cotton (whether ginned or unginned)'. Item No. 80 was 'all goods other than those specified from time to time in Schedule A and in the preceding entries'. It is undisputed that the absorbent cotton wool, which the respondents have sold, is prepared by them by cleaning, boiling, bleaching, drying and carding the ginned cotton, and it is sold as surgical cotton. It is the respondents' contention that although for the preparation of the article, which they have sold as absorbent cotton wool, they have subjected ginned cotton to certain processes, these processes have not changed entirely the form or substance of the material, and the article prepared by them consists of nothing but cotton in its natural form, and is therefore 'raw ginned cotton' within the meaning of item No. 1 of Schedule B. It was urged on behalf of the respondents that 'cotton wool' was described in Webster's Condensed Dictionary as cotton in its raw state'. Cotton wool, therefore, which the respondents have sold as 'absorbent cotton wool' has not ceased to be raw cotton. This contention has been accepted by the Tribunal. In its view, the processes which the ginned cotton has undergone in the preparation of the absorbent cotton wool have not changed it so as to cease to be raw cotton within the meaning of item No. 1 of Schedule B. In taking that view, it referred to the cases of Trambaklal Ratilal v. The State of Bombay [1956] S.T.C. 258 and Kailash Nath and Another v. The State of U.P. and Others [1957] 8 S.T.C. 358. It also observed that the view that it was taking received some support from the various amendments which have occurred in the item at different times. It pointed out that formerly the entry as it stood in the Schedule was merely 'cotton (whether ginned or unginned)' and was obviously wide enough to include absorbent cotton wool, and the entry as it was amended subsequently was 'cotton, that is to say, all kinds of cotton (indigenous or imported) in its unmanufactured state, whether ginned or unginned, baled, pressed or otherwise, but not including cotton waste.' According to the Tribunal, the present entry also is wide enough to include absorbent cotton wool as falling within its ambit. Since the entry, as it stood both prior and subsequent to the material period, was wide enough to include absorbent cotton wool, it was hardly likely that only during the intermediate period for which the entry stood as 'raw cotton (whether ginned or unginned)', absorbent cotton wool was intended to be excluded from its ambit. The Tribunal accordingly held in favour of the respondents.

4. The learned Advocate-General has argued that the Tribunal has erred in interpreting entry No. 1 in the Schedule as it stood at the material time. It has failed to give the word 'raw' sufficient meaning, and it has also failed to give proper consideration to the parenthetical qualification 'ginned or unginned' occurring in the entry. He has also urged that in holding that absorbent cotton wool would fall within the description of 'raw cotton', the Tribunal has failed to take note that the said article is a manufactured pharmaceutical product. Cotton is described in Webster's New International Dictionary, 2nd Edition, as 'a soft usually white but sometimes brownish, fibrous substance composed of the twisted hairs clothing the seeds of various plants, esp. of the genus Gossypium'. In the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, cotton is described as 'the white fibrous substance which clothes the seeds of the cotton plant (Gossypium) used for making cloth and thread, etc.' The Dictionary meaning of the word 'raw' is 'in or nearly in, the natural state; little changed by art.' 'Thus raw water is not distilled water; raw silk is not spun or twisted silk; raw spirit is not mixed or diluted spirit, and raw hide is not tanned hide.' Another meaning of 'raw' is 'unprepared for use or enjoyment; crude, as for instance raw products, unfinished, unseasoned, unpractised, untrained, as for instance, raw recruits'. To gin cotton is to remove seeds from raw cotton by a machine. 'Cotton wool' has been described as 'raw cotton as gathered from the bolls of the plant' in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, and the Concise Oxford Dictionary gives the meaning of 'cotton wool' as raw cotton especially as prepared for wadding. 'Absorbent cotton wool' according to the British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1959, is also synonymous with 'absorbent cotton' and is described as 'prepared from cotton, which consists of the epidermal trichomes of the seeds of Gossypium herbaceous L. and other cultivated species of Gossypium.' The preparation is described as follows : 'The seeds are removed mechanically and the trichomes, freed from fatty matter by treatment with alkali, are bleached, washed and mechanically loosened and separated to form a fleecy mass of soft white filaments which consists almost entirely of cellulose. Absorbent cotton wool absorbs water readily but its absorbency may be considerably reduced by medication; its absorbency may also be reduced by prolonged storage or by exposure to heat. It may be attacked by moulds when stored under conditions where the moisture in the absorbent cotton wool exceeds about 9 per cent.' Certain standards then are prescribed, which this article as a pharmaceutical product must possess. It may be that the article prepared and sold by the respondents may not conform to the B.P.C. standard as described in the Codex. It is not, however, disputed that it is prepared and sold as surgical absorbent cotton wool. The question before us is whether the article so prepared and sold by the respondents falls within the entry 'raw cotton (ginned or unginned)' as mentioned in item 1 of Schedule B, as it stood at the material time. The learned Advocate-General has argued that the entry No. 1 in Schedule B is confined to cotton as it is obtained from the bolls of the plant containing the seeds or with the seeds removed; that is the meaning of the expression 'raw cotton (ginned or unginned)'. He pointed out that the word 'cotton' by itself would mean cotton in unadulterated or unchanged form, and, therefore, so long as the composition of the substance remains nothing else but cotton, it is possible to urge that the substance continues to be cotton. But the word cotton is qualified by the qualification 'raw cotton'. 'Raw' according to its dictionary meaning is 'in natural or nearly natural form'. Cotton in its natural form would be as it is grown on the plant and is obtained from the bolls of the plant with the seeds in it. The Legislature, however, by the parenthetical expression used, permitted the expression to include cotton as obtained from the bolls even with the seeds removed. He therefore argues that with the word 'raw' used as qualifying cotton, and with the expression used in the parenthesis, the meaning of the entry is made clear beyond doubt that what is intended to be included in the entry is cotton in its natural form as obtained from the plant without any further process except perhaps the process of removing the seeds from it. In preparing absorbent cotton wool, the cotton, according to the learned Advocate General, is no longer retained in its raw form. It is subjected to a large number of processes as described in the preparation of the material in the Codex. Thus apart from the process of removing the seeds from the cotton, it is further freed from the fatty matter by being treated with alkali. It is thereafter subjected to a process of bleaching and is rendered purer and whiter. It is then washed and mechanically loosened and separated to form a fleecy mass of soft white filaments. It may be that even after all these processes the botanical composition of the substance may still remain substantially the same. But the mere fact that the scientific composition of the substance does not undergo a material and substantial change so as to invest the substance with entirely different qualities from those which it formerly possessed, would not mean that the substance has still retained its raw condition. What is important to find out, says the Advocate-General, is whether the article which is prepared is or is not a finished product prepared by processes employed for the purpose of manufacturing that product. Absorbent cotton wool is a manufactured, finished product, prepared from the raw material, which is raw cotton, after subjecting it to a large number of different kinds of processes. Such finished products are clearly outside the ambit and not intended to be included in the entry No. 1 of Schedule B.

5. In our opinion, the submissions urged by the learned Advocate-General are substantial and must be upheld. The Tribunal has been influenced by the fact that cotton wool is described as raw cotton by the dictionaries. But the article with which we are concerned is not cotton wool. It is absorbent cotton wool or surgical cotton wool, which is cotton wool or raw cotton, which has been subjected to certain processes of preparation and is a finished or prepared product from cotton wool as the raw material. Raw cotton after it is changed into absorbent cotton wool would neither in its appearance, nor in its tests and qualities give the same results and effects as the raw cotton, which has not undergone the same processes.

6. The argument advanced by the learned Advocate for the respondents that 'cotton' so long as it retains essentially its substance as cotton, is included within the entry No. 1 of Schedule B, cannot be accepted in view of the language used in the entry. It is only cotton which can qualify to the description of being raw cotton either in the ginned or unginned state that can come within the said entry. The Tribunal has also observed that the entries in the Schedule as they appeared at different times would seem to indicate that the Legislature intended to include the article of the kind, which the respondents are selling, within the ambit of the present entry. We do not think that such an intention can be gathered from the various amendments which have occurred. At any rate, what we are concerned with and have to interpret is the entry which is before us in the present case, and having regard to the language of the entry and the meaning of the various words used therein, we do not think that there can be any doubt that the entry as it stood at the material time would only include raw cotton, that is, cotton in its natural or nearly natural form in the ginned or unginned state, and not cotton which had been converted into specific different products after being subjected to various processes. In our opinion, therefore, our answer to the question in the form in which we have reframed it is that the goods known as absorbent cotton wool, which the respondents have sold during the material period, do not fall within item No. 1 of Schedule B of the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953, as amended by Bombay Act 10 of 1954, and they therefore are liable to be taxed under the residuary entry covered by item No. 80 of the said Schedule.

7. The petitioner shall get their costs from the respondents, quantified at Rs. 250.

8. Reference answered accordingly.


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