1. The only question in issue in this appeal is the meaning of the words ' kept for use within the said borough' occurring in Clause (ii) of Section 73 of the Bombay Municipal Boroughs Act (XVIII of 1925). The whole clause runs as follows :-' A tax on all vehicles, boats or animals used for riding, draught or burden and kept for use within the said borough, whether they are actually kept within or outside the said borough.' The last words 'whether they are actually kept within or outside the said borough ' were imported into the section in consequence of the decision of this Court in Surat Municipality v.Maneklal : (1920)22BOMLR1104 .
2. In the present case the plaintiffs, who are the Burmah Shell Storage and Distributing Co. of India, Ltd., sued for a declaration that they were not liable to pay wheel-tax to the Bandra Municipality. The Company maintains a petrol storage pump at Bandra and maintains a fleet of lorries in Bombay for the supply of its pumping stations both in Bombay and outside Bombay when supplies are necessary. The Bandra Municipality has taxed them in respect of four lorries, each one of which makes an occasional visit to Bandra when replenishment is required at the filling station. The plaintiffs contend that although the lorries are in fact occasionally used for this purpose, nevertheless upon a true construction of Section 73 of the Act it cannot be said that they are kept for that particular use so as to enable the Bandra Municipality to tax them. Both the Courts below have accepted that view, and the Bandra Municipality has come in second appeal.
3. It has been held as a fact, and we are bound by that finding, that the bulk of the work of these lorries is done in Bombay, where they are actually housed, and only a small part of it is done in Bandra. Nevertheless it is the defendant Municipality's contention that the words ' kept for use ' involve a liability to tax in the case of every vehicle which is kept with the intention of being used even occasionally within the borough imposing the tax, and that the number of occasions on which its services are required, and are known to be likely to be required, is entirely immaterial. In other words, user on one day in the year at a profit even less than the amount of the tax would render a vehicle liable to tax in Bandra, provided that the probability of an annual visit to Bandra was present to the mind of the owner of the lorry. This is perhaps reducing the argument to an absurdity. But the section is a taxing section and has to be construed strictly in favour of the tax-payer. Both the Courts below have taken it that what has to be considered is ' the main real or pressing object' in keeping the vehicle ; in other words they take it that the words ' kept for use' really mean ' maintained with the main object of being used '. With that interpretation we find it impossible to disagree. Unfortunately it is not possible to lay down a general rule which would be applicable in every particular case, because in each case what matters is the main object with which the lorry is kept and that is always a question of fact. In the present case, however, upon the facts it is clear that the supply of the filling station at Bandra is a very minor object, and on that ground we do not think that the plaintiff's lorries are liable to be taxed by the Bandra Municipality. The declaration sought for must therefore be given, and to that extent the appeal of the Municipality must be dismissed.
4. But the Courts below have granted the plaintiff a permanent injunction against the levy of the tax on these lorries in future, though it is impossible to say that in future circumstances may not arise which would justify the imposition of the tax. We therefore set aside that part of the order of the Courts below which deals with the injunction but in other respects dismiss the appeal with costs.