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Kulko Engineering Works Limited Vs. the State of Maharashtra - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSales Tax Reference No. 39 of 1977
Judge
Reported in[1980]46STC454(Bom)
ActsBombay Sales Tax Act, 1959 - Sections 52, 52(1), 52(3), 55, 55(1), 55(2), 56, 57(1), 62 and 62(1)
AppellantKulko Engineering Works Limited
RespondentThe State of Maharashtra
Appellant AdvocateR.V. Patel and ;C.R. Dashputre, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateC.J. Shah and ;R.A. Dada, Advs.
Excerpt:
.....rectification power under section 62 is not barred by section 52. - - they also satisfied the commissioner that these engines were in fact sold to farmers. in, therefore, holding that by reason of sub-section (3) of section 52, the rectification application of the applicants was barred, the tribunal was clearly in error. the division bench held :it is now well-settled that mistakes apparent from the record which can be rectified are both mistakes of law and facts, but in the case of a mistake of law it must be a glaring and obvious mistake, such as, for instance, the levy of tax under a statutory provision which is subsequently held by the supreme court to be inoperative and ineffective or making an assessment which on the basis of a later decision of a high court or the supreme..........order of assessment for the said period 1st january, 1965, to 31st december, 1965, and assess the sales of engines by the applicants during the said period as being exigible to tax under the said entry no. 12 of schedule c. the order of assessment was passed on 22nd september, 1970, and, therefore, the said application for rectification was made within the period of limitation of two years prescribed under sub-section (1) of section 62. it may be mentioned that the period of appeal against the said order of assessment had long since expired as under section 55 of the said act, an appeal is to be filed within 60 days from the date of the communication of an order to the aggrieved person. the sales tax officer rejected the said application on the ground that as no objection had been.....
Judgment:

Madon, J.

1. The applicants, who are registered as dealers under the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959, manufacture and sell horizontal low-speed cold start crude oil engines. In respect of the period 1st January, 1965, to 31st December, 1965, the applicants filed their returns in which they showed the engines sold by them during this period as taxable under the residuary entry, namely, entry No. 22 of Schedule E to the said Act, and along with their returns paid into the Government treasury the amount of sales tax and general sales tax according to the said entry No. 22 payable in respect of the sales of these engines showed by them in their said returns. While assessing the applicants for the said period the Sales Tax Officer also held that the sale of the said engines were taxable under the said entry No. 22.

2. In respect of certain subsequent transactions of sale of engines the purchasers of the engines felt that these engines were taxable under entry No. 12 of Schedule C to the said Act as being agricultural machinery. These were transactions of sale effected on 2nd April, 1971, and 19th April, 1971. In view of this objection raised by the purchasers, presumably because the applicants wanted to recover from them the amount of tax they will have to pay on these sales at the rates specified in the said entry No. 22, the applicants filed an application under section 52 asking the Commissioner of Sales Tax to determine the rate of tax in respect of these two transactions of sale. By his order dated 12th June, 1971, the Commissioner held with respect to these sales that they were taxable under the said entry No. 12 of Schedule C. In his order the Commissioner stated that it was the contention of the applicants that the engines which were the subject-matter of those two transactions of sale were specifically designed for agricultural purposes and were in fact sold to agriculturists. In his order he further referred to the fact that the applicants had pointed out to the Commissioner several special features of the said engines which showed that they were designed to suit the requirements of farmers. Thereafter, on 10th August, 1972, the applicants made another application to the Commissioner under section 52 of the said Act asking him to determine the entry under which tax was payable in respect of four transactions of sale effected on 5th November, 1970, 29th February, 1972, 26th March, 1972, and 30th April, 1972. In their said application, the appellants stated that these engines were specifically designed for agricultural purposes and set out in their said application eleven special features which showed that these engines had been specifically designed for agricultural purposes. They also stated that all these engines were sold to agriculturists. They produced before the Commissioner evidence in support of these contentions including the literature in respect of the said engines. They also satisfied the Commissioner that these engines were in fact sold to farmers. By his order dated 20th November, 1972, the Commissioner held that these engines which were the the subject-matter of these above-mentioned transactions of sale were taxable under the said entry No. 12 of Schedule C. In his said order the Commissioner has referred to all the evidence that was produced and the materials which were placed before him by the applicants in order to determine this question.

3. In the meanwhile, after the decision of the Commissioner on their said first application under section 52 and while their said second application under the said section 52 was pending, the applicants filed an application on 4th September, 1972, before the Sales Tax Officer under section 62 of the said Act requesting the said Sales Tax Officer to Rectify his order of assessment for the said period 1st January, 1965, to 31st December, 1965, and assess the sales of engines by the applicants during the said period as being exigible to tax under the said entry No. 12 of Schedule C. The order of assessment was passed on 22nd September, 1970, and, therefore, the said application for rectification was made within the period of limitation of two years prescribed under sub-section (1) of section 62. It may be mentioned that the period of appeal against the said order of assessment had long since expired as under section 55 of the said Act, an appeal is to be filed within 60 days from the date of the communication of an order to the aggrieved person. The Sales Tax Officer rejected the said application on the ground that as no objection had been raised by the applicants to taxing the sales of these engines during the said period as falling under the residuary entry No. 22 in Schedule E, it could not be said to be a 'mistake apparent from the record' within the meaning of section 62(1). This reasoning of the Sales Tax Officer is obviously incorrect. For a case to fall under section 62, the mistake is to be apparent from the record. Such a mistake would happen either because the taxing authority or the assessee committed that mistake. Therefore, whether an assessee realised what the correct position was at the time of the assessment or not cannot be decisive of the question whether there was a 'mistake apparent from the record'.

4. Against this order of the Sales Tax Officer rejecting their application for rectification, the applicants went in appeal to the Assistant Commissioner of Sales Tax. The argument of the applicants before the Assistant Commissioner was that the Commissioner of Sales Tax in the above-mentioned determination proceedings under section 52 had held the sales of engines effected by the applicants to fall under entry No. 12 of Schedule C and, therefore, there was a 'mistake apparent from the record' of the assessment proceedings for the period - 1st January, 1965, to 31st December 1965. The Assistant Commissioner rejected this contention on the ground that in the assessment proceedings the applicants had not proved that these engines fell under the said entry No. 12 of Schedule C. The applicants then filed a second appeal before the Tribunal. The same contentions were raised before the Tribunal as before the Assistant Commissioner. On behalf of the department, it was contended before the Tribunal that the case did not fall under section 62 of the said Act inasmuch as the applicants had not produced before the Sales Tax Officer in the course of the assessment proceedings the evidence which they had produced before the Commissioner in the said determination proceedings. It was also contended that having regard to the provisions of sub-sections (1) and (3) of section 52 of the said Act the rectification application was not maintainable. The Tribunal held that having regard to the provisions of section 52, it could not be said that the question was inarguable. It also accepted the other contentions on behalf of the department and dismissed the second appeal filed by the applicants. At the instance of the applicants, the Tribunal has stated this case and referred the following two questions to us :

'(1) Whether, on the facts and circumstances of the case, was the Tribunal justified in law in holding that there was no error apparent on the record within the meaning of section 62 of the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959

(2) Did the Tribunal err in law in holding that section 52 of the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959, created a bar to rectification power under section 62 of the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1959 ?'

5. It will be convenient to deal with the second question first. Section 52 confers power upon the Commissioner to determine certain questions which arise otherwise than in proceedings before a court, or before the commencement of an assessment or reassessment proceedings. The provisions of the said section 52 relevant for our purpose are as follows :

'52. Determination of disputed questions. - (1) If any question arises, otherwise than in proceedings before a court, or before the Commissioner has commenced assessment or reassessment of a dealer under section 33 or 35, whether, for the purposes of this Act .............

(e) any tax is payable in respect of any particular sale or purchase, or if tax is payable the rate thereof,

the Commissioner shall make an order determining such question.

(3) If any such question arises from any order already passed under this Act or any earlier law, no such question shall be entertained for determination under this section; but such question may be raised in appeal against, or by way or revision of, such order.'

6. It seems, though it does not appear in so many words in the judgment of the Tribunal, that relying upon sub-section (3) of section 52, the Tribunal took the view that by reason of that sub-section if a question had been determined in proceedings under section 52 and the same question arose in some other proceedings, then that question could not form the subject-matter of rectification under section 62 but the only remedy of the party was by way of appeal or revision against the order in which such question subsequently arose, that is to say, that not only the remedy under section 52 was barred, but also the remedy by way of rectification provided for under section 62 was barred. Such an interpretation is on the face of it incorrect and unsustainable. What section 52(3) in substance provides is that if in any proceedings other than proceedings under section 52 a particular question has arisen and been determined, such question cannot again form the subject-matter for determination under section 52(1) and the remedy of the aggrieved party can only be by ways of appeal or revision. In short, it means that if a question has arisen in proceedings other than assessment or reassessment proceedings and has been decided against the assessee, for example, where a dealer's application for registration has been refused by the Sales Tax Officer, the dealer cannot seek to have the question whether he is required to be registered or not determined under section 52 but must go under section 55 by way of appeal against the order refusing him registration. Section 52(3) does not mean that when the Commissioner has determined a question under section 52 and such question has arisen in some other proceedings, the remedy of the applicant, assuming there was a mistake apparent from the record, to apply for rectification of the order is barred by sub-section (3) of section 52. In this connection, it is also pertinent to note the opening words of sub-section (1) of section 52, namely, 'if any question arises, otherwise than in proceedings before a court, or before the Commissioner has commenced assessment or reassessment of a dealer under section 33 or 35'. Apart from proceedings before a court, the proceedings under the Act which the opening part of sub-section (1) of section 52 speaks of are only assessment and reassessment proceedings. Sub-section (3) of section 52 is designed to cover all proceedings under the Act including assessment and reassessment proceedings. In, therefore, holding that by reason of sub-section (3) of section 52, the rectification application of the applicants was barred, the Tribunal was clearly in error.

7. Mr. Chougale, the learned counsel for the respondents, however, submitted that on the scheme of section 52 the remedy by way of rectification was barred and in support of this contention, he relied upon the opening part of sub-section (1) of section 52 and submitted that since the applications under that sub-section cannot be made if a proceeding was pending before a court or when any assessment or reassessment proceedings were pending, when such assessment or reassessment proceedings were concluded, the applicant equally could not take the benefit of a determination given by a Commissioner under section 52(1) in another proceeding for the purpose of rectifying an order which had been passed in assessment or reassessment proceedings. Mr. Chougale argued that though this was not stated in so many words, this is the necessary implication which flowed from that section. These arguments require merely to be stated in order to be rejected. What sub-section (1) of section 52 does is that it bars a person from approaching the Commissioner to get determined a question falling under any one of the five clauses of sub-section (1) when that question itself is pending before the court or in assessment or reassessment proceedings. It does not mean that when such a question has arisen in a proceeding in respect of which an application is not maintainable under section 52(1), the assessee cannot rely upon a decision given by the Commissioner under section 52 on the identical question. Section 52(3) deals with the remedy of a person to get a wrong order corrected by a higher authority either in appeal or in revision. The scope of section 62 which confers power of rectification is wholly different from that of an appellate or a revisional authority. An appellate or a revisional authority is superior to the authority which passed the order appealed against or sought to be revised. An appellate or a revisional jurisdiction is directed to correcting decisions passed by an inferior or lower authority or tribunal. The power of rectification which is conferred by section 62 is upon the same officer who passed the order. This jurisdiction is confined only to rectifying an order when there is a 'mistake apparent from the record'.

8. Turning now to the first question, a Division Bench of this High Court (Madon and Kania, JJ.) in Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Dharampur Leather Cloth Company Private Limited [1978] 41 S.T.C. 274 had occasion to consider the scope of the expression 'mistake apparent from the record' occurring in section 62(1) of the Act. The Division Bench held :

'It is now well-settled that mistakes apparent from the record which can be rectified are both mistakes of law and facts, but in the case of a mistake of law it must be a glaring and obvious mistake, such as, for instance, the levy of tax under a statutory provision which is subsequently held by the Supreme Court to be inoperative and ineffective or making an assessment which on the basis of a later decision of a High Court or the Supreme Court is found to be erroneous or time-barred (see M. K. Venkatachalam, Income-tax Officer v. Bombay Dyeing and . : [1958]34ITR143(SC) . Where, however, the matter is debatable or involves long and elaborate arguments, it cannot be said that it is a mistake apparent from the record. This proposition is now too well-settled (see M. V. Govindaraju Chetty v. Commercial Tax Officer, Hassan Circle, Hassan [1968] 22 S.T.C. 46, and Concrete Spun Pipe Works v. Sales Tax Officer, Sector V, Kanpur [1969] 24 S.T.C. 48; see also Nandlal Mangaram Pamnani v. G. Lakshminarasimhan : [1971]82ITR1(Bom) and J. M. Shah v. J. M. Bhatia, Appellate Assistant Commissioner of Wealth-tax : [1974]94ITR519(Bom) .'

9. Bearing the above propositions in mind we will now consider whether there was any error which was appeared from the record of the assessment proceedings which fell for rectification under section 62 of the Act. The same Division Bench of this High Court came to consider the scope of entry No. 12 of Schedule C in Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Shetkari Sahakari Sangh Limited [1975] 35 S.T.C. 554. In that case, the court held that it was not necessary that a machinery, before it can be said to be agricultural machinery, must be exclusively designed for agricultural purposes. The court further held that oil engines commonly used by agriculturists for working pump-sets for drawing out water and sold to agriculturists for such purposes were agricultural machinery within the meaning of entry No. 12 of Schedule C to the said Act, as that entry stood price to its amendment on 11th May, 1973. In that case, reliance was placed on behalf of the department upon a decision of another Division Bench of this High Court in Pashabhai Patel and Co. (P.) Ltd. v. Collector of Sales Tax, Maharashtra State [1964] 15 S.T.C. 32, in which the court had held that a tractor was not agricultural machinery within the meaning of entry No. 9 in Schedule B of the earlier Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953, which entry corresponded to entry No. 12 of Schedule C in the 1959 Act prior to its amendment. The court pointed out that the case of Pashabhai Patel and Co. (P.) Ltd. [1964] 15 S.T.C. 32 turned upon its own facts and in that case the evidence led therein established that tractors could be used and were being commonly used for various purposes other than agricultural purposes. The court also pointed out that in the case before it, that is, in the case of Commissioner of Sales Tax v. Shetkari Sahakari Sangh Limited [1975] 35 S.T.C. 554, considerable documentary evidence had been produced before the Tribunal to show that all oil engines sold by the respondents in that case during the period of assessment were oil engines which were commonly used by agriculturists for agricultural purposes and were recognised not only by co-operative land mortgage banks but also by the Government of Maharashtra to be oil engines of the type used by agriculturists for drawing out water and it was on this evidence led before it that the Tribunal had given its decision that these oil engines fall under entry No. 12 in the said Schedule C. The ground upon which the decision in that case was given was twofold, one, that these were oil engines commonly used by agriculturist for working pump-sets for drawing out water, and two, that they were sold to agriculturists for such purposes. The court held that both these facts were established by considerable documentary evidence led before the Tribunal.

10. Mr. Chougale, the learned counsel for the respondents, submitted that it had been settled by decisions of the Supreme Court that when a question is arguable or debatable, it cannot be said that there was a mistake apparent from the record and, therefore, such a mistake could not be rectified under section 62. According to Mr. Chougale the question which was highly arguable or debatable was the construction which he sought to place upon section 52. It is no doubt true that the Supreme Court has held in the cases referred to in the passage from the judgment in the Dharampur Leather Cloth Company's case [1978] 41 S.T.C. 274 reproduced above that where a matter is debatable or involves long and elaborate arguments it cannot be said that it is a mistake apparent from the record. What this means is that when the question whether there is a mistake apparent from the record is debatable or when the determination of that question involves long and elaborate arguments it cannot be said to be a mistake apparent from the record. Mr. Chougale's argument, however, is that Sales Tax Officer had by reason of the provisions of section 52 no jurisdiction to rectify the order. This argument is founded upon a construction sought to be placed upon section 52 which construction we have held to be wholly untenable and fanciful. Merely because a party chooses to advance untenable or fanciful arguments. It does not mean that the matter is debatable or it involves long and elaborate arguments. It should also be borne in mind that the question of the jurisdiction to rectify an order is a wholly different question from the question whether there was actually a mistake apparent from the record.

11. Mr. Chougale also submitted that a decision of the Commissioner given under section 52(1) of the said Act had no binding effect and the Sales Tax Officer was not bound by it. Mr. Chougale argued that under section 52(1) the Commissioner has to determine a question raised with respect to a particular transaction or in respect of a particular dealer only and, therefore, a decision given on that question cannot be held to be an authority binding on a Sales Tax Officer when a similar question arises before him with respect to another transaction or another dealer. We are unable to accept this submission of Mr. Chougale. The said Act provides for a hierarchy of authorities, some of them possessing original jurisdiction and some appellate or revisional jurisdiction or both. Section 55(1) provides for an appeal from every original order passed under the said Act or the Rules made thereunder unless it is made non-appealable by section 56. An appeal from an original order passed by a Sales Tax Officer lies to the Assistant Commissioner, from an original order passed by the Assistant Commissioner an appeal lies to the Commissioner and from an original order passed by a Deputy Commissioner or Additional Commissioner or Commissioner the appeal lies to the Tribunal. Under section 55(2) a second appeal against an appellate order passed by an Assistant Commissioner lies at the option of the appellant either to the Commissioner or to the Tribunal. Section 57(1) confers revisional jurisdiction upon the Commissioner to respect of any order including an appellate order passed by any officer or person subordinate to the Commissioner. It also confers upon the Tribunal revisional jurisdiction against an order of the Commissioner unless such order was passed in second appeal by the Commissioner. Thus, this hierarchy of authorities is provided in order to have a superior authority to correct wrong orders passed by a subordinate authority and to provide a remedy by way of appeal and revision to the party aggrieved by an order. Whether a decision of the Commissioner under section 52(1) has a binding force or not would depend upon the nature and scope of that order. If a particular question submitted to the Commissioner for his determination under section 52 has been determined by him upon an interpretation of a provision in the said Act or the Rules made under it, it cannot be open to a Sales Tax Officer in another proceeding to ignore that interpretation and place his own interpretation upon that particular provision contrary to or different from the interpretation placed by the Commissioner. Similarly, if a question has been decided by the Commissioner on certain facts placed before him and in another proceeding before a Sales Tax Officer the facts of the case are identical with the facts of the case before the Commissioner, the Sales Tax Officer cannot decide that case otherwise than according to the determination given by the Commissioner. For example, if in determination proceedings under section 52 the Commissioner has held that a person who carries on a particular activity if not a dealer, it would not be open to a Sales Tax Officer when a case of another person who carriers on the identical activity comes before him to hold that by reason of the carrying on of such activity that other person is a dealer.

12. The decisions of the Commissioner under section 52 are published by the Government just in the same manner as judgments of High Courts and Supreme Court are published in law reports. The whole object of publishing these reports of decisions given by the Commissioner and making these decisions available in the published form to the public is for those concerned with the said Act, whether departmental authorities or dealers, to be guided in their dealings by these decisions. If the correct position were as contended for by Mr. Chougale, it would cause great confusion and uncertainty and give rise to a chaotic situation.

13. So far as the present case is concerned, evidence was led by the applicants in the said determination proceedings to show that the engines which were the subject-matter of the transactions of sale in respect of which the said two applications under section 52 were made were engines which were used for agricultural purposes and were in fact sold to agriculturist. So far as their assessment proceedings were concerned, no such evidence whatever was led by the applicants. This fact is not disputed by Mr. Patel, the learned Advocate for the applicants, as in fact it cannot be disputed because throughout their assessment proceedings the applicants proceeded upon the footing that the engines sold by them during the period of assessment fell under the residuary entry No. 22 of Schedule E, that is to say, they did not fall under any specific entry in any of the schedules to the said Act including the said entry No. 12 in Schedule C. As pointed out by this Court in the case of Shetkari Sahakari Sangh Limited [1975] 35 S.T.C. 554, a question whether certain engines were used for agricultural purposes and were sold in agriculturists is a question of fact. If there was no evidence whatever brought upon the record by the applicants to establish these facts, it can hardly be said that the Sales Tax Officer committed an error in determining this fact or that such an error was apparent from the record.

14. For the reasons stated above, we answer the questions referred to us as follows :

Question No. (1) : In the affirmative, that is, in favour of the department and against the assessees.

Question No. (2) : In the affirmative, that is, in favour of the assessees and against the department.

15. As the applicants have succeeded with respect to one question and failed with respect to the other, a fair order for costs would be that each party shall bear and pay its own costs of this reference. The applicants will be entitled to withdraw the fee of Rs. 100 paid by them along with their application for reference.

16. Reference answered accordingly.


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