1. The question which falls to be determined in this reference is whether 'dressed poultry' is included in the connotation of the expression 'meat' as used in entry No. 4 of the Second Schedule to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1946.
2. The assessees are dealers in food-stuffs. Between 1st April, 1951, and 31st October, 1952, they sold live and dressed poultry. The Sales Tax Authorities sought to tax the goods sold by the assessees. Under entry No. 4 of the Second Schedule to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1946, and entry No. 33 of Schedule 'A' to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1953, the Sales Tax Tribunal was of the view that dressed poultry was exempted from payment of sales tax. Thereafter at the instance of the Collector of Sales Tax, a reference has been made to this Court on the following question :-
'Whether the sale of dressed poultry by the opponents (assessees) can be regarded as a sale of meat within the meaning of entry 4 of Schedule II to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1946 ?'
3. By sub-section (1) of section 7 of the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1946, it is provided that 'no tax shall be payable under the Act on the sales or supplies of goods specified in the first column of Schedule II subject to the conditions and exceptions, if any, set out in the corresponding entry in the second column thereof.' In entries at serial numbers 1 to 14 in Schedule II appear to be included materials which are used ordinarily as food or which can be adapted for use as food or for seasoning. In these items are included cereals, pulses, flour including atta, maida, suji and bran, bread, fish, fresh eggs, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, gur, salt, pepper, tamarined and fresh milk - whole or separated. Entry No. 4 in this Schedule seeks to exclude meat from the operation of the taxing provisions of the Sales Tax Act except when it is sold in sealed containers.
4. The argument of the Sales Tax Department is that meat, which is understood as such in common parlance, would undoubtedly be excluded from the operation of the taxing provisions of the Act but dressed poultry will not be deemed to be so excluded because it is not meat in ordinary parlance. The expression 'meat' has not been defined in the Sales Tax Act. Webster's New International Dictionary given the equivalent of meat as 'flesh of animals used as food, as distinguished from fish or fowl.' Undoubtedly in common parlance and even commercially meat means flesh of cattle, swine, sheep, goats etc. and may not include dressed poultry, but the expression 'meat' in its wider connotation does include dressed poultry. When the Legislature has sought to exclude from liability to pay sales tax practically all materials which are normally used as food-stuffs or condiments for seasoning foodstuffs, we must require very strong indication to the contrary to fortify us in holding that poultry, which is a recognised food, is not included in the expression 'meat'. Fish is exempt from payment of sales tax; similarly fresh eggs are exempt from payment of tax; and if the expression 'meat' in its wider connotation includes dressed poultry, we see no reason, looking to the context in which the word is used, for holding that it is not used in its wider connotation in entry No. 4 of the Second Schedule to the Bombay Sales Tax Act, 1946.
5. On that view of the case, the answer to the question submitted will be in the affirmative. The assessees will be entitled to their costs from the Collector of Sales Tax. Costs will be quantified at Rs. 250.
Reference answered in the affirmative.