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The State of Andhra Pradesh Vs. Lakshmi Oil Mills and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case Number Tax Revision Case Nos. 33, 42, 43, 45 to 55, 57, 74 and 139 of 1966
Judge
Reported in[1967]20STC489(AP)
AppellantThe State of Andhra Pradesh
RespondentLakshmi Oil Mills and ors.
Appellant Advocate Principal Government Pleader
Respondent Advocate D.V. Sastry, Adv. for ;T. Veerabhadrayya, ;C.V. Kanyakaprasad, ;A.V.S. Ramakrishnayya, ;T. Anantha Babu, ;D.V. Sastry, ;M.B. Ramasharma, ;G.V.R. Mohan Rao, ;I. Venkatanarayana and ; K. Venkata Rama
DispositionPetition allowed
Excerpt:
- - in like manner, when the articles are exported to foreign countries for tanning they might be taken to lose their character as untanned hides and skins in the hands of the exporter......enables the state straightaway to tax the first miller whereas in the case of hides and skins the rule states that 'no tax shall be levied except when sold to a tanner'. in the said context, it was held in syed mohamed & co. v. the state of madras [1952] 3 s.t.c. 367, that the point of levy was fixed at the sale to the last tanner in the province, that is to say, the person who tans the goods before they were finally exported. the learned government pleader also referred us to the scheme of the rules relating to the hides and skins set out at pages 392 and 393 in syed mohamed & co. v. the state of madras [1952] 3 s.t.c. 367, which is as follows :-as already mentioned, these articles are much in demand in foreign markets and their export forms one of the main items in the foreign trade.....
Judgment:

Krishna Rao, J.

1. The above tax revision cases, which involve a common question, arise under the following circumstances : A batch of appeals was disposed of by the Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal on 31st December, 1965, and certain other appeals, which are also the subject-matter of some of the above revision cases, were disposed of by the Appellate Tribunal following its decision in the said batch of appeals. As the assessees succeeded before the Appellate Tribunal, the above revision cases have been filed by the State of Andhra Pradesh. In all these cases, the common question is as to what is the exact point of levy of tax in transactions relating to purchase of groundnut or groundnut kernel., In almost all these cases, millers of groundnut made purchases and instead of themselves crushing the stocks of groundnuts purchased by them, either sold away the entire stocks to other millers or crushed certain portions of the stocks purchased by them and sold away the balance of the stocks to other millers. The contention raised on behalf of the assessees is that though they may be described as millers of groundnut, they have not actually conducted the operations of crushing the groundnut into oil in the mills either wholly or partly and that the tax should be levied against the particular miller who ultimately crushed the groundnut into oil at which stage the goods lose their character as groundnut. These contentions were upheld by the Tribunal. In these revisions filed by the Government it is contended that the first miller who purchased the groundnut is liable for the tax irrespective of the fact whether he crushes them into oil or not.

2. In order to appreciate these rival contentions, we may now refer to the relevant provisions of law. Article286(3) of the Constitution reads as follows :-

286. (3) Any law of a State shall, in so far as it imposes or authorises the imposition of, a tax on the sale or purchase of goods declared by Parliament by law to be of special importance in inter-State trade or commerce, be subject to such restrictions and conditions in regard to the system of levy, rates and other incidents of the tax as Parliament may by law specify.

3. 'Groundnuts' are some of the goods which are declared under Section 14 of the Central Sales Tax Act, 1956, to be of special importance in inter-State trade and commerce. Section 15 of the Central Sales Tax Act lays down certain restrictions and conditions in regard to tax on sale or purchase of declared goods within a State. In conformity with these provisions, Section 6 of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act provides as follows :-

Section 6. Tax in respect of declared goods.-Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 5, the sales or purchases of declared goods by a dealer shall be liable to tax at the rate, and only at the point of sale or purchase, specified against each in the Third Schedule on his turnover of such sales or purchases for each year, irrespective of the quantum of his turnover in such goods ; and the tax shall be assessed, levied and collected in such manner as may be prescribed :

Provided that where any such goods on which tax has been so levied are sold in the course of inter-State trade or commerce, the tax so levied shall be refunded to such person in such manner and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed.

4. The Third Schedule deals with declared goods in respect of which a single point tax is leviable' under Section 6, and item 6 thereof reads as follows:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Description ofthe goods. Point of levy. Rate of tax.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------1. 2. 3. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------6. Groundnuts. When purchased by a 2 naye paise inmiller other than a the rupee,decorticating miller in the State, at the point of purchase by such miller and in all other cases at the point of purchase by the last dealer who buys in the State.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

5. Prior to 31st July, 1963, groundnuts were shown as item 3(c) of Schedule IV and according to item 3(c), the point of levy was 'when purchased by a miller in the State at the point of purchase by such miller and in all other cases at the point of purchase by the last dealer who buys in the State at two naye paise in the rupee'. By virtue of the Andhra Pradesh Amending Act 16 of 1963, the said entry became item 6 of Schedule III in which the words 'other than decorticating miller' have been added. In all these revision cases, we are concerned with the period subsequent to 1st October, 1961, and hence we are only concerned with the proper interpretation of item 6 of Schedule III of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act. The point of levy has undergone various changes from the inception, that is from 1956. But we are not here concerned with the previous history of the point at which the tax is levied. The words 'other than a decorticating miller' appear to have been introduced in item 6 of Schedule III in view of the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Aswathanarayana v. Deputy Commercial Tax Officer [1964] 15 S.T.C. 795 in which it was held that the word 'miller' in item 3(c) of Schedule IV of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act is wide enough to include a decorticating miller. We are therefore concerned with purchases by millers who own or work groundnut oil mills and not decorticating millers. The term 'miller' has not been denned in the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, but according to the dictionary meaning, a miller is one who owns or works a mill either as a tenant or as a proprietor. On a construction of item 6 of Schedule III extracted above, the Tribunal held that 'miller' means the last miller in whose hands' groundnut gets converted into oil during the milling process and that the latter part of column 2 of the entry refers to the last dealer in whose hands the goods leave the State as kernel. The Tribunal further held that a miller who merely purchases the groundnut but sells it to another miller without crushing the same should be regarded only as a dealer and that though it may pass through several hands, it is only the last miller in whose hands the groundnut is crushed into oil that is contemplated by the statute.

6. A reading of the second column of item 6 of the Third Schedule gives rise to three points of view. The first view is that the words 'when purchased by a miller' may refer to 'any' miller. It is therefore contended on behalf of the assessees that unless the single point levy is fixed with reference to any particular miller, there will be a possibility of multiple taxation when the goods passed from one miller to another miller and so on. It is contended by the Government Pleader that this cannot happen in view of the fact that the tax being only a single point tax, the power to tax gets exhausted when the authorities tax a particular miller. But it is pointed out on behalf of the assessees that there are various cases in which the authorities have started proceedings against the successive millers on the ground that any miller comes within the definition of a miller. It is contended on behalf of the assessees that if this construction is to prevail, it would place an arbitrary power in the hands of the assessing authority to select any miller he chooses and that it would result in discrimination and exercise of arbitrary power which offends Article 14 of the Constitution. The learned Government Pleader agrees that he is not inclined to put such a construction on the word 'a' miller so as to include 'any' miller resulting in possible multiple taxation. It is therefore not necessary for us to consider whether such a construction would offend the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution.

7. The second view, which is the construction placed by the learned Government Pleader, is that the words 'when purchased by a miller' are plain enough and do not admit of any ambiguity and mean nothing more than that as soon as a miller makes a purchase, the transaction in his hands becomes exigible to tax and the point of levy is at once fixed in accordance with the provisions of Section 6 of the Act. This construction, according to the learned Government Pleader, avoids various complicated enquiries, namely, as to how much of the stock was actually crushed by the miller or how much was actually sold by him and who is the particular miller who crushed the stocks of groundnut and how much was crushed by him. In other words, the learned Government Pleader states that it is an impossible task for the 'authorities to trace the progress of each consignment to find out when it is actually crushed into oil. The learned counsel goes further and states that once the point of levy is fixed with reference to the first purchase, there will not be any possibility of multiple tax arising at any subsequent point of purchase and that if this construction is to be adopted, the Government is entitled and even bound to tax only the first miller who purchases the stocks and if the point of levy is fixed at the purchase by the first miller irrespective of his conducting the milling operations with respect to the stock, no question of discrimination arises. On a plain reading of the section, we uphold this construction and hold that the words 'when purchased by a miller' refer to purchase by the first miller irrespective of the fact whether the said miller retained the goods either wholly or in part for the purpose of crushing or whether he merely sold them as an ordinary dealer. Once groundnut is purchased by the first miller, that is enough to bring him within the net of taxation. It is not the duty of the taxing authority to examine as to what he did with the stock or wait till he thinks of crushing them* into oil. The Legislature never contemplated a miller taking the role of a mere dealer. The second part of column 2 of item 6 speaks merely about dealers simpliciter and fixes the point of levy at the purchase by the last dealer who buys in the State. Hence the contingency of a miller figuring as a mere dealer was never -contemplated by the Legislature.

8. The third view is the one taken by the Tribunal and pressed upon us by the assessees, namely, that the words 'purchased by a miller' means the last miller who crushes the groundnut into oil. Indeed the word 'last' miller is not appropriate because he will be the first and the last miller who crushes the groundnut into oil as no one else can crush the groundnut into oil once the process is completed. The contention of the assessees is that the word 'miller' signifies a miller who functions as a miller, that is to say, who converts the groundnuts into oil in his mill with respect to the particular groundnuts covered by the transaction in question. In other words, it is stated that a person who is a miller only by description cannot be regarded as a miller who is liable to tax because though he may be described as a miller, he may function only as a mere dealer, in view of the fact that after purchasing the stocks of groundnut he may change his mind and dispose of the whole or part of the stock to another miller. Applying this process of reasoning, the assessees contend that the point of levy should be fixed at the stage when the groundnut loses its character by being converted into oil in the hands of a miller. To put it shortly, 'miller' means only the crushing miller and not a dealer-miller. In support of this contention, Sri D. Venkatappaiah Sastri, the learned counsel for one of the assessees, relied upon a ruling in Syed Mohamed & Co. v. The State of Madras [1952] 3 S.T.C. 367, in which one of the questions was whether certain rules of the Madras General Sales Tax Act offend Article 14 of the Constitution in view of the fact that purchasers of untanned hides and skins were singled out for the purposes of taxation while in other cases tax was imposed on sellers in respect of other businesses and that the said discrimination was unwarranted. The relevant rule which was considered in the said decision was Rule 16 which reads as follows:-

Rule 16. (1) In the case of hides and skins the tax payable under Section 3(1) shall be levied in accordance with the provisions of this rule.

(2) No tax shall be levied on the sale of untanned hides or skins except at the stage at which such hides or skins are sold to a tanner in the Province or are sold for export outside the Province.

9. Explaining the scope of this rule, Venkatarama Ayyar, J., observed as follows:

The petitioners before us have not shown that the conditions in other trades are similar to those in the hides and skins business and in the absence of such showing it cannot be presumed in their favour that no such differences exist as would justify a differentiation. ...Conditions differ from trade to trade and, therefore, prima facie what applies to one trade may not necessarily apply to another. Indeed the records show that the trade in untanned hides and skins has certain special features peculiar to it.... The untanned hides and skins would either be tanned in this State or exported for tanning to foreign countries. As Section 5(vi) provides for a tax being imposed on untanned hides and skins only at a single point in the successive series of sales, rules 4 and 16 provide that this should be done at the stage of their being tanned or exported. It is intelligible that if the article which is to be taxed is liable to be converted into another kind of article by process of manufacture, the proper stage for imposing the tax should be when it is transformed into a different article. On this reasoning, the tax will fall on him who tans the hides and skins and there is, therefore, reason for making the person who purchases untanned hides and skins for the purpose of tanning liable for the tax. In like manner, when the articles are exported to foreign countries for tanning they might be taken to lose their character as untanned hides and skins in the hands of the exporter....

10. Finally it was held that the rule was valid. It will be seen from the above discussion that the basis of Rule 16(2) is explained with reference to the sale to a tanner being the last in point in the Province as a sale to a tanner who tanned the goods in which event, the goods cease to be untanned hides and skins.

11. The next case relied upon by the learned counsel for the petitioners is Mohamed Zackria & Co. v. Government of Madras [1954] 5 S.T.C. 399, wherein dealing with a question whether under Rule 16 a tanner may be taxed on the purchase price only if his purchase was from a licensed dealer of untanned hides and skins and if the purchase was only for the purpose of tanning by him, it was held that if the tanner purchases from a licensed dealer and then sells it without tanning to another tanner, who is also a licensed dealer and so on, all these tanners could be taxed under that rule and that unless a limit of the nature suggested, viz., that the purchase must be for tanning by the tanner himself, is imposed, the multi-point tax cannot be avoided.

12. Reference was also made by the learned counsel for the assessees to the case in State of Madras v. K. H. Chambers Ltd. [1955] 6 S.T.C. 157 (F.B.), in which Rajamannar, C.J., observed as follows :-

There were two ways in which such series of sales of untanned hides and skins could come to an end. One was by the untanned hides and skins going into a tannery, that is to say, when they will cease to be untanned hides and skins any longer. The other way was when the untanned hides and skins were exported outside the State. Thereafter, there could be no further transaction of sale in the series. In Rule 16(2)(i) a provision is made for the sale of untanned hides and skins to a tanner, and in Rule 16(2)(ii), for such hides and skins which are exported. Then, the rule proceeds to fix the liability to tax... In the case of hides and skins exported, the tax is levied from the dealer who was the last dealer who bought them in the State on the amount for which they were bought by him.... For the purpose of fixing the single point in the series of sales, the two events, namely, the sale to a tanner and export outside the State, were taken as the termini of the series of sales....

13. Applying the above principles, the learned counsel for the assessees contends that if the word 'tanner' means only the person who tans raw hides and skins, similarly the word 'miller' should refer to that person who actually crushes the groundnut into oil in his mill.

14. The learned Government Pleader contends that these cases dealing with hides and skins governed by Rule 16 of the Madras Rules have no application to the present case inasmuch as the language of Rule 16 relating to hides and skins is entirely different from the language of item 6 of the Third Schedule. In the ruling in Syed Mohamed & Co. v. The State of Madras [1952] 3 S.T.C. 367, the learned Judge was explaining the scope of the rule which ran as follows : ''No tax shall be levied except at the stage at which they are sold to a tanner in the Province', and in the said context, it was held that the word 'tanner' only means a person in whose hands the hides and skins were tanned before they left the Province. The learned Government Pleader contends that the language of item 6 of the Third Schedule which refers to all purchases by a miller in the State necessarily refers to the first miller and that it enables the State straightaway to tax the first miller whereas in the case of hides and skins the rule states that 'no tax shall be levied except when sold to a tanner'. In the said context, it was held in Syed Mohamed & Co. v. The State of Madras [1952] 3 S.T.C. 367, that the point of levy was fixed at the sale to the last tanner in the Province, that is to say, the person who tans the goods before they were finally exported. The learned Government Pleader also referred us to the scheme of the rules relating to the hides and skins set out at pages 392 and 393 in Syed Mohamed & Co. v. The State of Madras [1952] 3 S.T.C. 367, which is as follows :-

As already mentioned, these articles are much in demand in foreign markets and their export forms one of the main items in the foreign trade of this State. It also appears that this State enjoys considerable natural advantages for carrying on the business of tanning because the 'avaram bark' which is specially suited for tanning grows in plenty in this State. The course of business appears to be that untanned hides and skins are acquired locally or by import from other States and are either tanned here or exported to foreign countries for tanning. In broad outline, the scheme of taxation adopted by the rules is to levy the tax at the stage when the articles are tanned in the State or exported to foreign countries for tanning.... Rule 16(2) fixes in accordance with Rule 4 the points of taxation at the stage of tanning or at the stage of export.

15. Sri Anantha Babu, the learned counsel for one of the assessees, contended that Section 15 of the Central Sales Tax Act. which imposes restrictions on the tax on the sale or purchase of declared goods within a State does not contemplate the imposition of a tax on the same type of goods at different stages and that item 6 of the Third Schedule of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act should be construed in such a way that it should not be repugnant to the provisions of Section 15(a) of the Central Act. We do not think any such contingency arises because when purchase tax is levied in respect of transactions which fall within the first limb of the second column of item 6, the tax is levied only at one stage, while the second limb of the said column comes into operation only in cases other than those covered by the first limb. In cases which fall within the second part of the said entry, the tax is also levied only at one stage. We do not therefore agree that our interpretation comes in conflict with Section 15 of the Central Sales Tax Act.

16. On the other hand, in Berar Oil Industries v. Deputy Commissioner of Commercial Taxes [1959] 10 S.T.C. 199, cited by Sri B. K. Seshu, in support of the argument of the learned Government Pleader, a Division Bench of this Court held that the proposition stated by the Full Bench in Hajee Abdul Shukoor & Co. v. State of Madras [1955] 6 S.T.C. 352 (F.B.) with reference to the sales of hides and skins governed by Rule 16(2) of the Madras Rules has no application to the case of transactions relating to groundnuts. It was further observed that when once it is established that tax could be levied on the purchase of certain goods, it cannot be postulated that the department has to wait till the commodities are disposed of by the purchaser, and that the said submission lacks substance and has to be overruled.

17. We are, therefore, unable to agree with the contention on behalf of the assessees that the principle stated with reference to a tanner purchasing hides and skins can be applied in interpreting the language of item 6 of the Third Schedule to the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act relating to groundnuts. As already indicated, we hold that the words 'when purchased by a miller in the State' occurring in item 6 of the Third Schedule refer to the purchases by the first miller in the State. We therefore set aside the orders of the Tribunal and allow these revision cases with costs. Advocate's fee : Rs. 50 in each.


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