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The State of Andhra Pradesh Vs. Indian Detonators Ltd. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberTax Revision Case No. 84 of 1967
Judge
Reported in[1971]28STC84(AP)
AppellantThe State of Andhra Pradesh
RespondentIndian Detonators Ltd.
Appellant AdvocateD.V. Sastry, Adv. for ;Adv. General
Respondent AdvocateT. Anantha Babu, Adv.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Excerpt:
.....scope of entry 37. the appellate authority, therefore, relying on the test laid down in william jacks & co. on this basis, which has also been clearly stated in the case relied on, the tribunal seems to have held that inasmuch as the electric energy is used only for the limited purpose of ignition, the detonator which is primarily and essentially an explosive accessory depending for its potency and power on the chemical combination, cannot be classified as electrical goods or appliances. its use certainly depends on the functioning of the electrical equipment as well. this principle is well recognised and has been followed by the supreme court in several cases. 9. at another place, their lordships observed thus :while interpreting items in statutes like the sales tax acts, resort..........with facilities to ignite them by passing electric current and they are on that basis called 'electric detonators', the first of the kind being ordinary detonators. the assessee-company manufactures both the types of detonators but sets a very high value, 7 to 8 times more than ordinary detonators, on electric detonators probably due to a sort of monopoly in some measure that it enjoys. the electric detonators are provided with two metal strips which are held together and separated from each other by means of insulating material. to one pair of ends of these strips are soldered leading wires. the other pair of ends are joined together by means of a high resistance nichrome wire. this wire is called 'bridge wire'. the bridge wire is surrounded by a mixture of charcoal and other.....
Judgment:

N. Kumarayya, C.J.

1. This tax revision case raises a short point as to whether 'electric detonators' manufactured by the assessee, the Indian Detonators Ltd. are 'electrical goods' falling within entry 37 of Schedule I to the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1957, so that they may be subjected to sales tax at the rate of 7 per cent. A 'detonator' is an explosive accessory for initiating high explosives. It is used for blasting purposes and is issued only against special licence to be obtained by persons concerned with blasting or mining operations. It contains chemical composition inside a metallic tube, whether aluminium or copper, which is closed at one end. In this tube are compressed two charges of initiating explosives successively. One is base charge and the other is priming charge. The chemical mixture in each of them is somewhat different from the other. The tube with explosives thus compressed thereinto forms a 'detonator'. In order that this detonator may function, it is necessary that the explosive chemicals therein should be ignited. This ignition is effected in more than one way. One of the methods of igniting it is to provide a train of black powder called 'safety fuse' which would carry a flame from a point sufficiently away from the explosives to the initiating explosives. This method, under certain circumstances, especially in an atmosphere of explosive mixture of gases, proves hazardous. The detonators which are to be used under such conditions are provided with facilities to ignite them by passing electric current and they are on that basis called 'electric detonators', the first of the kind being ordinary detonators. The assessee-company manufactures both the types of detonators but sets a very high value, 7 to 8 times more than ordinary detonators, on electric detonators probably due to a sort of monopoly in some measure that it enjoys. The electric detonators are provided with two metal strips which are held together and separated from each other by means of insulating material. To one pair of ends of these strips are soldered leading wires. The other pair of ends are joined together by means of a high resistance nichrome wire. This wire is called 'bridge wire'. The bridge wire is surrounded by a mixture of charcoal and other ingredients. On passing the electric current through the leading wire and the bridge wire, the bridge wire glows and ignites the mixture of chemicals giving a hot flash on ignition. This hot flash is conveyed to the priming charge, the ignition of which in turn explodes the base charge. The shock energy available in the detonation of these two charges is conveyed to the explosive cartridge within which is buried the detonator. This causes the explosion that is utilized in commercial blasting practices. That is how the nature and the kind of detonator manufactured by the assessee has been described by Shri V.Y. Tambe, an expert whose opinion forms part of the record of this case. Practically, there is no difference between ordinary and electric detonators so far as detonator or explosive portion is concerned. The combination of chemicals compressed in the metallic casting in both the kinds of detonators is essentially the same. If at all there is any difference between the two kinds of detonators, it is in the method of setting off the detonators. While for ignition of the priming charge flame is carried through the safety fuse in the ordinary detonators, in the case of electric detonator the flame is produced from passing electric current through its fuse end. The difference in the mode of ignition in the two types of detonators in no way affects the explosive potency of the chemicals therein. In other words, the efficiency of the detonator is unaffected and would be the same, whether it is ignited by electric current or ordinary flame because the explosion is caused by the chemicals whether the fuse is ignited by means of mechanical device or electricity.

2. In this state of facts, the question is whether electric detonators come within the meaning of 'electrical goods' in entry 37 of Schedule I to the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act. The said entry reads thus :

37. All electrical goods, instruments, apparatus and appliances including fans and lighting bulbs, electrical earthenware and porcelain and all other accessories.

3. The expression 'electrical goods' has not been defined in the Act. Neither the Act nor the Rules thereunder have laid down any test to be satisfied before any given article is brought within the scope of entry 37. The appellate authority, therefore, relying on the test laid down in William Jacks & Co. v. The State of Madras [1955] 6 S.T.C. 301, held that electric detonators are electrical goods inasmuch as they cannot be operated by any means other than electric energy to ignite the fuse. The Appellate Tribunal did not agree with this view for in bringing any goods under the classification of electrical goods, the goods are to be taken as a whole. For this purpose their component parts cannot be taken separately. To put it differently, the article sold is to be taken as a unit and cannot be split up and considered. On this basis, which has also been clearly stated in the case relied on, the Tribunal seems to have held that inasmuch as the electric energy is used only for the limited purpose of ignition, the detonator which is primarily and essentially an explosive accessory depending for its potency and power on the chemical combination, cannot be classified as electrical goods or appliances. In our judgment, the approach of the Tribunal to the problem is correct. The appellate authority was no doubt impressed greatly by the fact that the electrical detonator cannot be used without electrical energy. But before that test is applied, it is essential that the goods must be capable of being classified as electrical goods. It may be that certain goods cannot be used without electrical energy; yet they need not necessarily be electrical goods. Take the case of a motor car. Its use certainly depends on the functioning of the electrical equipment as well. In fact without electrical energy it may not be possible to start or make it run. But on that account the motor car does not become electrical goods. There can be innumerable instances of this kind. The nature of the goods therefore has to be determined taking the goods as a whole and not by any of its single factor.

4. In William Jacks & Co. Ltd., Madras v. State of Madras [1960] 11 S.T.C. 340 the Madras High Court referring to its earlier decision in William Jacks & Co. Ltd. v. State of Madras [1955] 6 S.T.C. 301 clarified this position. The question for consideration was whether lathe can be classified as electrical goods. It was observed thus :

A lathe, by itself, even though driven by electrical energy will not come within the scope of the expression 'electrical goods' in Section 3(2)(viii) of the Madras General Sales Tax Act, 1939.

5. It is unnecessary to refer to the line of reasoning in that case more elaborately for the position has been made further clear in a later decision of the Madras High Court in Deputy Commissioner of Commercial Taxes, Madurai Division, Madurai v. Ravi Auto Stores [1968] 22 S.T.C. 172. It was laid down therein as follows :

Intrinsically, the goods in question must be electrical goods and secondly their use cannot be had without electrical energy. Merely because an article cannot be used without electricity, it may not be decisive. It is necessary that, apart from that fact, the article, by its very nature, answers the description of 'electrical goods'.

6. We find ourselves is respectful agreement with this proposition.

7. The expression 'electrical goods', of course, as already stated, is not defined in the Act or the Rules. In the absence of any specific meaning given to it in the Act we have to necessarily construe it and understand the same in the sense it is used in common parlance. This principle is well recognised and has been followed by the Supreme Court in several cases. While construing the word 'vegetables' in item 6 in Schedule II of the C.P. and Berar Sales Tax Act (21 of 1947) in Ramavatar Budhaiprasad v. The Assistant Sales Tax Officer, Akola, and Anr. [1961] 12 S.T.C. 286 (S.C.) the Supreme Court observed thus:

But this word must be construed not in any technical sense nor from the botanical point of view but as understood in common parlance. It has not been defined in the Act and being a word of everyday use, it must be construed in its popular sense meaning 'that sense which people conversant with the subject-matter with which the statute is dealing would attribute to it.' It is to be construed as understood in common language. Craies on Statute Law, page 153 (5th Edition). It was so held in Planters Nut and Chocolate Co. Ltd. v. The King (1952) 1 Dom. L.R. 385, 389.

8. This view was reiterated in Commissioner of Sales Tax, Madhya Pradesh, Indore v. Jaswant Singh Charan Singh [1967] 19 S.T.C. 469 (S.C.), where the question arose whether charcoal is included in the word 'coal' specified in entry 1 of Part III of Schedule II to the Madhya Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1958. There it was observed thus:.while construing the word 'coal' in entry 1 of Part III of Schedule II, the test that would be applied is what would be the meaning which persons dealing with coal and consumers purchasing it as fuel would give to that word. A sales tax statute being one levying a tax on goods, must, in the absence of a technical term or a term of science or art, be presumed to have used an ordinary term as coal according to the meaning ascribed to it in common parlance.

9. At another place, their Lordships observed thus :

While interpreting items in statutes like the Sales Tax Acts, resort should be had not to the scientific or the technical meaning of such terms but to their popular meaning or the meaning attached to them by those dealing in them, that is to say, to their commercial sense.'

10. This court had occasion to deal with a like question in The State of Andhra Pradesh v. Satyanarayana Kaithan (P.) Ltd. [1967] 20 S.T.C. 409 where the question arose whether 'manganese' includes 'manganese ore'.

11. In view of the settled principle the question to be considered is whether according to the popular meaning or the meaning attached to the word in commercial world, electrical detonators can be termed 'electrical goods'.

12. The Tribunal having regard to the nature of the goods and the opinion of the people conversant in that field has come to the conclusion that merely because 'electric detonator' is ignited with the help of electric energy it is not electrical goods. The main feature of this electric detonator as would be seen is that electric energy is used only for the purpose of igniting. That is the only difference between an electric detonator and an ordinary detonator. The electric energy is not used for any purpose beyond. It imparts no force to the detonator which, as in the case of ordinary detonator, has to depend entirely on its chemical explosive combinations. The electric energy for this limited purpose is used as a safety device and in order to avoid hazards. Otherwise such ignition can take place even with some mechanical means where no question of electric energy is involved. The detonator as such cannot be an electrical apparatus as it is not supplied with electric energy for its working nor can it be stopped as soon as the electric current is switched off. After the ignition takes place, the electric energy will have no place even in the system of electric detonator. As soon as the fuse is ignited by the glow of bridge wire nothing can stop its detonation. That is because the energy that is supplied to the detonator is wholly related to the energy and the gas released by the chemical reaction taking place in the fuse head composition and the reaction in the priming charge and the base charge. Thus it may be noted that whereas the amount of work turned out by electrical apparatus is directly proportionate to the amount of electric energy supplied to it, in the electric detonator the energy supplied is in no way related to the electric energy but only depends upon the energy available in the chemical reaction taking place within the various explosive chemicals utilised in the detonator tube. As soon as the fuse is ignited, the blast would take place automatically and there will be nothing left for the electric energy and the purpose of the detonator also comes to an end with the blast. It is, therefore, clear that save for the purpose of ignition electric detonator has to depend wholly on the explosive power dependent on the chemical mixture used in it. It has no relation to the electric energy supplied. In these circumstances, the detonator by its nature and function cannot be said to be an electric apparatus or appliance or electrical goods. In this premises the decision of the Tribunal is not open to interference. This tax revision case is, therefore, devoid of merits. It is accordingly dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100.


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