B.J. Divan, C.J.
1. The question that arises in each of these four cases is whether the product of Hindustan Lever Limited called 'Vimf' sold under that trade name in the market can be considered to be a soap for the`purpose of entry 48 in the First Schedule to the Andhra Pradesh General`Sales Tax Act. By virtue of Section 5(2)(a), the sales tax at the rate mentioned in the schedule has to be levied only at the point of first sale and`not for subsequent sales. The petitioners in the writ petitions are dealers in 'Vim' and the question arose in the sales tax proceedings for the`relevant assessment years as to whether 'Vim' could be considered a soap.
2. Item 48 in the First Schedule merely mentions 'soaps' and the`tax is to be levied at the point of first sale in the State at the rate of`5 paise in the rupee. The Commercial Tax Officer held that 'Vim' is not a soap; whereas the Assistant Commissioner of Commercial Taxes, before`whom the appeal was filed, held that 'Vim' is a soap. Ultimately, the`Deputy Commissioner, exercising his revisional powers under the Act, held 'Vim' not to be a soap and, thereafter, the matter was taken before the Tribunal. The Tribunal held that 'soap' is an alkaline salt of a higher fatty acid ; a compound of sodium or potassium used in washing. The`Tribunal further observed:
The preparation of 'Vim' differs from the preparation of soap, which`is used for washing purposes. The materials that go into the preparation of 'Vim' are entirely different from the ones that go in the making of 'soap'. 'Vim' contains :-
(i) water soluble carbonates present as sodium carbonate (soda-ash);
(ii) water insoluble carbonates present as calcium carbonate ;
(iii) water soluble phosphate present either as di-sodium phosphate and/or tri-sodium phosphate and/or sodium tri-polyphosphate ; and
(iv) water soluble synthetic detergent such as sodium alkyl-aryl-sulphonate.
3. The Tribunal found that 'Vim' is a cleansing powder used for cleaning wash-basins, pots and pans, glassware and crockery, etc., while soap is used for general washing purposes. The Tribunal further found that 'Vim' does not contain the ingredients of soap; that it has also different properties and is used for different purposes; and that 'Vim' differs from 'soap' in all respects and this takes it out of the category of soaps as mentioned in item 48 of the First Schedule to the Act.
4. We find, under the word 'soap' in Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 20, at page 857, the history of soap-making and how, from time to time, different types of fatty acids have been used for the purpose of soap-making. Different types of soaps meant for different purposes are, as pointed out in Encyclopaedia Britannica, used throughout the world and the only question is whether 'Vim', which is used for cleansing purposes, can be considered to be 'soap'. Unfortunately, the material which is now placed before us, was not placed before the Tribunal. It appears that, as far back as 1954, a book called 'History of Unilever' was published in two volumes and in appendix I to Volume I there is a chart of soap-making process. A copy of that Appendix I has been kept on the record of this case, so that the reference to that chart is easily available. The chart shows that, for the purpose of soap-making, caustic soda and salt, nut oils like palm-kernel and coconut, hard fats like tallow, palm-oil and bone grease, soft oils like groundnut, soya-bean, whale, olive, cotton seed, castor and maize, are all utilised. With these materials, what is called 'soap base' is prepared and with additions of different materials like silica, builders like sodium silicates, sodium phosphates, sodium carbonates, etc., or with the addition of perfumes and colours different types of soaps meant for different purposes are prepared. So far as scouring powders like 'Vim' are concerned, in addition to the soap base, silica and builders like sodium silicates, sodium phosphates, sodium carbonates, etc., are added. Thus, it is clear that soap base into which have gone nut oils, hard fats, soft oils or anyone of those ingredients depending upon the type of soap which is produced, is in fact used even in the preparation of a scouring powder like 'Vim'. Under these circumstances, it is clear from this chart in Appendix I that even a scouring powder like 'Vim' is a soap because it shares all the properties of soap with only the addition of silica and builders. Under these circumstances, since soap base, which also goes into the making of soap powders, hard soaps, glycerene, hard soaps (genuine), toilet soaps and soap flakes, is also used in the preparation of a scouring powder like 'Vim', it must be held that 'Vim' is a soap for the purpose of item 48 in the First Schedule to the Act.
5. T. R. C. No. 41 of 1976 is, therefore, decided in favour of the assessee and against the department. In each of the writ petitions, the relief sought for is granted and the sales tax authorities are directed to proceed on the footing that 'Vim' is soap and falls within the purview of item 48 of the First Schedule to the Act. The petitioner in each of these four matters succeeds. Rule is made absolute. The respondents in each of these four matters will pay the costs of the respective petitioners. Advocate's fee Rs. 150 in each case.