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Amara Purushotham Mamidi Obaiah and Co. and ors. Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectSales Tax
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case Number Writ Petitions Nos. 1455 to 1458, 1462 to 1464, 1468 to 1471, 1693 to 1696 and 1701 to 1704 of 1968
Judge
Reported in[1972]29STC654(AP)
AppellantAmara Purushotham Mamidi Obaiah and Co. and ors.
RespondentState of Andhra Pradesh and ors.
Appellant Advocate T. Anantha Babu, ;I. Venkatnarayana, ;D. Sudhakara Rao, ;K. Krishna Rao and ; G. Rama Mohan Rao, Advs.
Respondent AdvocatePrincipal Government Pleader
Excerpt:
.....only in the case of raw tobacco, tobacco leaf and the products of tobacco leaf but not tobacco seed, tobacco seed oil or tobacco seed oil-cake, that it is also not. it is, on the other hand, argued by sri ramachandra reddy, the learned government pleader, that tobacco seed is neither tobacco nor its product, that even if the seeds should be considered part of tobacco, they cease to retain that character the moment they are separated from the plant and that in this view, no exemption can be claimed either in the case of seeds or the oil and cake which, according to him, are at best products of the 'seeds' and not of 'tobacco'.6. it is necessary that we should know the meaning of the word 'tobacco' to be able to appreciate the respective contentions urged for the parties. this argument..........are registered dealers under the act and have been carrying on business in groundnut, tobacco seed, tobacco seed oil, tobacco seed oil-cake, neem seed oil etc., in the guntur district. some of them were assessed by the concerned commercial tax officers to tax in relation to the turnover in the goods mentioned above for certain years and the taxes so assessed were also collected. in some cases, the commercial tax officers concerned issued notices proposing to make final assessment for certain years and provisional assessment lor the year 1969-70 while in some of those cases the petitioners made provisional payments pursuant to the assessments. at that stage, they filed these writ petitions praying for the issuance of either writs of certiorari to quash the orders made by the.....
Judgment:

Venkateswara Rao, J.

1. Three questions arise for consideration in this batch of writ petitions and they are : (1) whether the second limb of item 6 of Schedule III of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, which will hereinafter be referred to as the 'Act', is repugnant to the provisions of Section 15(a) of the Central Sales Tax Act and Article 14 of the Constitution and is, therefore, liable to be struck down, (2) whether neem oil and tobacco seed oil are exempt from tax by virtue of G.O. Ms. No. 581, Revenue, dated 14th March, 1960, and (3) whether in any view, 'tobacco seed', 'tobacco seed oil' and 'tobacco seed oil-cake' are goods coming within the purview of 'tobacco and all its products' specified in item 7 of Schedule IV of the Act and are therefore exempt from tax.

2. The petitioners in all these cases are registered dealers under the Act and have been carrying on business in groundnut, tobacco seed, tobacco seed oil, tobacco seed oil-cake, neem seed oil etc., in the Guntur district. Some of them were assessed by the concerned Commercial Tax Officers to tax in relation to the turnover in the goods mentioned above for certain years and the taxes so assessed were also collected. In some cases, the Commercial Tax Officers concerned issued notices proposing to make final assessment for certain years and provisional assessment lor the year 1969-70 while in some of those cases the petitioners made provisional payments pursuant to the assessments. At that stage, they filed these writ petitions praying for the issuance of either writs of certiorari to quash the orders made by the Commercial Tax Officers concerned, assessing them in relation to turnover in groundnuts, groundnut kernel, tobacco seed, tobacco seed oil, tobacco seed oil-cake and neem seed oil during the relevant years and to direct refund of the amount that was already paid by them pursuant to the alleged illegal assessments, or writs of prohibition interdicting the concerned Commercial Tax Officers from assessing them to tax on the turnover relating to the aforesaid goods for the assessment years mentioned in the relevant petitions as per the notices issued to them and to direct refund in such of those cases in which provisional payments were already made pursuant to the impugned orders. It is alleged in the affidavits filed in support of the petitions that item 6 of Schedule III of the Act violates Section 15(a) of the Central Sales Tax Act, inasmuch as it prescribes for each variety of declared goods including groundnuts, two stages instead of one, one at the point of the first purchase where millers buy and another at the stage of the last purchase where dealers other than millers buy the goods. It is also repugnant to Article 14 of the Constitution as the classification between miller-dealers and non-miller-dealers bears no rational relation to the purpose sought to be achieved. The fixation of two different stages for levy of tax would render it possible for the same goods being subjected to tax more than once. Item 6 of Schedule III of the Act, to the extent it prescribes a second or alternate point of purchase is, therefore, beyond the legislative competence of the State and is liable to be struck down. The Commercial Tax Officers have no jurisdiction to tax tobacco seed, tobacco seed oil and tobacco seed oil-cake as they constitute either 'tobacco' or its ''products' within the meaning of item 7 of Schedule IV of the Act and are, therefore, exempt from the liability to tax. In any view, tobacco seed oil and neem seed oil are not liable to be taxed in view of G.O. Ms. No. 581 dated 14th March, 1960. So, the assessment or proposed assessment of the petitioners in relation to the turnover in groundnut, groundnut kernel , tobacco seed, tobacco seed oil, tobacco seed oil-cake and neem seed oil for the years mentioned in the respective petitions is illegal and without jurisdiction. Some of the petitions suffered the impugned assessments and paid the taxes in the bona fide belief that such taxes are lawfully exigible while some other petitioners made provisional payments. They are, therefore, entitled to a refund of the sums illegally levied from them during the relevant years. Hence, the writ petitions for the reliefs stated supra.

3. All the petitions are resisted by the department on whose behalf the Commercial Tax Officer (Research), Board of Revenue (C.T.), Hyderabad, filed counters contending that there are no valid grounds for granting the reliefs prayed for by the petitioners, that the constitutionality of item 6 Of Schedule III of the Act is not open to question as it is perfectly valid, that the exemption envisaged by item 7 of Schedule IV is available only in the case of raw tobacco, tobacco leaf and the products of tobacco leaf but not tobacco seed, tobacco seed oil or tobacco seed oil-cake, that it is also not. correct to say that tobacco seed oil or neem seed oil are exempted from liability to pay tax and that the assessments made in respect of the goods referred to above are, therefore, unassailable.

4. Points Nos. 1 and 2 set out supra have not been pressed by Sri Anantha Babu, the learned counsel for the petitioners, for the reason that point No. 1 is now covered by the decision in Radhakrishna and Co. v. State of Andhra Pradesh [1969] 24 S.T.C. 320 rendered by a Division Bench of this court; and G. O. Ms. No. 581 dated 14th March, 1960, granted exemption only in relation to purchase by the Sarvodaya Sangh, Warangal, of oil-seeds used in the manufacture of soap and not to purchases of the commodity in general. So, the only question that survives for consideration is whether tobacco seed, tobacco seed oil and tobacco seed oil-cake constitute 'tobacco and all its products' mentioned in item 7 of Schedule IV of the Act. If the answer to this question were to be in the affirmative, the petitioners would be entitled to exemption from tax in relation to those goods and otherwise not.

5. It is common ground that tobacco seed oil is produced by crushing the seeds and that the mass, which is formed as a result of the compression to which the seeds are subjected while extracting oil, goes by the name 'tobacco seed oil-cake'. As the oil and cake are produced by crushing the seeds which, according to Sri Anantha Babu, form part of the tobacco plant, it is contended for the petitioners that none of those goods is exigible to tax. It is, on the other hand, argued by Sri Ramachandra Reddy, the learned Government Pleader, that tobacco seed is neither tobacco nor its product, that even if the seeds should be considered part of tobacco, they cease to retain that character the moment they are separated from the plant and that in this view, no exemption can be claimed either in the case of seeds or the oil and cake which, according to him, are at best products of the 'seeds' and not of 'tobacco'.

6. It is necessary that we should know the meaning of the word 'tobacco' to be able to appreciate the respective contentions urged for the parties. This term is not denned or explained anywhere in the Act. 'Tobacco' is a plant of American origin with narcotic leaves used for smoking, chewing or snuff, according to Concise Oxford Dictionary. This expression is explained in Webster's New International Dictionary as 'any plant of the genus Nicotiana, especially of the species cultivated for their leaves, the most common being Nicotiana tobacum of South American origin. It is a tall annual with ample ovate or lanceolate leaves and white or pink tubular flowers'. The meaning assigned to this term in the Reader's Digest Great Encyclopaedic Dictionary is almost the same. According to this dictionary 'tobacco' means 'various species of Nicotiana, especially Nicotiana tobacum, native of tropical America, tall annual plant with white or pink tubular flowers and large ovate leaves used, dried, and variously prepared, for smoking or chewing or in the form of snuff'. The word 'tobacco'' therefore connotes the plant going by that name as a, whole and not merely its leaves as sought to be contended for the respondents. Roots, stem, stalks, flowers and seeds are as much parts of the plant as its leaves since a typical plant consists of all these parts and branches and fruits in addition. So, if by 'tobacco' is meant all the parts of the plant known by that name and not merely the leaves thereof, it is difficult to comprehend how the seeds developed in the flower portion of the plant could be any the less tobacco. Tobacco is the name given to the plant as a whole of which the seeds form a part and so seeds also constitute tobacco, of course, only so long as they remain attached to the plant.

7. We are fortified in the view expressed above by the definition of the term 'tobacco' found against item 4 of Schedule I to the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944, and to which our attention was invited by the learned Principal Government Pleader for the purpose of saying that tobacco seed cannot be considered a product of tobacco. 'Tobacco' is defined there as 'any form of tobacco, whether cured or uncured and whether manufactured or not, and includes the leaf, stalks, and stems of the tobacco plant but does not include any part of a tobacco plant while still attached to the earth'. It is true that no mention of seeds is made in this definition; but this is no reason to infer that seeds do not form part of tobacco in view of the employment of the word 'includes' in it, thereby indicating that it is only illustrative in nature and not exhaustive. A careful examination of this definition would reveal that the expression 'tobacco' is very comprehensive and that all the parts of the plant going by that name, including the seeds, come within the ambit of 'tobacco', of course, only so long as the plant continues to remain attached to the earth.

8. The question then arises whether the seeds continue to be 'tobacco' even after they are separated from the plant, Our answer to this question is in the negative as it was already seen that 'tobacco' is the name given to the plant as a whole and not to any particular part thereof. The seed becomes a distinct entity the moment, it is separated from the plant and cannot, thereafter, continue to be 'tobacco'. Reference may be made in this context to I.L.T. Development Co. Ltd. v. State of Madras [1954] 5 S.T.C. 354 and Kotak and Co. v. State of Andhra Pradesh [1962] 13 S.T.C. 709. In the former of the two cases, the High Court of Madras, agreeing with the Tribunal, ruled that tobacco seed is a commodity which is distinct from tobacco. A Division Bench of this court held in Kotak and Co. v. State of Andhra Pradesh* that cotton seed, which is separated from cotton by a manufacturing process, cannot be said to be cotton itself or part of the cotton after it is separated and that they are two distinct goods, though before the manufacturing process, the seed might have been a part of the cotton itself.

9. It is, therefore, clear that tobacco seeds cease to be 'tobacco' the moment they are removed from the plant and constitute a separate and distinct class of goods with independent properties and potentialities and not the same as those of the parent plant, No exemption can, therefore, be claimed in respect of tobacco seeds, when once they are removed from the plant, on the ground that they constitute 'tobacco' and much less in the case of oil and cake which are extracted from the seeds after they are separated from the plant.

10. But the question still remains whether tobacco seeds, oil and cake are 'products' of tobacco as envisaged in item 7 of Schedule IV of the Act. As seeds are produced by the plant while oil and cake are obtained from those seeds, Sri Anantha Babu argued that all these goods should be deemed to be 'products' of tobacco. It is, on the other hand, contended by the learned Government Pleader that even seeds cannot be classed as a product of 'tobacco' and as oil and cake are obtained from the seeds and not tobacco, none of these goods is entitled to the exemption contemplated in item 7 of Schedule IV. This argument would certainly be tenable if by 'tobacco' is meant only the leaves used for rolling cigars and cigarettes or making snuff and the like as seed is not a product of the leaf but of the plant itself. But when it was already seen that the term 'tobacco' signifies the plant in its entirety and not merely its leaves, the respondents cannot be heard to say that the seeds, which are admittedly derived from the plant going by the name 'tobacco', are not a 'product' of that plant. That the term 'tobacco' and its products should not be understood as meaning leaves alone is made clear in Krishnaiah Setty & Sons v. Deputy Commercial Tax Officer [1963] 14 S.T.C. 1, in which a Division Bench of this court pointed out that 'crushed tobacco stalks' come within the purview of the expression 'tobacco and all its products'. The fact that with a view to avoid double taxation, the State Government, in the exercise of the powers conferred on it under Section 9 of the Act, exempted from payment of tax all classes of goods in respect of which additional duties of excise are leviable by the Central Government with effect from 24th December, 1957, was no doubt taken into account by their Lordships in the decision cited supra in coming to the conclusion that the expression 'tobacco and all its products' takes in crushed tobacco stalks also; but it will presently be seen that exemption from tax is available for 'tobacco and all its products' irrespective of the question as to whether they are subjected to additional excise duties or not. I.L.T. Development Co. Ltd. v. State of Madras [1954] 5 S.T.C. 354, referred to above, in which it was pointed out that 'tobacco seed' is a commodity which is distinct from 'tobacco' does not help the contention of the respondents that the seed cannot be classified even as a product of tobacco. The question that fell to be decided in that case was whether tobacco seed constituted 'tobacco in any form whether manufactured or not', within the meaning of Section 4 of the Madras General Sales Tax Act and this was answered in the negative. No reasons were of course given by their Lordships in support of their conclusion that 'tobacco seed' is not 'tobacco in any form'; but we are inclined to think that they rendered the decision in the manner stated above evidently because the seed ceased to be tobacco, meaning the plant going by that name, the moment it was separated from it. At any rate, we cannot construe that decision as laying down that 'tobacco seed' is not even a product of tobacco in the absence of any reason in it warranting such an inference.

11. The word 'product' means 'a thing produced by natural process or manufacture'. So, anything derived from or produced by the plant 'tobacco' such as stem, stalks, flowers, leaf and seeds would normally constitute products of tobacco. It is true that 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 terms according to the meaning ascribed to them in common parlance as pointed out in Commis-ner of Sales Tax v. Jaswant Singh Char an Singh [1967] 19 S.T.C. 469 (S.C.). But we cannot subscribe to the view that tobacco seed has any other meaning in common parlance or is understood otherwise than as a product of the tobacco plant. The yield or what is obtained from a tree or plant is called its produce and such being the case, it is difficult to discountenance the contention that the seeds do constitute a product of the plant tobacco. We fail to understand why seeds should not be regarded as a product of the tobacco plant when stalks were found to come within the purview of tobacco and its products in Krishnaiah Setty & Sons v. Deputy Commercial Tax Officer [1963] 14 S.T.C. 1. We may take for instance tobacco leaves which by themselves do not comprise the plant and are only parts thereof. If 'seeds' cannot be. classed as a product of 'tobacco', leaves of this plant would also share the same fate and cannot be regarded as a product of the tobacco plant. But it is not pretended that tobacco leaves are exigible to tax and are not exempted under item 7 of Schedule IV of the Act. We are unable to find any intelligible or rational basis for drawing a distinction between tobacco leaves and tobacco seeds to justify the contention that though the former are products of 'tobacco' the latter are not. Seeds are as much a product of tobacco plant as its leaves. They do not shred their nature and qualities and retain their character as such even after they are separated from the plant. Kotak & Co. v. State of Andhra Pradesh (supra) is of no assistance to the respondents, as all that has been decided in it is that the seed, after it is separated from cotton by a manufacturing process, is neither cotton nor part of the cotton and that they are distinct goods, though before the manufacturing process the seed might have been a part of cotton itself. Their Lordships did not go further and say that the 'seed' is not even a product of the cotton plant. I.L.T. Development Co., Ltd.. v. State of Madras [1954] 5 S.T.C. 354 is similarly inapplicable to this case as the point that fell to be decided in it was whether tobacco seed 'is tobacco in any form, whether , manufactured or not' whereas the goods exempted under item 7 of Schedule IV of the Act are 'tobacco and all its products' and not 'tobacco in any form'.

12. There is of course no gainsaying that Schedule IV of the Act (formerly Schedule V) was amended to include 'tobacco and all its products' and certain other goods, having regard to the fact that they were liable for additional excise duty under the Central statute and with a view to avoid double taxation in respect of those goods, and it is also true that no additional excise duty is levied in respect of tobacco seeds; but this is no reason to hold that they are not products of 'tobacco' as the object behind the amendment cannot take away the petitioners' right to claim exemption in respect of those seeds if the language used by the Legislature entitles them to claim the same. The following observations of their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Innamuri Gopalam v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1963] 14 S.T.C. 742 (S.C.) are apposite in this context

No doubt, statutes have to be construed as a whole so as to avoid any inconsistency or repugnancy among its several provisions, but if there is nothing to modify, nothing to alter, or nothing to qualify the language of a statute, the words and sentences have to be construed in their ordinary and natural meaning [vide 36 Hals. (3rd Edn.) s. 585]. What we are now concerned with is a fiscal provision and it has often been said that there is no equity in a taxing statute and either the subject is within it or not, on the words of the enactment or the rules validly made thereunder. In a taxing statute there is no room for any intendment but regard must be had to the clear meaning of the words. The entire matter is governed wholly by the words of the provision. If the taxpayer is within the plain terms of the exemption, he cannot be denied its benefit by calling in aid any supposed intention of the exempting authority. If such intention can be gathered from the construction of the words of the statute or rule or by necessary implication therefrom, the matter is different, but that is not the position here.

13. Then their Lordships referred to the observations of Lord Watson in Salomon v. Salomon and Co. [1897] A.C. 22 at p. 38:

Intention of the Legislature is a common but very slippery phrase which, popularly understood, may signify anything from intention embodied in positive enactment to speculative opinion as to what the Legislature probably would have meant, although there has been an omission to enact it. In a Court of Law or Equity, what the Legislature intended to be done or not to be done can only be legitimately ascertained from that which it has chosen to enact, either in express words or by reasonable and necessary implication.

14. So, the mere fact that tobacco seeds are not subjected to any additional excise levy is not sufficient to exclude those goods from 'tobacco and all its products' which expression is wide enough to take in all that is obtained from the tobacco plant. We are, therefore, satisfied that tobacco seeds which are derived from the plant 'tobacco' constitute a product of tobacco within the meaning of item 7 of Schedule IV of the Act and that they are therefore entitled to exemption from liability to be taxed.

15. The only other question that remains to be answered is whether 'tobacco oil' and 'tobacco oil-cake' are also products of 'tobacco'. As the oil and cake are obtained from the seed which in its turn is a product of the plant 'tobacco', learned counsel, Sri Anantha Babu, argued that the oil and oil-cake also should be deemed to be products of tobacco. We are, however, unable to accept this contention. Product, as already seen, is 'a thing, produced by natural process or manufacture'. Neither the oil nor the cake can be considered to be products of the plant tobacco as they are not directly obtained from it. The oil and cake are obtained by subjecting the seed to a mechanical process of crushing and so, they are products of the tobacco seed and not the plant. They cannot be equated with tobacco products simply because the seed from which they are derived was produced by the plant. Product has to be understood as a thing obtained or derived directly from another. If it is to be construed otherwise than in this manner all things on earth would be products of one and the same as they could ultimately be traced to the same source. Take for instance, the case of a wooden chair or table. We do not call them products of a tree simply because they are made of wood obtained from a tree. They are not commonly understood or termed as products of a teak-wood tree or rosewood tree simply because they are made of that wood. Yet another instance of this kind is furnished by soaps. Tobacco oil is one of the ingredients which goes into the manufacture of soaps. Can it, therefore, be said that soap is a product of tobacco? We will be stretching the language employed in item 7 of Schedule IV of the Act too far if we should interpret the term 'product' to include not only seeds which are derived directly from the tobacco plant but also oil and cake which are obtained by subjecting the seed to a mechanical process and are consequently the products of the seed rather than of the plant. We do not, therefore, experience any difficulty in concluding that tobacco seed oil and tobacco seed oil-cake are neither 'tobacco' nor its 'products' to be entitled to the exemption envisaged in item 7 of Schedule IV of the Act.

16. What follows from the foregoing discussion is that the turnover relating to tobacco seed alone, which we held to be a product of the plant 'tobacco', is exempt from tax and that oil and oil-cake, which are only products of the seed and not the plant, are not entitled to any such exemption for the assessment years mentioned in the respective petitions.

17. In the result, therefore, writs of certiorari quashing the orders of the Commercial Tax Officers concerned (R-2) assessing the petitioners in W.P. Nos. 1455 to 1458, 1463, 1469, 1470, 1471, 1693 to 1696 and 1701 to 1704 of 1968 to tax on the turnover relating to tobacco seeds for the years mentioned in those petitions will accordingly issue and the petitioners in those cases will be entitled to a refund of the tax that has been collected from them in relation to tobacco seeds during the relevant assessment years.

18. W.P. Nos. 1468 of 1968 and 3931 of 1969 are also allowed to the extent they seek to challenge the levy of tax on the turnover relating to tobacco seeds and a writ of prohibition interdicting the respondents therein from assessing the petitioners in those applications to tax on the turnover relating to that commodity alone will issue. The petitioner-firm in W.P. No. 1468 of 1968 will be entitled to a refund of the tax which has been paid by it provisionally in relation to tobacco seeds for the assessment year 1966-67.

19. The petitioner in W.P. Nos. 1462, 1464 and 1471 of 1968 are not entitled to any relief since the turnover on the basis of which they were assessed or proposed to be assessed to tax during the relevant years, does not include tobacco seed and as these petitions are dismissed, we direct the parties in all the petitions to bear their respective costs in the circumstances of the case.


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