Obul Reddi, C.J.
1. These 14 revisions are directed against a common order made by the Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal in Tribunal Appeals Nos. 271, 281, 282, 283, 284, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 377, 387, 388, 419 and 451 of 1976 dated 3rd June, 1977. Two questions have been raised by Mr. P. Venkatarama Reddy. the learned counsel for the petitioners : (1) that in cases of provisional assessments made beyond the year, interest demanded in respect of such provisionally assessed tax is without the authority of law, and (2) that even in respect of provisional assessments made within the year, interest cannot be calculated and collected in respect of such assessments after the close of the assessment year.
2. To determine the questions raised by the learned counsel for the petitioners, a few facts may be stated. The petitioners are all dealers in jaggery at Anakapalli. They submitted returns for the preceding months in form No. A-2 as required under Rule 17 of the A. P. General Sales Tax Rules. Along with the returns, they also filed proofs of payment of full amount of the tax due on or before the 25th day of every month showing the total and net turnovers for the preceding month. As the petitioners failed to comply with the provisions of Rule 17, the Commercial Tax Officer, Anakapalli, passed provisional assessment orders and issued demand notices in form B-2 directing them to pay the tax assessed within 30 days from the date of service of notice. In March, 1976, the Commercial Tax Officer demanded, by his notices served upon them, interest at the rate provided in Section 16(3) of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act on the tax assessed. It is this demand of interest that has been the subject-matter of the appeals before the Tribunal and revisions here.
3. To determine the questions, it would be necessary to notice Sections 15 and 16, and Rule 17 to the extent relevant. Section 15 reads :
15. Provisional assessment of tax.-(I) The tax payable under this Act for each year may be provisionally assessed in advance during the year in monthly or other prescribed instalments on the basis of estimated or actual turnover of the dealer; and for that purpose a dealer may be required to submit a return or periodical returns of estimated or actual turnover in such manner as may be prescribed.
(2) If the assessing authority has reason to believe that the provisional assessment for any period was made on too low a turnover or at too low a rate or on too high a turnover or at too high a rate, he may enhance or reduce, as the case may be, such provisional assessment:
Provided that before making an enhancement of the provisional assessment as aforesaid the assessing authority shall, except where such enhancement is based on the turnover finally determined for the preceding year, issue a notice thereof to the dealer and make such inquiry as he considers necessary.
(3) The tax provisionally assessed may be levied and collected, in advance, during the year in monthly or other prescribed instalments.
4. Section 16(3) reads' 'If the tax assessed under this Act or any instalment thereof is not paid by any dealer within the time specified therefor in the notice of assessment or in the order permitting payment in instalments, the dealer shall pay in addition to the amount of such tax or instalment, interest at the rate of-
(a) half a per cent of such amount, for each month or part thereof for the first three months after the date specified for its payment;
(b) one per cent of such amount, for each month or part thereof subsequent to the first three months aforesaid.
Rule 17 reads: '17. (1) Every dealer whose total turnover in a year exceeds Rs. 50,000 shall submit so as to reach the assessing authority on or before the 25th day of every month a return in form A-2 showing the total and net turnover for the preceding month. Along with the return, he shall submit a receipt from a Government treasury or a crossed demand draft in favour of the assessing authority for the full amount of tax or taxes payable for the month to which the return relates under Section 5, 5-A, 6, 6-A or 11 or notified under Sub-section (1) of Section 9 :
Provided that in a case where a dealer intends to pay the tax through a crossed cheque, the cheque should be sent so as to reach the assessing authority on or before the 15th day of the month succeeding the month to which the tax relates.
(2) The returns so filed shall, subject to the provisions of Sub-rule (4), be provisionally accepted.
(3) Where any dealer fails to submit a return in respect of any month before the date prescribed in that behalf or produces the accounts, registers and other documents after inspection or submits a return subsequent to the date of inspection, or if the return submitted appears to be incorrect or incomplete, the assessing authority shall after following the procedure prescribed in Rule 12 determine the turnover to the best of his judgment and provisionally assess the tax or taxes payable for the month and shall' serve upon the dealer a notice in form B-2 and the dealer shall pay the sum demanded within the time and in the manner specified in the notice.
5. As may be seen from Rule 17, the petitioners, as their turnover in a year exceeded Rs. 50,000, filed monthly returns in form A-2 showing the total and net turnovers for the preceding months. They had also submitted along with the returns receipts from the Government treasury in proof of the full payment of tax payable for the month to which the returns related. Sub-rule (5) of Rule 17 enables the assessing authority after the close of the year for which the monthly return has been filed, to finally assess in a single order on the basis of the returns, the tax or taxes payable by them. Sub-rule (5; deals with final assessment to be made by the assessing authority on the basis of the returns filed by the assessee.in form A-2.
6. Section 15 falls for interpretation. According to Mr. Venkatarama Reddy, the language employed by the legislature in Section 15 is such that it leaves no option to the assessing authority but (sic) to make the provisional assessment after the close of the year. According to him, the words 'during the year' occurring in Sub-section (1) of Section 15 make it abundantly clear that the provisional assessment should be made by the assessing authority within that year and that it is not open to him to make the assessment on the basis of the estimated turnover after the expiry of the year. According to him, after the close of the year, the assessing authority is only competent to make the final assessment and not the provisional assessment on the monthly returns submitted by the dealer in form A-2.
7. We are unable to agree with the interpretation sought to be placed by the learned counsel for the petitioners. 'Year', as defined in Section 2(u), means the twelve months ending on the 31st day of March. Under Rule 17(1), a dealer has to file the monthly return in form A-2 showing the total and net turnovers of the preceding month before the 25th day of every month; for instance, the monthly return in form A-2 for the month of March showing the total and net turnovers could only be filed before the 25th day of April. If we are to agree with Mr. Venkatarama Reddy that the provisional assessment on the monthly return for the month of March should be made before the end of March, it would be impossible to make the provisional assessment of the tax on the monthly turnover on the basis of the estimated or actual turnover of the dealer as submitted by him in form A-2. The words 'during the year', on which emphasis has been laid by the learned counsel for the petitioners, are not to be understood as 'within the year'. These words refer to the provisional assessment to be made for that year on the basis of the estimated or actual turnover of the dealer shown in form A-2. It is to enable the dealer to pay the tax in monthly or other prescribed instalments that this provision has been introduced by the legislature. Sub-section (2) of Section 15 also gives a clue as to the meaning to be given to the words 'during the year' occurring in Sub-sections (I) and (3) of Section 15. Sub-section (2) empowers the assessing authority to enhance or reduce the provisional assessment. If we are to agree with Mr. Venkatarama Reddy that the assessing authority will have no jurisdiction after the close of the year to make a provisional assessment on the basis of the turnover shown in the monthly returns, then the assessing authority will have no jurisdiction to enhance or reduce, as the case may be, the provisional assessment. It is significant that the legislature has advisedly chosen the words 'may be provisionally assessed in advance' in Sub-section (1) of Section 15 on the basis of the estimated or actual turnover of the dealer leaving the option to the assessing authority. There is nothing in the language of Section 15, which prohibits the assessing authority from making a provisional assessment on the monthly returns beyond the 31st day of March of the year. The fact that it is open to the assessing authority to make the final assessment on the basis of the returns submitted in form A-2 does not in any way preclude him from making the provisional assessment even after the expiry of the 31st day of March. Sub-section (3) of Section 15 only says that the tax could be provisionally assessed and collected in advance during the year in monthly or other prescribed instalments. If the legislature intended to injunct the assessing authority to complete the provisional assessment within the year, they would have used the words 'within the year' instead of the words 'during the year'. The words 'during the year' have only reference to the instalments payable on the basis of the monthly estimated or actual turnover. It is left to the discretion of the assessing authority, for the word 'may' employed in Sub-section (1) of Section 15 does not make it mandatory on the part of the assessing authority to make the provisional assessments within the year.
8. The learned counsel invited our attention to a decision of the Madras High Court in Mahendrakumar Ishwarlal & Co. v. Deputy Commercial Tax Officer  28 S.T.C. 551. That was a case where the Sales Tax Officer had the return before him for the purpose of making the final assessment. That was not a case where the assessing authority was making a provisional assessment on the basis of the monthly return filed by the assessee. The learned Judge held that if the return filed by the assessee was not acceptable to the assessing officer, the assessing officer could not invoke the jurisdiction to provisionally assess and threaten to levy penalty for having wilfully submitted an untrue return. Penalties are not proposed to be levied on the basis of the monthly returns filed. It is only on the basis of the final assessment that penalty proceedings are initiated. It is in that context that the learned Judge observed:
He cannot assess provisionally once the year is over and once when the return in the prescribed form is before him for purposes of processing through the assessment.
9. Therefore, the facts of that case are different. The learned counsel next relied upon the decision in Aboobacker v. Sales Tax Officer  33 S.T.C. 345. There, the learned Judges, having regard to the language of Section 18 of the Kerala Act, observed :
To insist on not only the assessment, but even the levy and the collection of the provisional assessment having to be completed during the year appears to be a practical impossibility, and would reduce the section to a mockery, especially when we bear in mind the fact that against an order of provisional assessment, a right of appeal is provided under Section 34 of the Act, of second appeal under Section 39, and perhaps even a revision under Section 41.
10. The learned Judges held that assessments could be made within the year but collections could be made even thereafter. It should be borne in mind that while construing the scope of Section 15, we have also to bear in mind the provisions of Rule 17. We do not know whether there is any corresponding Rule 17 in the Kerala Act, We are not prepared to hold that, having regard to the language of Section 15, it is mandatory on the part of the assessing authority to make the provisional assessment within the year.
11. It is true that a taxing provision has to be construed strictly and if there is any ambiguity, the benefit of that ambiguity must go to the assessee. But this is not to say that a taxing provision should not receive a reasonable construction (see Commissioner of Wealth-tax v. Kripashankar  81 I.T.R. 763 (S.C.). We are of the opinion that, when Section 15 is read with Rule 17, it is far more reasonable to construe that the words 'during the year', in the context in which they occur, are not to be understood as meaning 'within the year'.
12. In view of the construction placed by us, no distinction can be drawn between provisional assessments made within the year and provisional assessments made beyond the year for the purpose of collecting interest in accordance with the terms of Section 16(3).
13. The learned counsel next contended that the petitioners are not liable to pay interest during the period when the petitioners have filed writ petitions in the High Court in respect of the same assessment proceedings and obtained stay orders. The Supreme Court had occasion to consider the very same question in Haji Lal Mohd. Biri Works v. State of U.P.  32 S.T.C. 496 (S.C.), and construing the relevant provision relating to payment of interest in the U.P. Act, the learned Judges held that the liability to pay interest under Section 8(1-A) is automatic and arises by operation of law, nor is it necessary for the Sales Tax Officer to specify the amount of interest in the recovery certificate. Mr. Venkatarama Reddy, however, sought to show that there is a difference in the language employed in Section 8(1-A) there and Section 16(3) of the A.P. General Sales Tax Act. Section 16(3) says that the dealer shall pay in addition to the amount of tax or instalment, interest at the rate of (a) half a per cent of such amount, for each month or part thereof for the first three months after the date specified for its payment, and (b) one per cent of such amount, for each month or part thereof subsequent to the first three months aforesaid. Section 8(1-A) of the U. P. Act provides:
(1-A) If the tax payable under Sub-section (1) remains unpaid for six months after the expiry of the time specified in the notice of assessment and demand...then, without prejudice to any other liability or penalty which the defaulter may, in consequence of such non-payment, incur under this Act, simple interest at the rate of eighteen per cent per annum shall run on the amount then remaining due from the date of expiry of the time specified in the said notice....
14. According to the learned counsel, the words 'shall run' used in Section 8(1-A) of the U. P. Act make all the difference. We see absolutely no such difference because of the words 'shall run' there. There too, the language is mandatory providing that the dealer shall pay interest in addition to the amount of such tax. In the case of the Supreme Court, there was stay of the proceedings. The learned Judges, having regard to the language of Section 8(1-A), held that the period of stay cannot be excluded for purposes of calculating interest. That decision, therefore, squarely governs the present cases also.
15. The last contention of the learned counsel was that the assessing officer should have at least issued show cause notices to the petitioners before levying interest on the tax assessed. According to him, the principles of natural justice and fair play demanded such an action on the part of the Commercial Tax Officer. We see no justification for this comment. The provisions of the Act are quite clear. In default of payment within the time prescribed, the statute provides for payment of interest at the rate prescribed therein. ,Tax assessed is a debt due, and when it is not paid, interest is attracted, as provided in the statute. Payment of interest cannot be equated to or mixed up with levy of penalty. As pointed out by 'the Supreme Court, liability to pay interest is automatic and arises by operation of law, and when the liability is by operation of law, the question of issuing a show cause notice or of violation of principles of natural justice or fair play does not arise.
16. In the result, the order of the Tribunal, in so far as these revisions are concerned, is confirmed and the revisions are dismissed. No costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 200 in each.
17. We are unable to certify that any substantial question of law of general importance which, in our opinion, requires to be considered by the Supreme Court, arises in this batch of cases. The oral application for leave to appeal, made by Mr. Venkatarama Reddy, is therefore rejected.