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Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd. Vs. Commissioner of Commercial Taxes - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Subject Sales Tax
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case Number Special Appeals Nos. 1 and 2 of 1961 and W.P. No. 312 of 1961
Judge
Reported in[1961]12STC838(AP)
AppellantSingareni Collieries Co. Ltd.
RespondentCommissioner of Commercial Taxes
Appellant Advocate I.V. Rangacharya, Adv.
Respondent Advocate D.V. Sastry, Adv. for The Third Government Pleader Respondents 1 and 2
Disposition Petition dismissed
Excerpt:
.....things, then anything not mentioned is excluded. - if resort is to be had to this jurisdiction without any time limit, it will have disastrous consequences. ' 11. we fail to see what assistance these statements could give to the appellant. be that as it may, we fail to see how we can import the notion of a fixed period of limitation into section 15(2) merely because in some other rule or provision a period of limitation is indicated. we do not know when this notice was served on the assessee but clearly the notice to revise the assessment was served in 1958. in this connection, it should be remembered that this point was not raised before the revenue......the commissioner. even otherwise, we are unable to give effect to this argument because the four years' period contemplated by section 20(3) would expire four years after service of notice of assessment on the assessee. we do not know when this notice was served on the assessee but clearly the notice to revise the assessment was served in 1958. in this connection, it should be remembered that this point was not raised before the revenue. nor was it urged even in the memorandum of the grounds of appeal. the point bearing on, limitation also was not raised before the commissioner of commercial taxes. however, as it was represented to us that this is a pure question of law, we allowed the learned counsel to argue the matter.20. for the reasons, we find that the arguments advanced by the.....
Judgment:

Chandra Reddy, C.J.

1. These two appeals preferred by the Singareni Collieries Co., Ltd., raise the question of limitation applicable to revisions entertained by the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes under Section 15 of the Hyderabad General Sales Tax Act read with Rule 30 of the Hyderabad General Sales Tax Rules, 1950.

2. Special Appeal No. 1 of 1961 relates to the assessment year 1954-55 and Special Appeal No. 2 of 1961 relates to the assessment year 1955-56. For the assessment year 1954-55, the assessee returned a gross turnover of Rs. 3,10,96127-15-2 and a net turnover of Rs. 1,35,28,841-14-0 claiming exemption on a turnover of Rs. 1,75,67,286-1-2 on the ground that this represents sales of inter-State character. Similarly, for the assessment year 1955-56 the assessee returned a gross turnover of Rs. 3,15,79,573-8-11 and a net turnover of Rs. 1,98,39,936-13-3 claiming exemption on a turnover of Rs. 1,17,39,636-11-8 on the ground that this represents sales of inter-State character.

3. The Commercial Tax Officer allowed the exemptions in the view that the turnovers in question consisted of sales of inter-State character.

4. The Commissioner of Commercial Taxes suo motu issued a notice on 8th October, 1958, to the appellant to show cause why the assessments for 1954-55 and 1955-56 should not be revised, the reason given being that the turnover in question comprised of sales of intra-State character and not invested with inter-State nature. Meanwhile, a Bench of this Court held in T.R.C.. No. 17 of 1960 Since reported as Singareni Collieries Co., Ltd. v. The State of Andhra Pradesh [1961] 12 S.T.C. 765 that transactions of this nature were really intra-State in nature and as such they were not affected by Article 286 of the Constitution of India and were exigible to tax under the Hyderabad General Sales Tax Act. Adopting this view, the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes revised the assessments by disallowing the exemptions granted by the Commercial Tax Officer. Aggrieved by this decision, the assessee has preferred these two appeals.

5. The chief contention pressed upon us by Sri Rangacharya, learned counsel for the appellant, is that the revisional jurisdiction could be exercised by the Commissioner only within three years of the assessment year and the order of the Commissioner revising the assessment beyond three years is invalid and has to be set aside.

6. The primary task to be performed by us, therefore, is whether there is any scope for the argument that this power should be exercised within three years of the assessment made by the Commercial Tax Officer. The provision which empowers the Commissioner to revise the order of any officer subordinate to him is contained is Section 15 and it runs as follows :-

(1) The Commissioner may in his discretion call for and examine the record of any order passed or proceeding taken (under the provisions of this Act by any authority, officer or person subordinate to him and against which no appeal has been preferred to the Tribunal under Section 15-A) for the purpose of satisfying himself with regard to the legality or propriety of such order or with regard to the regularity of such proceedings and may pass such order in reference thereto as he thinks fit.

(2) The powers conferred by Sub-section (1) may be exercised by the Commissioner suo motu at any time or on application preferred within six months of the passing or taking of the order of proceeding in question.

7. The contention presented by Sri Rangacharya on the language of this section is that the expression 'at any time' occurring in Sub-section (2) should be equated to three years, for, otherwise, we would not be giving effect to the legislative intent. The Legislature would not have thought of conferring revisional powers to be exercised by the Commissioner after a lapse of several years. If resort is to be had to this jurisdiction without any time limit, it will have disastrous consequences. Therefore, the Courts are under a duty to read a period of limitation into that section, proceeds the argument of the learned counsel. We are invited to hold that the expression 'any time ' is synonymous with three years on the basis of Rule 32 of the Hyderabad General Sales 'Tax Rules, 1950.

8. That rule is in the following words :-

(1) If for any reason the whole or any part of the turnover of business of a dealer or licensee has escaped assessment to the tax in any year or if the licence fee has escaped levy in any year, the assessing authority, or licensing authority as the case may be, may at any time within the year or the three years from the end of the year to which the tax or licence fee relates, assess the tax payable, on the turnover which has escaped assessment or levy the licence fee, after issuing a notice to the dealer or licensee and after making such enquiry as he considers necessary.

(2) If for any reason any tax or licence fee has been assessed at too low a rate in any year, the assessing authority or the licensing authority, as the case may be, may, at any time within the year or the three years next succeeding that to which the tax or licence fee relates revise the assessment or the licence fee after issuing a notice to the dealer or licensee and after making such enquiry as he considers necessary.

9. What he urges is that the authority exercised under Rule 32 is a kind of revisional jurisdiction. That rule prescribes a period of three years for taking action in regard to escaped assessment or assessment at too low a rate. The Legislature should have contemplated a similar period of limitation even in regard to the revisional jurisdiction vested in the Commissioner, is the argument of Sri Rangacharya. As substantiating this contention, reliance is placed by the learned counsel on the following passage in Story's Commentaries on Conflict of Laws occurring at page 718 :

The object of enacting statutes of limitation is to fix certain periods within which all suits should be brought in the courts of a State whether they are brought by or against subjects or by or against foreigners and that there could be no just reason and no sound policy in allowing higher or more extensive privileges to foreigners than are allowed to subjects. Laws, thus limiting suits, are founded in the noblest policy. They are statutes of repose to quiet titles, to suppress frauds ; and to supply the deficiency of proofs arising from the ambiguity and obscurity or the antiquity of transactions.

10. The author then refers to the statement of John Voet to the effect that 'controversies are limited to a fixed period of time, lest they should be immortal while men are mortal.'

11. We fail to see what assistance these statements could give to the appellant. The author merely adduced reasons for enacting statutes of limitation. He does not enunciate any proposition that although an enactment does not prescribe a period of limitation, Courts should read one such into such statute.

12. Nor does the passage in Salmond's Jurisprudence under the heading 'Interpretation of Enacted Laws' (literal interpretation) referred to us advance the appellant's case. All that is stated in that passage is that interpretation is of two kinds, which may be distinguished as literal and free and that the interpretation which accords with the intention of the legislature should be adopted by Court. The passage relied on is as follows :

The duty of the judicature is to discover and to act upon the true intention of the legislatures-the mens or sententia legis. The essence of the law lies in its spirit, not in its letter, for the letter is.' significant only as being the external manifestation of the intention that underlies it.

13. It is true that if two interpretations are possible, the one that would be in consonance with the object of the legislation should be accepted and Courts should lean towards a construction which avoids inconvenience and injustice to parties. But when the words of an enactment are unambiguous and clear and are not capable of two interpretations, a Court cannot put an unwarranted interpretation merely to enable a litigant to escape from an inconvenient position.

14. The passage in Maxwell's Interpretation of Statutes (tenth edition) page 163 relied on by the learned counsel for the appellant does not throw any light on the contention advanced by them. The passage that is referred to us is in these words:

Where there are two sections dealing with the same subject matter, one section being unqualified and the other containing a qualification, effect must be given to the section containing the qualification.

15. Such a situation does not exist here, for, it is not shown that there are two provisions of law which deal with the revisional jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes. Section 15 of the Hyderabad General Sales Tax Act is the only provision under which the Commissioner could exercise his revisional jurisdiction. Rule 30 of the Hyderabad General Sales Tax Rules framed by the Government prescribes only the mode in which the rivisional power could he exercised. Further, that does not lay down any period of limitation. Rule 32 has no bearing on the rivisional jurisdiction vested in the Commissioner.

16. We know of no authority which lays down the proposition that a Court should understand a provision of law which does not prescribe any period of limitation as denoting a definite period of limitation. The phrase 'at any time' occuring in Section 15(2) is an expression of definite import and is not susceptible of the meaning 'within a given time.' It denotes an indefinite period. There is nothing vague or indefinite about its connotation.

17. Further, the argument of Sri Rangacharya that we should read a period of limitation on the basis of Rule 32 cannot stand the test of scrutiny for the reason that at the time when the Legislature enacted Section 15, it could not have had in contemplation Rule 32, which came to be framed after the Act was passed. It should also be remembered that this rule was not made by the Legislature but by the executive, in exercise of the powers conferred on the rule-making authority under the Act.

18. Nor could Rule 32 give us any assistance in resolving the controversy raised by the learned counsel for the appellant. Rule 32 is concerned with making an additional assessment in regard to escaped turnover. It is not in the exercise of the revisional power that the assessing authority makes an additional assessment. It is an original proceeding in regard to which the assessing authority is not confined to the material that was on record at the time when the original assessment was made but can travel beyond it, whereas the revising authority cannot act on material that was not on record at the time when the assessment was made. We do not think that there is any scope for the argument that the powers conferred on the assessing authority under Rule 32 are revisional. Be that as it may, we fail to see how we can import the notion of a fixed period of limitation into Section 15(2) merely because in some other rule or provision a period of limitation is indicated. We do not think that we would be justified in incorporating into Section 15 a period of three years for initiating proceedings under that section. We may here observe that Sri Rangacharya, learned counsel for the appellant, stated that he could not argue that the expression 'at any time' should be read as 'within a period of six months.'

19. We may, lastly, refer to the argument of Sri Rangacharya that since the Hyderabad General Sales Tax Act was repealed by the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act, 1957, which was the enactment in force at the time when the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes had recourse to Section 15(2) of the Hyderabad General Sales Tax Act, it is the period of limitation that is prescribed in Section 20 of the Andhra Pradesh General Sales Tax Act that should apply to the present case. We do not think that we can accede to this proposition. It should be remembered that the assessment was made under the Hyderabad General Sales Tax Act and, therefore, it is only the revisional jurisdiction derived under that Act that should be exercised by the Commissioner. Even otherwise, we are unable to give effect to this argument because the four years' period contemplated by Section 20(3) would expire four years after service of notice of assessment on the assessee. We do not know when this notice was served on the assessee but clearly the notice to revise the assessment was served in 1958. In this connection, it should be remembered that this point was not raised before the Revenue. Nor was it urged even in the memorandum of the grounds of appeal. The point bearing on, limitation also was not raised before the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes. However, as it was represented to us that this is a pure question of law, we allowed the learned counsel to argue the matter.

20. For the reasons, we find that the arguments advanced by the learned counsel for the appellant lack substance and have to be negatived. In the result, the appeals are dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 250 in each appeal.

21. Writ Petition No. 312 of 1961 filed by way of an alternative remedy is also dismissed but without costs.


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